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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 07 October 2008
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles

Gordon A. Watts
Topics in this column include:
  • More on ‘informed consent’ discussions [Canadian Census]
  • Women Pioneers of Saskatchewan
  • Library and Archives Canada to host Irish Studies Symposium

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

More on ‘informed consent’ discussions

Members of the Canadian Historical Association, along with myself, continue to have discussions with Statistics Canada regarding wording of the ‘informed consent’ question on the 2011 National Census of Canada. You will be aware from previous articles in this column that the question posed in 2006 will leave descendants of more than 44% of respondents on that Census unable to verify the existence of their ancestors living at that time. The question posed on the 2006 Census was as follows:
  • “The Statistics Act guarantees the confidentiality of your census information. Only if you mark “YES” to this question will your personal information be made public, 92 years after the 2006 Census.

  • If you mark “NO” or leave the answer blank, your personal information will never be made publicly available. If you are answering on behalf of other people, please consult each person.

  • Does this person agree to make his/her 2006 Census information available for public release in 2098 (92 years after the census)? YES____ NO____”
On 13 May 2008 Statistics Canada conducted a test Census on which a modified ‘consent’ question was used. The modified question – a result of our ongoing discussions with Statistics Canada, was worded as follows:
  • “Only if you mark “YES” to this question will your census responses and family history be part of the historical record of Canada. A “yes” means your census responses will be available to family members and historical researchers, 92 years after the 2011 Census, in 2103.

  • If you mark “NO” or leave the answer blank, your census responses information will never be made available to future generations.

  • Does this person agree to make his/her 2011 Census information available for public release in 2103 (92 years after the census)? YES____ NO____”
The following chart shows a comparison of the results, on a percentage basis, of the 2008 Census Test question with that of the 2006 Census question.
2006 Census
2008 Census Test

We were happy to see the increase in YES responses (from 55.58% to 72.6%). We were happy also to see the decrease in the number of deliberate NO responses (from 32.08% to 9.9%). We are less than happy however, to see the increase in the number of those who did not answer the question at all (from 12.34% to 17.5%). Based upon the total population of Canada enumerated on the 2006 Census, 17.5% of respondents not answering the question in 2011 would equate to more than 5,700,000 non-responses being equated to NO responses.

Our long term goal is to eliminate entirely the requirement for an ‘informed consent’ question for future Censuses. It has been made quite clear to us that this will not happen, nor will a mandated review of the question happen prior to the 2011 Census taking place. In the mean time however, we will continue our efforts to have respondents that leave the question blank included with the YES answers rather than the NO answers.

We feel strongly that if respondents to Census wish to be removed from the history of Canada, they should have to be pro-active in seeing that happen. They should not be removed from our history simply because they are apathetic and do not answer the question.

Women Pioneers of Saskatchewan

The bronze, Egg Money, is a planned tribute to pioneer women in Saskatchewan. More info
The Saskatchewan Genealogical Society is seeking your help in producing a new book to be published in commemoration of the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society’s 40th Anniversary in 2009.

Titled “Women Pioneers of Saskatchewan” the book is intended to produce a record of women who played a large part in the settlement and development of Saskatchewan within the timeframe of the 1800s to 1950. The SGS wants you to submit stories of your Saskatchewan pioneer women. Stories can relate to either rural or urban areas, so long as they pertain to areas within the boundaries of what is now known as Saskatchewan.

Anyone can contribute to the publication – you need not be a member of the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society. Articles should be a maximum of about 2,000 words or less on each of the women pioneers in your family. You are encouraged to submit a maximum of two photographs for each submission. Only photos accompanied by a self-addressed stamped envelope will be returned. Send scanned copies of photos. Do not send originals.

Submission of your articles in electronic format (MS Word only) is preferred, and may be sent to

Hard copy submissions (typed or neatly written) may be sent to:
    Celeste Rider, SGS Librarian
    Saskatchewan Genealogical Society
    PO Box 1894
    Regina, SK S4P 3E1
Your submissions must be received no later than 30 January 2009.

Library and Archives Canada to host Irish Studies Symposium

Library and Archives Canada, in order to address growing interest in the field of Irish-Canadian studies, will host an Irish Studies Symposium on 3 and 4 November 2008. The symposium will be open to the general public at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario. Presented with the support of the National Archives of Ireland, the Irish Studies Symposium will bring together historians, students, genealogists, and researchers in an open dialogue to explore Irish and Irish-Canadian documentary heritage.

Doors will open to the public at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, November 3rd, 395 Wellington Street, Exhibition Room A, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

There will be six sessions and one roundtable panel covering a variety of topics including:
  • The Irish in Québec
  • Famine and Commemoration
  • Politics: Shifting Attitudes and Political Impact
  • The 1911 Census of Ireland
  • Irish Culture: Print, Music, Food, and Film
  • Irish History and Modern Media
  • Directions in Irish Canadian Studies (round table)
All presentations will be simultaneously translated in English and French.

Event details will be made available at and will be updated throughout September and October.

There is no charge to attend the symposium but you are requested to advise of your intention to attend by telephone at 613-992-2618 or by email to

Until next time.

Gordon A. Watts

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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