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Article Published January 24, 2003 [updated at 2:28 pm ET]

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

Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament

1906 Canadian Census Records Released

On Friday 24 January 2003 the Honourable Ministers Allan Rock - Minister for Industry, and Minister Responsible for Statistics Canada, and Sheila Copps - Minister for Canadian Heritage, jointly made a much anticipated News Release. This News Release had been expected earlier but for a variety of reasons had been delayed a number of times. It was worth waiting for!!

Honourable Allan Rock The News Release announces the immediate release of the 1906 Special Census of the Western Provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta) on the same basis as records of the 1901 National Census of Canada, and earlier, have been available. There are no strings or conditions on access, and no restrictions as to who might access them.

Honourable Sheila Copps This is indeed very welcome news, and is a part of why genealogists and historians have been lobbying their Parliamentary representatives for the past five years and longer. The other part is to see legislation brought down that will ensure the continued orderly release of Historic Census records after the period of closure specified by Regulations attached to the Privacy Act of Canada. We are told to expect draft legislation to be brought down shortly after Parliament resumes sitting next week.

A bonus that was not expected, at least not yet, is that scanned images of the 1906 Census records are available online.

The News Release of National Archivist Ian Wilson, and the joint announcement of Ministers Allan Rock and Sheila Copps, have been placed on the Post 1901 Census Project website. News Releases of the Hon. Lorna Milne - Senator, and MP Murray Calder are copied below.

News Release from Senator Lorna Milne

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- OTTAWA -- January 24, 2003

    Senator Lorna Milne Genealogists, historians and researchers across the country won a major victory today as Industry Minister Allan Rock announced the immediate release of the nominal records from the 1906 census. Ontario Senator Lorna Milne (Liberal - Peel Region) welcomed the news.

    "This is what genealogists have been waiting for, for five years", Milne noted. "The government has finally come to the realization that the nominal census records form an integral part of Canada's historical record, and should be released for research purposes".

    For the last four years an active campaign by tens of thousands of Canadians and hundreds of others from around the world has called for the release of the records. Until now, Statistics Canada had refused to give the records to the National Archives, citing privacy concerns.

    "When Allan Rock took on the position of Industry Minister one year ago he promised me that he would thoroughly study the issue. He also committed himself to taking action if in fact it was in the best interests of the country", Milne disclosed. "Today he has followed through on that commitment in a very big way".

    Microfilm copies of the 1906 census records are already in the possession of the National Archivist. He will be sending them via courier to libraries in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia later today. The 1906 Census will also be on line this week.

    "I am particularly pleased that Allan Rock has agreed with the position of genealogists that the 1906 census should be released on the same basis as the 1901 census. This will allow research to continue unencumbered" said Milne.

    It is expected that the government will be bringing legislation forward early in the winter session that will allow for the 1911 and subsequent censuses to be released to the Nation Archives. Senator Milne looks forward to working with Minister Rock to ensure that that legislation is passed.

    - - - - -
    For more information please contact Jeff Paul, Policy Advisor, at 613-947-9744
News Release from MP Murray Calder
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- OTTAWA -- January 24, 2003

    Calder applauds release of 1906 historic census records

    MP Murray Calder The release of historic 1906 census records announced today is a major victory for genealogists, historians and medical researchers, says M.P. Murray Calder, who has worked several years to achieve this.

    Calder applauded today's announcement by Industry Minister Allan Rock to release records from the 1906 census to researchers on the same no-strings basis as the 1901 and prior censuses. The 1906 census in Western Canada was the first after Alberta and Saskatchewan became provinces.

    "The 1906 census is of great historic significance to Canadians because it documents the development of the West at a time of major immigration," says Calder. "It was always Parliament's intention that this treasure would become part of Canada's permanent record and be made available to Canadians through the National Archives."

    Calder also welcomed Rock's announcement that legislation will be introduced shortly to resolve the issue of census data from 1911 onwards. Calder twice introduced private members bills that would have made this information available 92 years after each census, subject to an opt-out provision for those with privacy concerns. Last fall, House Leader Don Boudria announced the government's plan to introduce legislation to release historic censuses.

    Rock's announcement follows an extensive campaign by genealogists and historians. Calder has presented in the House of Commons petitions with more than 20,000 names calling for the release of records after 92 years. As well, thousands of Canadians sent letters to Parliamentarians. An estimated 7.5 million Canadians are involved in genealogical research, and the census is the only government source that records important data about ages and origins of entire families.

    The 1906 census was expected to be released in 1998 after 92 years had elapsed, as had been the practice for previous censuses. But officials at Statistics Canada blocked its release citing privacy concerns. Legal opinions and an expert panel, however, concluded that census records were not intended to be sealed in perpetuity, and that confidentiality assurances applied only to contemporary use. Census instructions at the time stated: "The Census is intended to be a permanent record, and its schedules will be stored in the Archives of the Dominion."

    On December 16, 1999, Senator Lorna Milne introduced Bill S-15 to allow the release of post-1901 census records after 92 years subject to an opt-out clause for those with privacy concerns. On June 2, 2000, Calder introduced an identical bill in the House of Commons. Senator Milne and Calder have since worked together closely on this issue, both reintroducing the bill after the November 2000 election.

    - - - - -
    For more information, please contact: Brian Gilbertson, Office of Murray Calder, M.P. (613) 995-7813

We are grateful to the Honourable Allan Rock, Minister for Industry, for listening to the genealogists and historians of Canada, and doing finally what should have been done in 1998 - releasing to the public the nominal records of the 1906 Census records. We trust that in drafting the anticipated legislation to deal with future release of Historic Census records he has listened also when we have said what we seek is the same, unrestricted access to records after, now 1906, that we have had up to that time. We see no need for any strings or conditions to be attached to that access.

We are grateful to MP Murray Calder, and especially to Senator Lorna Milne, for being our champions in their respective Parliamentary houses. Were it not for their unflagging support for what we are trying to accomplish, and their 'behind the scenes' work on our behalf, it is unlikely that we would now have access to the 1906 Census records.

Ian E. Wilson - National Archivist We are grateful also to Ian E. Wilson - National Archivist, who has supported our effort from the first day of his appointment to that position. In anticipation of Mr. Rock's announcement he had the images of the 1906 Census records scanned so that they could be placed online and accessible immediately the announcement was made. This was, indeed, an unexpected bonus, and one for which we are particularly grateful.

The National Archives fall under the purview of Heritage Canada and The Honourable Sheila Copps, Minister of Canadian Heritage. Ms. Copps has been fully supportive of National Archivist Ian E. Wilson in his efforts to see records of Historic Census transferred to his care and control, for subsequent public access, and for placing scanned images of the 1901 National Census of Canada online. She has overseen the merging of the National Archives and the National Library of Canada, and the formation of the Canadian Genealogy Centre. The official launch of the Canadian Genealogy Centre Web site is scheduled for Saturday, March 29, 2003.

We are not yet finished

Honourable Don Boudria The announced release of nominal records of the 1906 Census of the Western Provinces is a major step in the right direction, and a large part of what we have been seeking. It does not, however, signal the end of our efforts. We have yet to see legislation that the Honourable Don Boudria announced 3 October 2002 would be brought down to deal with access to 92-year old Census records. We expect that legislation to be presented shortly after Parliament resumes sitting next week.

When the legislation is brought down we will examine it closely. If the Chief Statistician has had input to the drafting of the legislation, and we believe it likely he has, we can expect a number of strings and conditions to be included in it. Our job at that time will be to convince our representatives in Parliament that such strings and conditions are not necessary, and amendments should be made to the Bill to remove them.

As soon as the expected legislation is brought down I will announce it in this column and in the postings I make to the various genealogical mail lists.

After saying all this, you might ask, "Are you smiling?" You bet!!

Until next time. Happy Hunting.

Gordon A. Watts

Post 1901 Census Project Web Site:
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