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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 09 November 2007
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles


Gordon A. Watts
Topics in this month's column include:
  • Lest we forget
  • 'Informed consent' discriminates against thousands
  • Manned hours of service at Library and Archives Canada
  • Library and Archives Canada creates Service and Advisory Board
  • United Church Archives finds a new home
  • Alberta Family Histories Society call for papers
  • On a personal note
  • Generations Network bought out




Scroll down this page to read the complete articles...



Lest we forget

In the past couple of years I have written articles with the same headline as the one above. It is a very brief headline, but the meaning behind it is far from brief. It is a reminder that more than 117,000 Canadians have fought and died in various wars so that we might enjoy the freedom we have today. It is a reminder that Canadians in Afghanistan continue to fight, that some have died, and that others may yet die so that citizens of that country might gain the freedom of a democratic government that Taliban terrorists would deny them. It is a reminder also that those who choose to criticize the involvement of our soldiers in such endeavours have that right because of the Canadians who have fought and died in order to give it to them.

Originally called Armistice Day (and still called that in some countries), Remembrance Day throughout the British Commonwealth was created by King George V of the United Kingdom on 7 November 1919 to commemorate the end of the First World War (Monday, 11 November 1918, at 11 a.m.). It was dedicated to members of the armed forces who were killed during World War I. It was not until 1931 however, that a bill was passed - changing the name from "Armistice Day" to "Remembrance Day" and specifying that it be held on the same day each year - the eleventh of November. At the same time, Thanksgiving Day was moved to October.

It has become tradition that on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, two minutes of silence is observed in remembrance for the men and women who had served, and continue to serve our respective countries during times of war, conflict and peace. The two minutes recall World War I and World War II. Before 1945 the silence for World War I was for one minute, and today some ceremonies still only have one minute of silence.

Possibly one of the most remembered poems ever written is "In Flanders Fields". It was taught to me as a child in school, and so far as I am aware it is still taught to school children today. What many may not know, or may not remember, is that it was written by a Canadian, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corp officer, Dr. John MacRae [1872-1918]. "In Flanders Fields" was written on a battlefield following the death of a friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, on 2 May 1915.
    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.
Two years ago there were seven surviving Canadian soldiers from World War I. Last year there were three survivors. Today there is only one. Since the death of Dwight Wilson at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, John Henry Foster Babcock (born July 23, 1900) who lives in Spokane, Washington is, at age 107, the only known surviving veteran of the Canadian military to have served in the First World War. Babcock first attempted to join the army at the age of fifteen, but was turned down and sent to work in Halifax until he was placed in the Young Soldier's battalion in August 1917. Babcock was then transferred to Britain, where he continued his training until the end of the war.

Having never seen combat, Babcock never considered himself a veteran and moved to the United States in the 1920s, where he joined the United States army and eventually became an electrician. In May 2007, he became the last surviving veteran of the First World War who served with the Canadian forces. Since then, he has received much international attention, including 107th birthday greetings from the Queen of England, the Canadian Prime Minister and the Governor General of Canada.

Whether we call it 'Remembrance Day' as in Canada, or 'Veteran's Day' as in the United States, or by another name in whatever country you happen to live in, I urge you not to forget. At 11:00 a.m. on 11 November 2006, stop what you are doing, bow your head and observe two minutes of silence to remember and honour those who gave their lives so that we might live the lives we do today.

As I have done in the past, I recommend viewing and listening to two online tributes to veterans. The first - a visual and musical tribute by Terry Kelly, called 'A Pittance of Time', and an explanation of how it came to be written, can be accessed online in either English or French versions

The second - a 'Thank you' to the men and women who fought in World War II, titled 'Before you go', can also be accessed online

'Before you go', with music by John Melnick and lyrics by Sam Bierstock, is a tribute to US veterans, although in the video I note some Canadian insignia, and even a picture of former Prime Minister Paul Martin. It was the goal of those originally posting this tribute to see it sent to every living veteran of World War II while we still have them, and to their families and survivors. They stated that we have not thanked them enough, and asked that readers forward the link to every World War II veteran (or their families and descendants) that you know.

As in the past, when viewing these videos, I did so with tears in my eyes. I challenge anyone to view these tributes with dry eyes. I could not.

Let us never forget.



'Informed consent' discriminates against thousands

One of the arguments used by Statistics Canada and proponents of the 'informed consent' provision of Bill S-18, that is now imbedded in the Statistics Act, was that it gave 'everyone' the right to choose for themselves whether information they provide to Census would be made publicly accessible 92 years in the future. Wrong!

In theory, 'informed consent' sounds all well and good. It is difficult to argue that individuals should not have the right to choose what happens to information they provided to Census. The way the question was administered on the 2006 Census of Canada however, was far from desirable. It did not give 'everyone' the right to choose what happened to their own information. In actual fact, the way it was administered discriminated against many thousands of individuals living in 'institutional collective dwellings'. It abrogated the right of some 368,665 inmates living in these institutions to determine what happens to their information.

"How did it do that?" you might well ask. Very simply! Results posted on the Statistics Canada website show that at the time of the 2006 Census there were some 27,915 collective dwellings having a total of 533, 935 residents. Unfortunately, these results did not break down the numbers between those living in 'institutional' as opposed to 'non-institutional' collective dwellings. It has only been in the past month that I have been able to obtain the breakdown of those numbers that I sought from Statistics Canada.

In 2006 there were 162,065 residents, and 3,205 employees living in 'non-institutional' collective dwellings. These individuals completed their own forms, and so were able to respond to the 'informed consent' question in the manner they felt appropriate for them.

The remaining 368,665 individuals living in 'institutional' collective dwellings however, never got to see their own Census forms. Information for these individuals was gathered from administration records. As such, the 'informed consent' question for them was not completed, thus ensuring an assumed NO response, so their information will not be made available to their descendants in 2098.

I am advised that the great majority (almost 320,000) of people in institutional collective dwellings are seniors in chronic and long-term care and related institutions, facilities for the disabled and other hospitals and related institutions. I assume the remainder of the 'institutional' residents are likely in penal, or similar institutions, although it could also apply to those in shelters for persons lacking a fixed address, other shelters and lodging and rooming with assistance services.
Is it right that these individuals, not having the opportunity to answer the question for themselves, should have their very existence obliterated from available Census records in the future? Absolutely not!

It is therefore important that we continue to press our parliamentary representatives for an early review of the effect and administration of the informed consent question, as provided for in the Statistics Act. Once having achieved that goal we must do our best to convince those conducting such a review that the informed consent provision for Census is a bad idea, and it should be removed from the Statistics Act. It is punitive and discriminatory, and certainly does not work for the public good.

As an added thought, the numbers provided may not reflect the total number of those for whom information is gleaned through the use of administration records. The charts shown on the Statistics Canada website include a footnote that states that the data "Excludes census data for one or more incompletely enumerated Indian reserves or Indian settlements". I stand to be corrected, but if memory serves me correctly some of those reserves or settlements are enumerated through use of Band records.



Manned hours of service at LAC

In the last issue of my column, I included an article relating to the reduction of manned service hours in Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. The hours of 'manned' service were being reduced without there having been any known public consultation. In that article I encouraged concerned individuals to express their concerns regarding these changes to the appropriate people, as noted on the LAC website.

As a result of the concerns expressed, Library and Archives Canada extended an invitation for its clients to attend an informal discussion where they would have the opportunity to ask questions and obtain explanations on the changes related to client services. The session was held on 19 September from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in room "A" in 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa.

Those attending from LAC included Hana Hruska - Director, Special Projects, Services Branch; Antonio LeChasseur - Director, Client Services Division; Rowanne Mokhtar - A/Manager, Genealogy, Access and Partnerships Services; Robert Grandmaîytr - A/Manager, Reference Services.

My thanks to Lyle Dick, who forwarded to me two reports from those attending the session. These reports were fairly lengthy, and I summarize the main points of them below:
  • Approximately 55 to 60 people were in attendance, with more people attending than there were seats available. Hana Hruska apparently expressed surprise at the number attending and had not prepared a formal presentation because she had assumed that people would drift in and out during the session.
  • As I suggested in my last column, it would seem that the reason for the change of 'manned hours' was more because of monetary concerns than anything else. Budgets had been overspent and, being unable to borrow from other divisions, it was decided to shorten hours of access as one means of making up the shortfall. A decision had to be made quickly with no time for public consultation.
  • In addition to financial considerations, the change in hours was motivated by a changing environment where peoples' expectations are different and LAC had a national mandate to deliver services nationally and not just in the national capital region. LAC has a priority to 'serve people across the country.'
  • Notice of the information session was made only by posters put up in the LAC building. The session had only been intended for those who lived in Ottawa and used the LAC regularly. Some professional groups had been notified prior to the change in hours taking effect.
  • Assurances were given that concerns from the meeting would be raised with senior management. Indications were that the decisions had been made by a 'management board', none of whom were present at the discussion session. It was made clear that the current session was an informal meeting, and not a consultation.
A number of those attending voiced their concerns as follows:
  • The real losers resulting from the change in 'manned hours' are library users who, because of copyright issues could not benefit from digitization because newer books could not legally be made available on-line.
  • Digitization is a worthy goal, however the sources required by innovative research such as that done by grad students, academics, and by researchers working on native claims and similar projects are unlikely to be digitized. With shortened hours, their work would be more difficult and expensive, and innovative research would be hampered.
  • A survey taken in the 1990's indicated that 60% of all LAC users were there on one-day visits. With the shortened hours it is unlikely that archival material not housed in the main LAC building could be viewed the same day it was requested. Those who will really suffer are those who come from out of town to use materials which can only be accessed in Ottawa.
  • The shortened hours are a problem for graduate students that are expected to visit archives, to research areas which have not been researched previously, and who of necessity will use little used or obscure fonds. The material available on the Internet is of limited value to these users.
  • Those who work in jobs with regular office hours would find it difficult to attend LAC during manned service hours.
  • The shortened hours will make even the use of non-archival documents such as finding aids more difficult. The Reference Room where finding aids are kept is subject to the shortened hours.
While other concerns were expressed, after about 45 minutes the meeting tended to drift from a focus on hours of manned service into a general complaint session about the LAC. In general, there were a number of unfavourable comparisons with other archives and libraries regarding hours of service, evening hours with full service, better microfilm readers and better service. LAC representatives made it clear that no one who actually made decisions was at the meeting.

The comment was made that the decision to reduce hours was not irrevocable, but it was clear that the decision to make any change was not in the hands of those attending at that time.

Those attending the meeting were again assured that the concerns they expressed would be passed on to senior management.



LAC creates Service and Advisory Board

While those who attended the meeting referred to above may have gone away thinking that they had accomplished little, other than having the opportunity to 'vent', they would be wrong. Obviously, senior management were advised of the concerns expressed, and steps have been taken to, if not immediately resolve the concerns expressed, to set up a means of communicating user concerns to the powers that be.

On Friday, 5 October 2007, Ian E. Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada announced the creation of the Library and Archives Canada Services Advisory Board (LAC SAB). The following press release appears in the Media Room of the LAC website. (Emphasis in the release is mine.)
    Library and Archives Canada to Establish Public Consultation Process Regarding Service Delivery
    (OTTAWA, October 5, 2007) - Today, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) announced that it is establishing a new and continuing process of public consultation on the delivery of its public services. This new process is in response to the legitimate desire of LAC's users to provide LAC with advice on how best to deliver its services and access to the LAC Collection.

    This new public consultation process has two components. First, LAC is creating the LAC Services Advisory Board composed of representatives of user communities across the country. Its mandate will be to consider issues directly related to the services aspect of LAC's mandate. Chaired by Doug Rimmer, the Assistant Deputy Minister, Programs and Services, the committee will meet 3-4 times a year. The first topic for discussion will be hours of service. Further details on the LAC Services Advisory Board are contained in the attached Backgrounder.

    In addition, LAC will conduct regular public consultations on a continuing basis on a variety of topics. Feedback will be collected in person, through the Internet, by mail and on the phone. All Canadians, wherever they are located and whatever their interest in the LAC Collection, will have the opportunity to provide their views on how LAC can best deliver the service portion of its mandate.

    Ian E. Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada, said today, "Over the past thirty years, the environment in which LAC provides public services has changed considerably, both as a result of the technology and information revolutions, and also because of the sharp increase in interest in the history of Canada and in its social, cultural and political development. Our increasingly diverse client base includes, among others, high school students, genealogists, academia, the artistic community, and people who have a new, more general interest in the LAC Collection. As a result, the scope and complexity of the needs of LAC's users have increased. Not surprisingly, demand for access to the LAC Collection has risen and the nature of these services is changing.

    Serving the changing needs of our users means balancing many differing demands. We recognize that it is important to listen carefully to our clients. The new consultation process announced today is a demonstration of our commitment to do so."

    -- 30 --
    Information:
    Pauline M. Portelance
    Senior Media Relations Officer
    Library and Archives Canada
    (819) 994-4589 or (613) 293-4298
Terms of Reference for the LAC Services Advisory Board may be found here. Meetings of the Board will be documented and minutes will be posted publicly.

Subsequent to the announcement regarding the formation of the LAC SAB, invitations to become members of the Board were sent to representatives of the varied perspectives of all of LAC's users across Canada. I am pleased to advise that I received, and have accepted, one of those invitations. It will be my pleasure to represent the views of genealogists when I attend meetings of the Board.

The first meeting of the Board will be held before the end of November and, as indicated in the press release above, the first topic of discussion will be hours of service. Hours of service at LAC, as evidenced by my article above, has been a subject of interest for the past few months. As such I am already aware of the concerns of many of my readers in this regard. However, should any of my readers have other concerns regarding manned hours of service I would encourage them to send me an e-mail expressing those concerns. Please use a subject line of LAC SAB so that I might easily filter your messages to an appropriate folder in my e-mail program.



United Church Archives finds a new home

In recent months I have received some e-mail from readers concerned with reports that the United Church Archives at Victoria University (Toronto) would be closing. In May of this year the United Church announced that their agreement with Victoria Universtiy regarding joint management of the University archives was to be dissolved, effective 30 April 2008. At that time the Church indicated that the archives would be moving, but it was not known where. That has now changed. The following press release was posted to the United Church website 25 October 2007:
    Toronto: In a statement released today, The United Church of Canada is pleased to announce a new location for its archives that are housed in Toronto. In early 2008, The United Church Archives (Toronto) will be moving from the Victoria University campus at the University of Toronto to The United Church of Canada's General Council Office at 3250 Bloor St. West in west-end Toronto.

    Currently The United Church of Canada supports a regional network of archives situated in 10 different locations throughout Canada. In Ontario, the United Church Archives (Toronto) manages the records of the General Council, the antecedent denominations, and the records of Bay of Quinte, London, Hamilton, Manitou, and Toronto Conferences and their respective presbyteries and pastoral charges.

    In announcing the decision regarding the new location for the United Church Archives (Toronto), Nora Sanders, General Secretary of the General Council, said, "As General Secretary, I want to assure all those who value the rich heritage of the United Church's archives of my personal commitment, along with that of the General Council, to the careful stewardship of this unique archival collection."

    Public access at this new location will be facilitated by its proximity to major transportation routes, the Islington subway station, and on-site parking. The new location will also allow for more immediate access and integration of the archives collection into the life and work of the church's national office and the church's governing body, the General Council.

    The archives will be housed in space vacated by The United Church of Canada's television and audiovisual production facility, Berkeley Studio. The studio space becomes available as a result of the decision in June 2007 to cease in-house, on-site audiovisual production effective December 31, 2007. The Berkeley Studio audiovisual collection will also be preserved as part of the General Council's archives.

    Bernard Granka is the project manager for the archives transition. He and Sharon Larade, The United Church of Canada's General Council Archivist, will oversee the monumental task of moving close to 20,000 boxes of records to the new site of the United Church Archives (Toronto). He explains that the church will be contracting specialized movers for the relocation of the archives collection.

    Granka says that the studio space has great potential for storing archival records. The studio is self-contained, with a separate, existing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) unit, allowing precise control of the environmental conditions of the storage vault. Immediately adjacent to the archives' new vault are offices that will become the new reading room and staff workstations. Compact shelving will be installed to maximize archival storage capacity in the available floor space in a single vault.

    Granka explains that the new location for the United Church Archives (Toronto) will meet the institutional standards set by the Canadian Council of Archives and all the records of the General Council and the Ontario Conferences will be administered by professional staff. He says that while there is much work to be done, the General Council Office and the five Ontario Conferences are confident that the new location will serve the purposes of both the General Council Office and the five Ontario Conferences.

    Granka adds that while planning and preparations are underway to move the collection from its current location at Victoria University, the collection will be temporarily unavailable for research after December 21, 2007. The United Church anticipates reopening its reading room to the public by Monday, May 5, 2008 at the 3250 Bloor St. West location.

    Granka emphasizes that throughout the United Church Archives (Toronto) transition, the church remains committed to providing continued access to all archival records related to residential schools, and will offer full co-operation with all aspects of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. This includes uninterrupted, open access to its archival records for the purposes of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    The Conference archives outside of Ontario are not affected by this transition at the United Church Archives (Toronto). For up-to-date information about their programs, see Archives and Recordkeeping

    Additional information with regard to the move of the United Church Archives (Toronto) will be posted to the archives website

    Questions and concerns about the transition should be directed to the United Church's General Council Archivist, Sharon Larade or to the project manager, Bernard Granka


AFHS call for papers

The Alberta Family Histories Society is seeking proposals for lectures, 1 hour in length, for FamilyRoots 2008 to be held in Calgary, Alberta. This biennial event attracts 300 to 400 people including people from across Alberta and the neighbouring provinces of British Columbia and Saskatchewan. AFHS has very active and experienced special interest groups devoted to research in Eastern Canada, Ireland and Britain. The other places of strongest community interest seem to be Eastern Europe, the United States and China. They are looking for intermediate to advanced presentations on Canadian, Irish and British topics. They are also looking for beginner to advanced presentations on Eastern European, German and American topics.

The theme for the 2008 seminar is incorporating social history and ethnic heritage into our family histories. AFHS is, therefore, looking for presentations on North American, especially Canadian, and European - in particular Irish and British, social history.

Plans are to incorporate Scottish, Irish, Ukrainian and/or Asian music and dancing into the programme. There are plans also to offer demonstrations on household skills of earlier times, such as spinning and weaving, and to have a Family History Exhibition of photographs, family trees, heirloom displays and computer assisted slide shows. Proposals for presentations on related topics will be considered.

The deadline for proposals is Feb. 25, 2008. Those interested should submit their proposal to: FamilyRoots 2008, #300, 1122 - 4th Street SW, Calgary, AB T2R 1M1. Or fax your proposals to (403)205-2499, or email tshymanski@gmail.com



Generations Network bought out

It seems that it was not that long ago that we learned that Ancestry.com was being bought out by The Generations Network. Now it seems that they in turn are being taken over by Spectrum Equity Investors. The following is a portion of a press release jointly made by The Generations Network and Spectrum Equity Investors:
    PROVO, Utah, Oct. 17 -- The Generations Network, Inc., today announced that Spectrum Equity Investors will lead an investment of $300 million to purchase a majority interest in the company. Spectrum, a private equity firm based in Menlo Park and Boston, has been a shareholder in The Generations Network since 2003. Following the transaction, Vic Parker and Ben Spero from Spectrum will serve on the company's new board of directors, along with Tim Sullivan, President and CEO of The Generations Network. Additional terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The acquisition is subject to customary regulatory and closing conditions and is expected to close in 2007. The Generations Network's portfolio of sites and products includes Ancestry.com and seven international Ancestry sites, myfamily.com, Rootsweb.com, Genealogy.com, Family Tree Maker® and Ancestry Magazine. The company's current management team will continue to lead the company. "As an investor in The Generations Network for the past four years, we have watched the company revolutionize the family history category by leveraging the power of the Internet to make it more accessible and easy for anyone," said Vic Parker, Managing Partner, Spectrum Equity Investors. "Ancestry.com and myfamily.com are clear category leaders in the growing and rapidly evolving family history and family networking markets. We are excited to partner with The Generations Network management team to continue growing this truly unique company that has the power to impact users at a very personal and emotional level."
Full text of the press release may be accessed here. The Generations Network family includes myfamily.com, ancestry.com, genealogy.com, rootsweb.com, ancestry.co.uk, ancestry.ca, ancestry.com.au, and ancestry.de.

While users of these varied services may have concerns regarding how the announced change in majority ownership will affect their subscriptions, comments viewed on the web appear mostly positive.



On a personal note

The interval between the posting of my last column, and this one, has been somewhat longer than has been normal in the past. The reason for that, I must admit, is that of late I have been somewhat distracted. The distraction has been a pleasant one - one that I would not wish to be without, and one that I hope will continue for some time to come. I have a new lady friend!

Her name is Stella, and she shudders every time someone calls her name the way Marlon Brando does in "Streetcar named Desire". We have known each other for about three years, but have only connected on a personal level for the past few months. After some 13 years of being on my own it is nice to have someone in my life again. We are wearing a path between our respective residences, and it has been a long time since I have gone to as many movies, or gone out to dine as often as we have in recent weeks. She has even introduced me to a local Bingo hall.

Needless to say, I am very happy with my new 'distraction'. I will however, endeavour to get back on track and to get my column posted in a timely manner once again.



Until next time.

Gordon A. Watts gordon_watts@telus.net

Your comments regarding this newsletter, and suggestions for future articles are welcome. Click here to send me a message with a subject line of "Gordon Watts Reports".

To view back issues of Gordon Watt's columns, visit Gordon's biography page where all of his archives articles are available.


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