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Gov. of Canada introduces Legislation to Enable Access to Historical Census Records

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  • Judith Rempel
    Please remember that your reply will go to everyone on the list and the original sender so please stay on topic or ensure you delete the list Address Good
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3, 2004
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      Please remember that your reply will go to everyone on the list and
      the original sender so please stay on topic or ensure you delete
      the list Address


      Good news....



      OTTAWA, November 2, 2004 - An Act to amend the Statistics Act was
      introduced in the Senate of Canada today. The proposed bill would enable
      access to both past and future census records.

      This bill has two key provisions.

      * Personal census records for censuses taken between 1911 and 2001
      inclusive would be released 92 years after each census.


      * Starting with the 2006 Census, Canadians will be able to decide
      if they will allow their personal census information to be released
      publicly after 92 years. Individual census records would be released
      only when consent is given.

      The proposed legislation will permit access to historical census records
      and ask Canadians for their consent for the release of their future
      census records. It meets the legitimate interests of genealogists and
      historians while continuing to put all appropriate safeguards in place
      to protect the privacy of individuals.

      "Informed consent about the use of one's own personal information is a
      matter of fundamental privacy protection," said the Honourable David L.
      Emerson, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for Statistics
      Canada. "Canadians should have the right to decide for themselves if
      they want their personal census records to be made publicly available in
      the future. I am proud of the active consent provisions of this bill
      which satisfy the highest standard of privacy protection."

      The proposed legislation includes revisions in response to concerns
      raised by parliamentarians over the previously proposed bill (Bill
      S-13), tabled on February 5, 2003. This bill died on the order paper
      following the prorogation of Parliament on November 12, 2003.

      Statistics Canada, in conjunction with Library and Archives Canada,
      will, as part of the 2006 Census public communications campaign,
      encourage Canadians to allow future access to their census records to
      preserve Canada's history for future generations.

      For further information on the proposed legislation, please contact:

      Media Relations
      Statistics Canada
      (613) 951-4636

      _____

      Background
      An Act to amend the Statistics Act

      * In November 2004, the government proposed new legislation to
      amend the Statistics Act. This proposed legislation involves two key
      provisions. It provides access to historical census records for the
      period 1911 to 2001 inclusive, 92 years after each census. The 1911
      Census records will be released once the legislation has been passed.

      * Starting with the 2006 Census, Canadians will be asked to decide
      if they will allow their personal census information to be made publicly
      available 92 years after the census has been taken. These records would
      only be made available when consent has been given.

      * Informed consent about the use of one's own personal information
      is a matter of fundamental privacy protection. Canadians should have the
      right to decide for themselves if they want their personal census
      records to be made publicly available in the future.


      History


      * During the late 1990s, a number of genealogical associations,
      researchers and other interested individuals started a campaign to
      express dissatisfaction with their inability to access historical census
      records after 1901.

      * The census records up to and including 1901 were not taken with
      a statutory guarantee of confidentiality and were made available to the
      public through the National Archives 92 years after the event. Those
      censuses held after 1901 contained a statutory provision of
      confidentiality and were therefore collected with legally enforceable
      and no time-limited promise of confidentiality. As a result, these
      latter census records have not been made available to the public. Legal
      opinion initially held that these census records may not, in fact, be
      made available for public access; it now holds that they may be made
      available.

      * Following extensive review of the matter, the government
      announced two decisions on January 24, 2003: (a) that there was need to
      clarify the Statistics Act and that legislation would be drafted to
      resolve this issue; (b) to release the 1906 Census records on January
      24, 2003. The 1906 Census was a special census that was conducted only
      in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Furthermore, in contrast with
      other censuses which contained some very sensitive questions, the 1906
      special census collected only very limited information: name, address,
      age, sex, marital status and origin.

      * A bill to amend the Statistics Act (Bill S-13), was introduced
      in the Senate on February 5, 2003 and passed 3rd reading, without
      amendment, on May 27, 2003. It was introduced in the House of Commons on
      May 28, 2003. Parliament was prorogued on November 12th, 2003. The bill
      died on the Order Paper.

      * In light of the delay in resolving the matter of access to
      historical census records, genealogists and historians and the
      Information Commissioner acting on their behalf have sought legal
      redress to gain access to the 1911 Census records.

      * In June 25, 2004, in a Federal Court decision, Justice Gibson
      ruled that the care and control of the 1911 Census records rests with
      the Chief Statistician. Moreover, Justice Gibson stated that there is no
      legal obligation that would compel the Chief Statistician to transfer
      these records to the National Archives absent of an agreement between
      both parties. The Federal Court in this case recognized that there
      exists a tension between the privacy rights of Canadians and public
      access to historical census records. He suggested that resolution of
      this matter is a policy matter best left to the government to address.





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