UPDATE - 4 October 2004
After a number of unexpected (at least to us) delays, on 4 October 2004 the Hon. John Reid, Information Commissioner, started sending out his response to complaints regarding the refusal of Statistics Canada to return control of records for the 1911 National Census of Canada to the National Archives for subsequent public access.
As he had done for complaints regarding the 1906 Census Mr. Reid found that records of the 1911 Census were accessible under existing legislation. He had requested Statistics Canada release the records in question. That request was refused by David Emerson, the new Minister of Industry.
Mr. Reid is prepared to proceed to the Federal Court on our behalf and for the 90 individuals who submitted complaints he requested they fill in and return a consent form to allow him to do so. We urge all who received the response of the Information Commissioner to complete and return these consent forms as soon as possible.
UPDATE - 2 April 2004
On 2 April 2004 Mr. Dan O'Donnell - an investigator in the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada - once again indicated that there will be a further delay in receiving a decision of the Information Commissioner regarding our complaints against Statistic Canada. He advised that some further procedural issues had arisen, and that it was necessary to have meetings with up to three additional individuals.
Mr. O'Donnel's best estimate of when complainants could now expect to be given letters of response was about 4 June 2004 -- four days before our legal action is heard by a Federal Court Judge.
UPDATE - 1 March 2004
On 1 March 2004 Mr. Dan O'Donnell - an investigator in the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada - advised that need had arisen for further representation/consultation with representatives of various government departments. He was unable to advise what those needs were, nor with what specific government departments these further consultations must take place. He expressed his regrets regarding this and said that his 'next best guess' would be that the response of the Information Commissioner would take another month to come down. This would make it about the beginning of April 2004.
During a conversation with Mr. O'Donnell in mid-January he indicated that he thought the response of the Information Commissioner would be forthcoming in about six weeks -- which would have then put that time about the end of February.
Making a complaint to the Information Commissioner
Responses to our Access to Information requests for access to 1911 Census records are now being received from Statistics Canada. As expected, those requests are being denied. It is therefore time to proceed to the next step of our campaign -- sending complaints regarding the rejection of our requests for access to the Information Commissioner. This is a most important step in our effort to regain public access to Historic Census records.
I copy below a sample letter to be sent to the Information Commissioner. As usual, this is simply a suggested format and readers are encouraged to use their own wording where possible.
Mr. John Reid
On 2 June 2003 I directed an Access to Information request to Statistics Canada, stating the following:
"As a family historian and genealogist I have a requirement to view and obtain information regarding my ancestors from Historic Census Records. The Privacy Act of Canada, and Regulations attached thereto, provide that information from Census may be made available to any person or body, for purposes of research, 92 years after collection. This message is to be considered my Request, under the Access to Information Act, for access to schedules of the 1911 National Census of Canada. Thank you."
Subsequent to this request I received a letter from Statistics Canada, dated XX XXXX 2003, that stated as follows:
"The 1911 Census records have not been transferred to the National Archives of Canada and remain under the care and control of Statistics Canada. It is only when such a transfer occurs that the provision in paragraph 6(d) of the Privacy Regulations would take effect. Paragraph 6(d) allows for information obtained through the taking of a census or survey to be disclosed, 92 years later, for research or statistical purposes.
Further, Bill S-13, an Act to amend the Statistics Act that was introduced in the Senate on February 5, 2003, is intended to remove any legal ambiguity in relation to access to historical census records, including those from the 1911 Census. Bill S-13 was passed by the Senate and referred to the House of Commons. It is now awaiting second reading.
Accordingly, at this time, the schedules of the 1911 Census are being exempted from disclosure pursuant to section 24 of the Access to Information Act which reads as follows:
"24(1) The head of a government institution shall refuse to disclose any record requested under this Act that contains information the disclosure of which is restricted by or pursuant to any provision set out in Schedule II."
Schedule II includes section 17 of the Statistics Act.
Section 17 of the current Statistics Act replaced similar provisions found in the Census and Statistics Act, R.S.C. 1906, c.68, under which authority the 1911 Census was taken and pursuant to which the 1911 Census Instructions were issued. Those Instructions were issued, assented to by the Governor in Council and published in the Canada Gazette on April 22, 1911. The Instructions had the force of law and continue to be in effect by virtue of the Interpretation Act."
I was advised that I was entitled to bring a complaint regarding the refusal of my request to the Information Commissioner. The purpose of this letter, therefore, is to submit such a complaint. Statistics Canada's file number of my ATI request is ????????.
Mr. Commissioner, I am aware that similar ATI requests made for records of the 1906 Census of the North-Western Provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) were earlier rejected by Statistics Canada, for the same reasons as given above (excepting the reference to Bill S-13). I am aware that complaints were made to your office regarding that rejection and that upon investigation you determined that there was no lawful reason for withholding of these records of Census by Statistics Canada. You recommended that Statistics Canada release them to public access. Chief Statistician Ivan Fellegi subsequently refused that request.
Upon refusal of Statistics Canada to release the 1906 records you were prepared to proceed to the Federal Court on behalf of complainants, and had taken steps in that direction. Your action was halted only by virtue of the release and subsequent online posting of the 1906 records of Census, on 24 January 2003 - the same day your action was filed with the Federal Court.
By releasing the 1906 Census records on 24 January 2003 the government acknowledged that current legislation allowed them to do so.
Mr. Commissioner, The 1911 National Census of Canada was conducted under the same legislation, and similar Instructions to Enumerators (having the Force of Law), as was the 1906 Census of the North-Western Provinces. There is no reason, either legal, moral or logical for the 1911 records of Census to be treated any differently than have been those for 1906, and 235 years of Census before them.
It is my sincere hope that your investigation regarding my complaint will be speedy and that you will come to the same conclusion for 1911 Census records that you did for those of 1906. It is my hope also that you will be prepared to proceed to the Federal Court on behalf of those, like myself, who seek our rightful access to 92 year-old Census records. Thank you.
John Q. Public
Complaints to the Information Commissioner should detail when your request was made, specifically what was requested, and the date of refusal. Quote any file number included in the notice from Statistics Canada.
It would be appreciated if you would send copies of your ATI request, response received from Statistics Canada, and your complaint to the Information Commissioner to:
Gordon A. Watts