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Article Published June 28, 2002



Gordon A. Watts POST-1901 CENSUS NEWS (Canada)
By: Gordon A. Watts, gordon_watts@telus.net


Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament


Access to Information Requests

In my last column I suggested that anyone seeking access to Post 1901 Census records should make requests for the 1906 Census records by submitting Access to Information Requests to the National Archives of Canada and Statistics Canada.

I am happy to say that many of my readers have done so, and have forwarded to me copies of those requests. I have hopes that many more have also sent requests, but have neglected to forward copies to myself. At this time I have no way of knowing exactly how many ATI requests have been sent, but indications have been the numbers have been substantial.

I have seen some responses that have come from the National Archives, the substance of which is as follows:
    "This is in reply to your request under the Access to Information Act, received at the National Archives on (date), for information relating to the 1906 Special Census for the Western Provinces.

    As per the telephone message left by Rocky Crupi of this office, you were advised that the 1906 Special Census is not held by the National Archives of Canada. This information falls under the purview of Statistics Canada and any future requests of this nature should be referred to them. As you have already sent a second request to Statistics Canada, they will respond to you under separate cover. Your request will be abandoned by the National Archives and your $5.00 application fee will be refunded to you by our Financial Services Division.

    If you have any questions, in regards to this request, please do not hesitate to contact me at (613) 995-5493 or Rocky Crupi at (613) 996-9775.

    Yours sincerely,

    Bill Wood
    A/Coordinator
    Access to Information and Privacy"
I have recently been sent a copy of a reply from Statistics Canada in response to an Access to Information Request for access to the 1906 Census of the Western Provinces. As expected, the response from StatCan was a refusal to provide the information requested. Their refusal was based upon section 24(1) and Schedule II of the ATI Act. Section 24 of the ATI Act states:
    "24(1) The head of a government institution shall refuse to disclose any record requested under this Act that contains information the disclosure of which is restricted by or pursuant to any provision set out in Schedule II."
Schedule II includes section 17 of the Statistics Act. Section 17 of the current Statistics Act is that Section titled as SECRECY and subtitled as Prohibition against divulging information. This section has long been a point of dissention regarding its intent and intended duration of effect. It is our contention that it was intended to be in effect only until a period of 92 years after collection had passed, after which Regulation 6(d) of the Privacy Act would take over and the records would be transferred to the control of the National Archivist.

Letters of complaint to the Information Commissioner

The next necessary step, after receiving a response that your ATI request will not, or cannot, be fulfilled, is to submit a letter of complaint to the Information Commissioner. Following are two suggested formats for such complaints - one for a refusal from the National Archives, and the other for a refusal from Statistics Canada.

As with your requests, adjust the wording to suit your own circumstances, but the basic facts as in these letters should be included. In the letters below, those items within the square brackets should be substituted by the information suggested, i.e. the date, whether your notice of refusal was by telephone, or by letter, and your signature and mailing address.

Letter re: inability of National Archives to provide access to 1906 Census records.
    Mr. John Reid
    Information Commissioner of Canada
    Place de Ville, Tower B
    112 Kent Street, 22nd Floor
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 1H3

    Dear Sir;

    On [date] I forwarded an Access to Information Request to the National Archives of Canada. With this request I sought general access to schedules of the 1906 Census of the Western Provinces of Canada (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta).

    On [date] I was advised by [letter/telephone] that the National Archives did not have custody of these records and the $5.00 fee that was included with my ATI request would be refunded.

    Mr. Commissioner, clauses in Instructions to Officers and Enumerators of Census for 1906 (and other years) clearly state that records of Census "have value as a record for historical use" (Clause 20) and that "The census is intended to be a permanent record, and its schedules will be stored in the Archives of the Dominion." (Clause 34).

    Further, clauses in the Access to Information and Privacy Acts, and Regulation 6(d) of the Privacy Act specifically provide for access to personal information from Census, to any person or body, for purposes of research, 92 years following collection.

    The National Archives of Canada Act provides that the National Archivist of Canada shall determine what records of government have historical and archival value, and that shall be deposited in the National Archives. The National Archivist has determined that Census records do have historical and archival value, and that they are, in fact, a National Treasure.

    The pertinent legislation and regulations clearly state that I should have unrestricted access, through the National Archives, to nominal schedules of Census 92 years after collection. Records of the 1906 Census should have been available from 1998, now four years past.

    This letter is to be considered my official complaint regarding the refusal, or inability, of the National Archives of Canada to provide access to schedules of the 1906 Census of the Western Provinces as per the applicable legislation and regulations. Thank you.

    [Signature and address]


Letter re: refusal of Statistics Canada to provide access to 1906 Census records.

    Mr. John Reid
    Information Commissioner of Canada
    Place de Ville, Tower B
    112 Kent Street, 22nd Floor
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 1H3

    Dear Sir or Ms;

    On [date] I forwarded an Access to Information Request to Statistics Canada. With this request I sought general access to schedules of the 1906 Census of the Western Provinces of Canada (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta).

    On [date] I was advised by [letter/telephone] that Statistics Canada was unable to provide me with the requested information.

    In refusing to provide me with the information requested, Statistics Canada stated "schedules of the 1906 Census are being exempted from disclosure pursuant to section 24 of the Access to Information Act which reads as follows:
      24(1) The head of a government institution shall refuse to disclose any record requested under this Act that contains information the disclosure of which is restricted by or pursuant to any provision set out in Schedule II.

      Schedule II includes section 17 of the Statistics Act."
    Mr. Commissioner, clauses in the Access to Information and Privacy Acts, and Regulation 6(d) of the Privacy Act specifically provide for access to personal information from Census, to any person or body, for purposes of research, 92 years following collection.

    It is my belief that restriction to access of this vital information, as per section 24(1) of the ATI Act, was intended to be in force only until the expiration of the 92 year period of closure stipulated by Regulation 6(d) of the Privacy Act. The Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act were born of the same legislative Bill. It does not seem logical that legislators of the day, when deliberating this Bill, would deliberately include clauses in these Acts that directly opposed each other and had the effect of one nullifying the other.

    Clauses in Instructions to Officers and Enumerators of Census for 1906 (and other years) clearly state that records of Census "have value as a record for historical use" (Clause 20) and that "The census is intended to be a permanent record, and its schedules will be stored in the Archives of the Dominion" (Clause 34). Similar clauses were included in Instruction to Officers and Enumerators of Census from at least 1901 to 1946.

    The National Archives of Canada Act provides that the National Archivist of Canada shall determine what records of government have historical and archival value, and that shall be deposited in the National Archives. The National Archivist has determined that Census records do have historical and archival value, and that they are, in fact, a National Treasure.

    The pertinent legislation and regulations clearly state that I should have unrestricted access, through the National Archives, to nominal schedules of Census 92 years after collection. Records of the 1906 Census should have been available from 1998, now four years past.

    This letter is to be considered my official complaint regarding the refusal of Statistics Canada to allow access to schedules of the 1906 Census of the Western Provinces, or to transfer control of schedules of the 1906 Census of the Western Provinces to the National Archivist as per the applicable legislation and regulations. Thank you.

    [Signature and address]
It is felt at this time that ATI requests sent to the National Archives have probably served their purpose and that we need not send any further requests to them. For Statistics Canada, however, we view the sending of ATI requests as a long-term effort - perhaps keeping this up until we have obtained the access we seek.

Media coverage

One of the biggest problems we have had in our campaign to regain public access to Post 1901 Census records has been to get the media to pay attention to us. That may be starting to change. On Sunday 9 June 2002 the Toronto Star had an excellent article by Elaine Carey - Demographics Reporter, about the Census situation and our legal action. In preparation for this article Elaine Carey interviewed Senator Lorna Milne, Lois Sparling, Muriel Davidson and myself. Those wishing to view the article, including a photograph of Muriel and Senator Milne, may do so by clicking here.

There was only one problem with this article. I was incorrectly given the title of 'retired school teacher'. I will add this to the list of other titles that I have been given, such as Doctor, Professor, and Expert Genealogist, none of which are correct. For those who have a need to know, I retired from the British Columbia Telephone Company (now Telus), on Halloween, 1996, after working for 31 years with electronics, data and communications, and computers.

One side effect of the publishing of this article was to be contacted by CFRB Radio in Toronto, and on Monday 10 June I had a half-hour on-air interview by Christina Cherneskey. Another spin-off was to be contacted and extensively interview by Bill Hancock, Editor of the Humboldt Journal, a weekly newspaper in Humboldt, Saskatchewan. I have not yet seen the article but Mr. Hancock promised to send it to me.

Senator Lorna Milne honoured

MILNE NAMED HONOURARY PATRON OF OGS
The Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) named Senator Lorna Milne as its Honourary Patron at its Annual banquet in Alliston, Ontario last month. Senator Milne has been a member of the OGS for over 25 years. The OGS has over 5,000 members, and in the 41-year history of the society, its members have published over 9,000 genealogical reports, including 3 written by Senator Milne. The Society has also transcribed tombstone information from every cemetery in Ontario. The OGS provides information and support to genealogists across the province.

"I want to thank the OGS for this prestigious appointment," said Senator Milne. "I am truly honoured. For years, the OGS has supported both my research and my work as a Senator. I hope I can give something back to the Society as its Honourary Patron".



From L to R: Vic Rudik, Past Executive Director, OGS;
Sen. Lorna Milne; David Mackenzie, President, OGS.


The legal case

Sworn answers to written interrogatories of our plaintiffs were served and filed on time and Lois Sparling has received the Justice Department's reply to undertakings given by StatCan and NA defendants. She reports that it was very boring reading.

As reported in a previous column, lawyers for Justice Canada refused to allow representatives of Chief Statistician Ivan Fellegi (Mary Ledoux) and National Archivist Ian Wilson (Greg Eamon) to answer many of the questions posed by Lois Sparling during her cross-examination of them.

On Thursday 20 June 2002 Lois appeared in Federal Court to argue a motion that these representatives be compelled to answer her questions. The judge was interested in what the case was all about and remembered reading something about the census in the newspaper recently. He remarked that it appeared to him that since this issue in the case was strictly a question of legal interpretation, no cross-examination was really necessary (he's probably right there). He reserved his decision, which means he'll think about it and let us know.

It is interesting that the judge felt the issue was strictly a question of legal interpretation when my cross-examination by the Justice Canada lawyers did not touch on that at all.

The lawyer from the Justice Department told the judge and Lois (in lawyer talk, not plain English) that the Attorney General was working on negotiating a compromise/solution between Mr. Wilson and Dr. Fellegi. She told Lois the Attorney General was the neutral "honest broker", or words to that effect.

We have mixed feelings on being told that the Attorney General is a neutral "honest broker" in this. The new Attorney General, the Hon. Martin Cauchon, is the MP from Outremont, Quebec, and is one of those who has never responded to our questions of support. In all probability he is not "up" on what has been happening regarding this issue for the past several years. As such he will likely be guided by his advisors, and in particular by Dr. Fellegi who, by no stretch of the imagination could be consider to be neutral in this issue.

We will advise, as we have done before, that if the compromise/solution being considered bears any resemblance to the so-called "compromise solution" already proposed by Dr. Fellegi, it will be unacceptable to the genealogists, historians and people of Canada.

There is already a compromise, or balance, mandated by law in the form of the Access to Information and Privacy Acts, and Regulations to the Privacy Act. Legislators deliberating these statutes provided that in return for providing information to census, that information would not be publicly accessible for a period of 92 years. There are currently 235 years of Census records for what is now Canada, up to and including those for 1901, available without restriction 92 years after collection.

The only solution acceptable will be to allow, as provided by the ATI and Privacy Acts, unrestricted access to Post 1901 Census records 92 years following collection, on exactly the same basis as those records up to and including 1901 are currently available.

Summer is here - Parliament is adjourned

As I write this it is the first day of summer - the longest day of the year. It is all downhill from this point on. It is also the day the Parliament of Canada is scheduled to adjourn for the summer recess. According to the Parliamentary Calendar our representatives will not return until Wednesday 18 September 2002. It had been hoped that by this time we would have had a resolution to our efforts to regain public access to Post 1901 Census records. It appears that this was not destined to happen and our efforts must continue. At this time, those efforts should include the following:
  • Circulate and sign petitions (downloadable from the Post 1901 Census Project website). Summer barbeques and family gatherings are good places to do this.
  • Write letters to our own MPs and Senators. Check the Scoreboards for their current position before writing.
  • Make an appointment to visit your MP in their constituency office and seek their support in person.
  • Send Access to Information Requests to Statistics Canada for general access to the 1906 Census of the Western Provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta)
  • On receiving a refusal for that access request, submit a complaint to the Information Commissioner.
  • Send a letter to the Privacy Commissioner protesting his opposition to Bill S-12 and public access to these vital records. Do not accept his assertions that the 'compromise solution' promoted by Statistics Canada is a satisfactory resolution to the problem.
In my last column I provided addresses to send ATI requests, complaints to the Information Commissioner and letters to the Privacy Commissioner. Rather than repeat those here, that column may be accessed by clicking here . As they say on the radio, "Stay tuned for further developments!". Our wishes for everyone is to have a safe and happy summer.

Until next time, Happy Hunting.

Gordon A. Watts gordon_watts@telus.net



  • Global Gazette articles regarding Census Project


  • Click here for official Census Project Web site



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