Going to court to regain public access to Historic Census Records is something that has been considered for some time. The first meeting regarding this possibility took place in Calgary during December 2000 with Calgary lawyer Lois Sparling, Doug Joudrey, Dr. Robert Westbury, and Gordon A. Watts - Co-chair of the Canada Census Committee. Further discussions via email took place during 2001, with the decision to proceed being made in December 2001. When to proceed was another question, as to do so we would need funding to cover expenses.
In early January 2002, a single posting was made to a number of genealogical mail lists announcing our intention to proceed to the Courts and requesting financial contributions to fund our action. Lois had estimated that we would require approximately $8,000.00 to proceed. That amount was broken down as approximately $3,000.00 expected to be needed for actual expenses relating to the action, with the remainder held in reserve to protect our plaintiffs in the hopefully improbable event that the Court assesses costs against them. Our lawyer, Lois Sparling, and other lawyers assisting her are waiving the legal fees that would normally be charged for such an action.
As evidence of the degree of seriousness to which genealogists and Historians view this issue, our funding goal was reached, and exceeded, within three weeks of our post requesting contributions. Even though we have reached our original funding goal, we will continue to accept contributions to the legal fund. Click here for further information.
On Tuesday 5 February 2002 Lois Sparling, Calgary Lawyer, member of the Alberta Family History Society, and member of the Canada Census Committee, filed an Application for Judicial Review, with the Federal Court of Canada. Named as defendants in the Application were Chief Statistician Dr. Ivan Fellegi; Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski; Information Commissioner John Reid; National Archivist Ian Wilson; and the Attorney General of Canada Martin Cauchon . Each defendant has filed a Notice of Intent to Appear.
The purpose of this Application is to obtain a 'writ of mandamus' that would compel Statistics Canada to turn control of the 1906 Special Census of the Western Provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) over to the National Archives of Canada. In accordance with Regulation 6(d) of the Privacy Act of Canada, once under the control of the National Archivist these records could be made available to any person or body for purposes of research.
In filing this Application for Judicial Review we have eleven plaintiffs from several different Provinces. During the week of 25 February 2002, sworn affidavits from each of the plaintiffs, stating their reasons for seeking access to the 1906 Census, were presented to the Court. Lois has provided profiles of our plaintiffs.
The next step in the procedure is for the defendants to file their affidavits.
Notice of Application