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Article Published December 27, 2002

Gordon A. Watts POST-1901 CENSUS NEWS (Canada)
By: Gordon A. Watts,

Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament

Information Commissioner John M. Reid responds to complaints

On 11 December 2002 Information Commissioner John M. Reid responded to a complaint by Professor Bill Waiser (submitted in November 2000) regarding the refusal of Statistics Canada and Chief Statistician Ivan P. Fellegi to transfer care and control of nominal schedules of the 1906 Special Census of the Western Provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) to the National Archivist for subsequent public access in accordance with the statutes of Canada.

On 12 December 2002 Mr. Reid responded to a further thirty individuals who had submitted similar complaints. I am aware of complaints by others, including my own, that have not yet been responded to.

In each response to complainants Mr. Reid stated:
    "As a result of this investigation, I found that access to the withheld records is authorized pursuant to paragraph 19(2)(d) of the Access to Information Act by reference to subsection 8(3) of the Privacy Act and s.6 of the Privacy Regulations. On October 18, 2002, I recommended that SC release the requested schedules. However, on November 1, 2002, Dr. Ivan P. Fellegi, Chief Statistician, informed me that he does not intend to follow my recommendation."
This finding supports the position of the National Archivist, Ian E. Wilson, who has requested transfer of the records in question to his care and control. It supports also the findings of the Expert Panel on Access to Historical Census Records that, in June 2000, recommended the immediate release of the 1906 Schedules of Census with the orderly release of subsequent Censuses, 92 years after collection, in accordance with the Access to Information and Privacy Acts. Makeup of the Expert Panel included, among others, the Honourable Gérard La Forest, retired Supreme Court Judge, and John McCamus, Professor of Law at York University.

Mr. Reid's findings are supported by the legal opinion of Ann Chaplin, Senior Counsel, Constitutional and Administrative Law, Justice Canada (1 August 2000). Ms. Chaplin, unlike those giving opinions before her, considered all aspects of the situation, including the four Statutes of Canada that have a bearing on this issue (National Archives of Canada Act, Statistics Act, Access to Information Act, and Privacy Act). Ms. Chaplin came to different conclusions than those before her that considered only the narrow aspect of a 'Secrecy' clause in Instructions to Officers and Enumerators of Census.

During the entire tenure of Dr. Fellegi as Chief Statistician of Canada, he has opposed public access to Historic Census Records, and has refused to transfer care and control of those records to the National Archivist in accordance with the applicable legislation. In so doing he has contravened legal provisions of the National Archives of Canada Act, the Access to Information Act, and the Privacy Act. By extension, it might be considered that the Minister of Industry, being the Minister Responsible for Statistics Canada, has also been in contravention of these Statutes.

With the possible exception of the Privacy Commissioner, Chief Statistician Ivan Fellegi stands alone in his opposition to public access of 92-year old Census records. All studies and surveys to date have supported such access.

I mean no disrespect to either Allan Rock as Minister of Industry and Minister Responsible for Statistics Canada, or to Dr. Fellegi. It is time, however, that the Chief Statistician was directed to obey the laws of Canada. No civil servant, no matter how high ranking, is above the law. We call on the Minister of Industry to direct the Chief Statistician of Canada to obey the law and immediately transfer care and control of Nominal Schedules of the 1906 Special Census of Western Canada to the National Archivist.

If, after being directed to do so, Dr. Fellegi refuses still to turn care and control of these records over to the National Archivist, he should be replaced with someone who is prepared to obey the Laws of Canada. He should be encouraged to take his well-deserved, and overdue, retirement.

Federal Government of Canada recognizes concerns of Genealogist and Historians

The Federal Government of Canada has finally recognized the concerns of genealogists and historians insofar as regaining public access to Historic Census records is concerned.

It is OFFICIAL. The Honourable Don Boudria, Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons made an address to the Newsmakers Breakfast on the morning of 3 October, 2002 at the National Press Club. The topic of his address was "The Government's Fall Legislative Program".

On page four of an eight-page summary of notes, Mr. Boudria noted, in relation to the coming months...

"Other legislation will also be introduced respecting: · The release of 92-year old census records for historical research purposes -- which responds to recommendations and work done by parliamentarians in the House of Commons and Senate such as MP Calder and Senator Milne;"


We are pleased that in making this announcement, Mr. Boudria saw fit to recognize the work of our champions in the Senate and House of Commons, Senator Lorna Milne and MP Murray Calder.

A word of caution. Our work is not yet finished. Nor will it be finished until such time as the legislation referred to has been introduced, gone through the hoops in the House of Commons and the Senate, and has received Royal Assent to be passed into law.

We have made a giant step forward in our effort to regain access, and can finally see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. We look forward to viewing the legislation mentioned by Mr. Boudria and hope that our concerns do not get lost in the details. We must be vigilant to ensure that such legislation meets our concerns and provides exactly the same access to Post 1901 Census records that we currently have for records up to 1901.

Senator Lorna Milne assures me that she will continue to work on our behalf in this regard.

Take a breather. Savor the moment. Then send a message to your MP and Senator seeking their support for this legislation when it is introduced. Stress that you seek the same access to Post 1901 records that we currently have for earlier Census. Mention also that we do not view (as indicated by another Minister there may be) a 'check-box option' on the Census forms as necessary, or desirable.

As usual, we would appreciate receiving copies of responses to your letters so that we might keep the MP and Senator Scoreboards on the Post 1901 Census Project website up to date.

Our thanks to all for your past and future support. Without your support nothing would be happening.

National Archives and National Library to merge

The following News Release was issued from the office of Heritage Minister Sheila Copps. It is believed this is a preliminary step in the formation of the Canadian Genealogy Centre.
    Minister Copps Announces the Creation of a World-Class Knowledge and Preservation Institution OTTAWA, October 2, 2002 -- Minister of Canadian Heritage Sheila Copps today announced the creation, by the Government of Canada, of the Library and Archives of Canada, a new agency that combines the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada.

    "The Government of Canada is committed to making history, culture and Canadian voices accessible to all Canadians and to encouraging research, discovery and the sharing of knowledge. The creation of this modern, dynamic, world-class organization addresses an increased public appetite for knowledge about Canada," said Minister Copps.

    The new agency announced today will strengthen the visibility, relevance and accessibility of the collections and services of both the National Archives and the National Library. The Library and Archives of Canada will be better positioned as a leading knowledge and information management organization, and it will continue to serve as the repository of federal government records.

    Rapidly changing information technology and new media have so fundamentally altered the tasks of archives and libraries that the mandates of these two national institutions had begun to converge.

    "The new institution," said the National Archivist Ian E. Wilson, "building on the proud traditions of the National Library and National Archives, will be a vital resource for all Canadians. Its collections will be comprehensive, documenting the full complexity and diversity of the Canadian experience. They will be available to all who may want to draw on them for the protection of their rights, for education, for cultural expression and for leisure."

    The Library and Archives of Canada will bring together in one institution all forms of information that is Canadian or about Canada, much of it unique and unavailable elsewhere. In addition, it will provide leadership and support for archives and libraries across the country.

    "With this decision," said Roch Carrier, National Librarian of Canada, "the Government of Canada brings together two great institutions into one powerful beacon to serve Canadians in the knowledge society of the 21st Century."

    The Minister is pleased that Mr. Wilson and Mr. Carrier will facilitate the transition to the new Agency, while maintaining their substantive positions of National Archivist and National Librarian, respectively.


    Sonya-Kim St-Julien
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage
    (819) 997-7788

New Census information on-line

On 23 October 2002, in dozens of concurrent news conferences across Canada and the United States, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the free online access to indexes of the United States Census of 1880 and of Canada's 1881 Census. These two censuses join the already available Census of England and Wales for 1881. These searchable databases of more than 85 million people are now on the Internet at .

Click here to view the full news release.

First symposium of Canada Genealogy Centre

On 1, 2 and 3 November 2002, approximately 85 representatives of genealogy and historical societies, archives, libraries and academic institutions attended the first Symposium of the Canada Genealogy Centre, held at the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec. All provinces of Canada were represented.

As Co-chair of the Canada Census Committee, and as a member of the British Columbia Genealogy Society, I attended this symposium. I found it very interesting and informative. My report on this symposium may be found on the Post 1901 Census Project website at

For me, a side benefit of attending the symposium was having the opportunity to meet many people with whom I have communicated because of the Post 1901 Census campaign, but had not met previously. It is always nice to be able to put faces to names.

It was interesting also, to have people approach me, knowing who I was, wanting to meet me. This happened at the symposium, but to my surprise also happened on a couple of visits that I made to the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa. This was a new experience for me as the interest to meet someone is normally the other way around.

The legal case

Our Application for Judicial Review regarding access to the 1906 Census of the Western Provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) is proceeding, but as the saying goes "The wheels of Justice grind slowly."

Our lawyer, Lois Sparling, advises that final written submissions have been exchanged and application for a date to appear before the Court has been made. As of the time of this writing we are still waiting to be advised when this hearing will take place. It is my understanding that the hearing will take place in Calgary and it is my hope to be able to attend. Time and circumstances will dictate whether or not this will be possible.

Season's Greetings

By the time you read this, we will be winding down from Christmas and gearing up for New Years celebrations. On behalf of myself, my Canada Census Committee Co-chair Muriel M. Davidson, and all members of the Committee, I wish you all a happy, healthy, and safe Holiday Season.

If traveling to be with family and friends during the festivities, please drive carefully and safely. Take some extra time and care in your travels over the festive season. It is more important to arrive safely, than it is to arrive quickly.

Happy Holidays.

Until next time. Happy Hunting.

Gordon A. Watts

Post 1901 Census Project Web Site:
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