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