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Article Published September 2, 2003

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

Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament

As I started to write this I was sitting in an RV park 100 kilometres from home, listening to rain fall on the roof of my fifth-wheel trailer. The rain, brief as it was, was needed and welcome, although it would be more than welcome in some areas of British Columbia and Alberta that have been hard hit with the worst season of forest fires seen for at least fifty years. Fortunately, many of those fires now appear to be under control although many people have lost their homes, or have not yet been allowed to return to them. Ontario and the Eastern Seaboard have not been without their problems - having been hit with a massive power outage that is still causing some problems and may continue to do so for some time to come.

The summer months have been giving us all a much-needed break from things that go on all the rest of the year. With Parliament recessed for the summer many of us, including myself, have slowed down our activities related to the Post 1901 Census campaign. It is time now to start thinking once again about putting our Census campaign into high gear. With the end of summer approaching, and the expected return of Parliament in mid-September there is still time to pay a visit to the office of your local Member of Parliament, or to write another letter to him/her. It is important that we get through to our parliamentary representatives that it is necessary to seek amendments to Bill S-13. If undesired restrictions and conditions cannot be removed, in particular the so-called 'informed consent' clause, there are increasing numbers of people who believe it better to see Bill S-13 defeated rather than be passed as presently worded. Let us direct some effort to getting this message through to our parliamentary representatives.

Access to Information Requests

In my last column I requested readers to submit Access to Information requests to Statistics Canada for access to records of Census for 1911. To date I have been advised of about 120 individuals who have sent such requests. We hope that many more than this number have sent in their requests and have just not yet advised us. The expected rejections have been received and complaints to the Information Commissioner have been submitted.

We originally thought it was not necessary to submit similar requests to the National Archives. However, on the advise of our lawyer Lois Sparling we now seek these requests to be sent to them as well. Part of the case of Justice Canada lawyers in our current legal action is that until we have sent requests to the National Archives we have not exhausted all avenues available to us in seeking access to Historic Census records. With one exception, ATI requests to both Statistics Canada and the National Archives can be worded identically. The only difference would be the government department to which they are directed.

Until such time as the Information Commissioner responds to our complaints we urge those who have not yet done so to submit ATI requests to both Statistics Canada and the National Archives. Requests should be general in nature, seeking access to the 1911 records of Census, rather than for information on any specific individuals. Addresses to send requests to are as follows:
    Pamela White, ATIP Coordinator
    Statistics Canada
    R.H. Coats Bldg., 25th floor
    Tunney's Pasture
    Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0T6

    Julie Attallah, ATIP Coordinator
    National Archives of Canada
    395 Wellington Street
    Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N3
On being advised of the refusal of your request the next step is to submit a complaint to the Information Commissioner. As noted in my last column this must be done. We believe he will be prepared, as he was prepared to do for the 1906 Census, to proceed himself to the Courts on behalf of complainants. Complaints to the Information Commissioner should detail when your request was made, specifically what was requested, and the date of refusal. Quote any file number included in the notice from Statistics Canada or the National Archives Separate complaints should be sent regarding refusals from both Statistics Canada and the National Archives. There is no charge for submitting such a complaint. Mail your complaint to:
    Mr. John Reid
    Information Commissioner of Canada
    Place de Ville, Tower B
    112 Kent Street, 22nd Floor
    Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1H3
Please check my last column for further information about submitting ATI requests, including required application fees, suggested wording of your request, and a URL where a request form might be downloaded.

Our legal action

Calgary lawyer Lois Sparling and lawyers for Justice Canada representing the Attorney General, Statistics Canada and the National Archives had a hearing before a federal judge 7 August 2003. Justice Canada lawyers had made an Application to strike our action on the basis that the Chief Statistician has no duty to release control of the 1911 Census to the National Archivist and that the National Archivist has no duty to release the 1911 Census to the public.

This was not a new argument on their part and it is viewed on our part as more of a delaying tactic than anything else. It has been successful in creating that delay. Affidavits from Statistics Canada and the National Archives were due on 11 July 2003 - the same day the Application to strike our legal action was served. Those Affidavits had not been received by the date of the hearing and it is expected that if their Application fails Justice Canada lawyers will seek more time to file those Affidavits.

The hearing lasted two hours. Mertie Beattie, the applicant named in our legal action was present as an observer. Lois advises that Mertie took several pages of notes during the hearing. At the time of this writing, to my knowledge results of the hearing have not yet been received. The judge had not had time to read the reported court decisions submitted with our written argument and so reserved her decision. We will keep you posted on further developments as they occur.

Welcoming Parliament Back

Parliament resumes sitting at 11:00 AM Monday 15 September 2003. It would be nice to see our MPs welcomed back by a group of genealogists and historians carrying placards seeking release of Historic Census records and either amendments to, or defeat of Bill S-13. This is not something that I can organize from British Columbia but perhaps it is something that could be set up by some of the genealogical and/or historical groups in and around Ottawa.

Such a demonstration need not be lengthy - perhaps four hours from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. It should take place as close to the front entrance of the main Parliament Building as possible. Media scrums normally take place in the Parliament Building at noon so there should be a number of media reporters present at that time. Someone knowledgeable about the Census issue should be present and be prepared to act as a spokesperson. Media sources should be contacted in advance to advise the demonstration is taking place and what it is about.

Any takers? Is there anyone out there willing to organize such an activity? Is anyone from the Ontario Genealogy Society or other groups in and around Ottawa reading this? If someone is willing to have a go at this let me know and I will do what I can to put people in touch with each other.

You are invited to join the Canada Census Campaign mail list by sending e-mail to
with ONLY the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject line and body of the text. If you prefer to receive list mail in Digest mode, change the L in the address to a D.

At the bottom of this page is a box from which you might send this column to others. Feel free to use it - your MP might appreciate receiving this column.

Until next time. Happy Hunting.

Gordon A. Watts

Post 1901 Census Project Web Site:
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