Census Day 2006 is scheduled for Tuesday, 16 May. For the first time in the 340 years Censuses have been conducted in the territory that was destined to become Canada, respondents will be
asked to provide consent for the release of information they provide, 92 years after collection. Until now, no such consent was required. The question that will appear on the Census questionnaire is as follows:
The following question is for all persons who usually live here including
those less than 15 years old.
If you are answering on behalf of other people, please consult each person.
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
Does this person agree to make his/her 2006 Census information available for
public release in 2098 (92 years after the census)?
Inclusion of this 'informed consent' provision in Censuses to be conducted
from 2006 was the price forced upon genealogists and historians seeking to
regain public access to Historic Census records to which existing
legislation already stated we were entitled. We had been advised that
unless this provision was accepted the government would not present the Bill
(S-18) to end our seven-year campaign to regain public access to Historic
Census records in accordance with provisions of the Access to Information
and Privacy Acts.
Statistics Canada and Library and Archives Canada have committed to a publicity campaign to encourage respondents to answer YES to this vital question. The fact is that we cannot depend entirely on
government sources to spread the word regarding the need for EVERYONE to
answer YES to this question. It is time now to start spreading the word
ourselves about this question.
Our goal is a 100 percent YES response to the 'informed consent' clause on
the upcoming Census. Realistically speaking it is likely a goal that we
cannot achieve. However, with some effort we can hopefully achieve
something close to it. The question that arises is 'how'?
Start by advising friends, relatives and neighbours to answer YES to the
'informed consent' question. Ask them to help pass the word along by
likewise advising their friends, relatives and neighbours. Advise them that
if this question is answered NO, or is left unanswered, their
descendants will be unable to find information on them in accessible Census records in
2098 (92 years in the future). For all intents and purposes, so far as the
Census is concerned, they will never have existed.
Why should you answer YES to the 'informed consent' question on Census? The greatest value of Census records to researchers is in their 'completeness'. If significant numbers of respondents answer negatively, or do not answer this question at all, it will destroy the completeness of the records, and thus their value to genealogical or historical researchers will be forever destroyed. If certain kinds of persons do not answer this question, research based on 100% nominal census data will be biased and its value therefore compromised. The following list shows only a few examples of where Historic Census has been used successfully to benefit people today:
For genealogical research. To find information about ancestors you may or may not have previously known existed. To find the make-up of their families and how they evolved through successive Censuses. To learn where they lived, what their occupations were, when and where they were born, ethnic origins, education and religion, etc.
For sociological, demographic, economic and historic research: historical information on the social structure of Canada - sizes of families, age groupings of children, grandparents/siblings at home, servants and other household attendants, education, religious affiliation, race, ethnic origins, housing, business and agriculture production, immigration, patterns of migration, etc. Historical Census data, especially long-term Census data series, allow us to research patterns of economic and social inequality, and to examine the roots of important family patterns such as living alone, single-parent families and blended families.
To verify age, or date of birth where other sources are unavailable. This has been used to establish eligibility for pensions, etc.
To prove identity to obtain legal documents, i.e. passports, birth certificates etc.
To determine descendancy to settle estates where no will has been found.
To provide clues to genetically inherited diseases or disabilities.
To show proof of residency in order to prove land or property title.
To establish legal entitlement as a member of a group, i.e. as a Native Indian.
To verify group residency or land use to settle Aboriginal land claims.
To verify current owners of properties, or heirs of same, where property is to be sold for non-payment of taxes.
To establish or verify original owners of rights of way, mineral rights, or foreshore rights.
To ensure your place in the history of Canada
Genealogical and historical societies can publicize the need to respond YES
in their various publications. They can advise their membership at their
regular meetings. One might think that all genealogists are aware of the
value of Census in developing their family trees. You might think that
after a seven year campaign to regain public access to Historic Census
records they would be aware that starting with the 2006 Census on 16 May,
they must respond positively to an 'informed consent' question to earn their
place in the history of the future. Sadly, from correspondence received,
it is obvious that many of those who use Census in their research today are
not aware of this. It is therefore up to us to advise them.
Genealogists and historians can be expected to be more aware of the need to
answer YES to the 'informed consent' question than are the general public.
In fact, the general public's knowledge of the issue is probably
non-existent. They must be made aware. This can be done by word-of-mouth,
by writing letters to editors of newspapers and by calling radio talk shows.
There are many ways to educate the public, and only a few are mentioned here.
The important thing is that we all do our part to 'spread the word'.
Ensure your place in the history of Canada. On Census Day 16 May 2006, answer YES to allow your information to be made available to your descendants in 2098. Ask everyone you know to do so as well.
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