Vital Statistics Information Access
Res #: 22-10A
Responses Received: No
Departments: Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice
WHEREAS on March 31, 2010 the provisions of The Vital Statistics Act, 2009, S.S. 2009 c. V-7.21 are to come into effect;
WHEREAS one of the consequences of this will be the elimination of the Division Registrars, namely administrators of rural municipalities;
WHEREAS many rural municipal offices now possess duplicates of registration of births, marriages and deaths dated back to the municipality incorporation;
WHEREAS Information Services Corporation of Saskatchewan (ISC), who now maintains the Vital Statistics Registry, are proposing to take possession of these old records; and
WHEREAS the public are aware that these records are in rural municipal offices and have used these records, to research family history and genealogy;
BE IT RESOLVED that the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities lobby the Provincial Government to amend the legislation so as to permit rural municipalities to retain copies and to permit public access to all records of births, marriages and deaths registered with their office in years prior to 2010.
Response from Honourable Don Morgan, Q.C., Minister of Justice and Attorney General:
Resolution No. 22 – 10A respecting Vital Statistics Information Access will be addressed by my colleague, the Minister Responsible for Information Services Corporation, the Honourable June Draude. I have forwarded your letter to her for a response to this resolution.
Response from Honourable June Draude, Minister Responsible for Information Services Corporation:
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss The Vital Statistics Act, 2009 and the changes its proclamation will bring to the members of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM). There were a number of factors that contributed to create the new Act and I am pleased to take this opportunity to address your concerns.
Division Registrars have historically played a critical role in supporting manual vital statistics registration processes by providing a local presence and point of contact for citizens. With advances in technology, especially access to the internet across most of Saskatchewan, vital events can now be registered directly to a central location thereby increasing efficiency, information integrity and possibilities for improved service through the use of technology.
Another key driver for the centralizing of Vital Statistics services is to ensure the protection of citizens’ personal information. Vital Statistics registrations contain a significant amount of personal information and personal health information. If this information was exposed inappropriately, it could have unfortunate circumstances for citizens. Managing these risks was a key consideration in creating The Vital Statistics Act, 2009. The Act was reviewed by The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Saskatchewan’s office to favourable results, in part, due to the decision to centralize the operations within a single organization .
As identified in your letter to the Minister of Justice, many rural municipalities have accumulated duplicates of vital event records and these records may have been made available to the public for genealogical purposes. The current legislation and regulations identify that neither practice should currently occur. In particular, Section 52 of the existing Act (The Vital Statistics Act, 1995) indicates that no access is to be provided to the records.
The historical value of Vital Statistics records is well understood by Information Services Corporation (ISC). In response, Vital Statistics provides a searchable index of open birth and death records, available at no charge online, to help confirm the existence of records. Vital Statistics also offers copies of registrations (birth, death, marriage) at $50 per record for all open records. Open records are those births registered with Vital Statistics more than 100 years ago; deaths registered more than 70 years ago, and marriages registered more than 75 years ago. All other records are considered ‘closed’ and access is limited in both versions of the legislation in order to protect the private information contained on the registrations. The date ranges used in Saskatchewan are in line with other jurisdictions.
Moving forward, it is ISC’s intention to see The Vital Statistics Act, 2009 proclaimed in its current form. Upon proclamation, ISC will begin the task of collecting Vital Statistics-related documents from municipalities. Once these records are transferred to ISC, the municipality will have officially completed its responsibilities as division registrar. It is our hope that this will provide municipality staff incrementally more time to serve their constituents.
Again I would like to thank you for the opportunity to discuss this new legislation. I encourage you or other members of your organization to contact Michael Beatty, Marketing Manager (787-9927) or Ronalda Leibel, Client Relationship Manager (798-4142) at ISC if you would like more information on these changes to the legislation or to discuss how the discontinuation of division registrars will be conducted.