Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Imminent Release of Census Records?

Forwarded by Rob McLean

To all:- As you read the following, you will notice census release is not "a done deal", but one which needs support from many. Please pass on the following if you desire -- especially to genealogical societies, family history groups, and others. To back Senator Lorna Milne and The Hon. Allan Rock, we hope for your signatures on petitions.

Muriel M. Davidson
Co-Chair, Canada Census Committee


On October 3, 2002 Government House Leader, Don Boudria, announced that the federal government will be bringing in legislation to allow for the release of all post 1901 census records. The legislation is currently being drafted and I expect that it will be introduced sometime in the new year.

This is great news for genealogists, historians, and others who have been fighting for years to see the records. I want to tell all of you that this simply would not have happened were it not for the work of Industry Minister Allan Rock. This has been a much more difficult endeavour for the minister than either he or I could have ever imagined. Some members of the Cabinet, and some departments, were greatly concerned aboiut privacy issues.

Meanwhile, Senators and MPs were dealing with a flood of emails, letters, and petitions demanding access to our historic census records. It is a huge victory for those of us who care about Canada's history.

I want to warn everyone though, that like everything else in life there are going to have to be some compromises. There are legitimate privacy concerns over releasing census records, and those concerns shouldn't simply be swept under the rug. When the legislation comes out it will be a bit complex, and have provisions that will allow Canadians to keep private some, if not all, information they give to Stats Canada. I am working with Minister Rock to figure out exactly how that will work. I also expect that there will be some kind of penalties for those who use census information improperly. Although I don't know a single genealogist who has ever, or would do any harm because of their access to census records, it is important that we admit that this is theoretically possible, and the government will need some tools to protect Canadians from the creative misuse of these documents.

I want to thank each and every one of you for all your hard work and support in this project. We can't break out the champagne just yet, but I can confidently say that we will be seeing the 1906 census results very shortly. Congratulations to everyone for this great accomplishment, particularly to Muriel M. Davidson and Gordon Watts, the co-chairs of the Canada Census Campaign.
From: The Honourable Lorna Milne, Senator, The Senate of Canada, Parliament Buildings, Ottawa, ON K1A. 0A4