Ending Ambiguity:  What is the CSA?

August 24th, 2014

Ponder this question:  Is the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) a private not-for-profit corporation, or is it an agency of the Federal Government?

Its an important question, the CSA’s legal status is what defines its role and its rights in Canada.  The trouble of course, is that the CSA enjoys the powers of government while competing commercially as a private company.  So what, really, is its legal status?

Well, the Minister of Industry, James Moore, claims that “the CSA is not government-mandated” and is “not a regulatory body,” that it “has no regulatory role in Canada,” and that the CSA “does not report to the Minister of Industry either directly or indirectly” and “does not report to the Standards Council of Canada.” 

Likewise, the CSA claims that its a private, not-for-profit corporation founded in 1919. 

So we did some digging.  Suspecting that the CSA was really founded earlier than 1919, most likely by the British Government, we started exploring government archives in the United Kingdom.  Six months and five (imperial) gallons of coffee later, we can make some conclusions.

Kindly note however, that the most significant documentation remains in the possession of CSA and the Federal Government, two entities disinclined to release anything clear or definitive on CSA history.  What follows then, is what can be assembled from secondary sources and third party archives.

The entries are listed chronologically (except for undated documentation) and show the progression from the CSA being an idea of the British Imperial Government, to the logistics of establishing it, to the patriation of the CSA to the Canadian Government from the British Privy Council.  These items represent a sampling of documents in our possession pertaining to the founding of the CSA.  We’ve added some explanatory notes too.  So, here we go:

 

The Times of London - 29 January 1908
A report on international electrical standardization mentions the leading role played by the Institution of Electrical Engineers and the appointment of local committees, including one in Canada.

ESC Report of Conference, 23 August 1913
P.1 - Mr. A.B. Lambe, of the Bureau of Standards, Ottawa, attended the London Conference at the invitation of the Chairman, Colonel R.E. Crompton

Letter from the Secretary of the Board of Trade Departmental Committee on Engineering Standards, dated 1 December 1916
“[With reference to] your proposal to establish in a number of Foreign Countries and British Dominions Overseas, permanent local Committees of British Engineers” the work should be “undertaken as early as possible.”

Private and Confidential Circular of the Engineering Standards Committee, dated January 1917
“[the Committee has been working on] the establishment of a permanent Local Committee of British Engineers under the Chairmanship of the British Consul or other Government Representative, in some twelve foreign and British Overseas countries…”

Note that the Local Committees, such as the CSA, are stated in this quote as having been founded by the British Government and chaired by senior Government officials.

Private and Confidential Circular of the Engineering Standards Committee, dated January 1917
P.2:  [References direct funding of Local Committee development by the British Government]

Private and Confidential Circular of the Engineering Standards Committee, dated January 1917
P.2:  “The Foreign Office has expressed its approval of the scheme outlined, and is willing to give the assistance of the Consular Officers in the foreign cities in connection with the proposed Local Committees.”

Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Vol.204, P.330-64
P.19-20 - “…the government Committee on Engineering Industries chaired by Sir Clarendon Hyde met in the summer of 1916.  Sir John Wolfe Barry attended and remarked that local committees of engineers and traders […] should be formed at about twelve important trading centres - for example, in the Argentine, Brazil, Canada, Chili [sic], China…”  These local committees are to be chaired by “the British Consul or other government representatives.”

The Times of London - 3 October, 1918
Meeting of the Prime Ministers of the Dominions to discuss the standardization of trade, products, etc. refers to the British Engineering Standards Association “and their overseas committees.”

Journal of the Engineering Institute of Canada - March 1919
“The movement was actually initiated in November 1917 by a communication, from the then British Engineering Standards Committee, which was transmitted to the Canadian Government through the British Government, which pointed out the desirability of the formation of a Standards Committee in Canada. […]  As a result, the nomination of a Canadian Engineering Standards Committee was placed by Sir Joseph Pope in the hands of the Administrative Chairman of the Honorary Advisory Council for Industrial and Scientific Research [NRC], with the cooperation of a number of prominent members of the engineering profession.”

Note that the National Research Council (NRC), an agency of the Federal Government, and the CSA were formed within a year of each other by the same government, reporting to the same minister, with a single budget allocation for research being split between them.

Journal of the Engineering Institute of Canada - March 1919
“At the urgent request of the British Authorities, and in order that Canadian representatives might proceed to England to attend conferences on those subjects, the Canadian Engineering Standards Committee last spring [1918] appointed two Sectional Sub-Committees, the first on screw threads, and the second on aeroplane parts.”

Journal of the Engineering Institute of Canada - March 1919
“The bulk of the work accomplished by the Canadian Engineering Standards Committee during the past six months [Oct. 1918 - March 1919] has thus far been in connection with screw threads and aircraft parts.”

Journal of the Engineering Institute of Canada - March 1919
“…delegates having been sent to England to represent the [CSA] Committee at the Conference held in London at the invitation of the Ministry of Munitions in April, 1918 on screw thread standardization, and at the meeting of the International Aircraft Standards Commission held in London in October last [Oct. 1918].”

Note that the CSA has claimed in Parliament and in court that it was founded in 1919, a year after it began sending delegates to international conferences.

Journal of the Engineering Institute of Canada - March 1919
“During the year 1918, the work of the Committee was brought to the attention of the Canadian Government…”

Note that as a British Government Agency, the Canadian Government would not normally be privy to the sum of its activities.

Journal of the Engineering Institute of Canada - March 1919
“An application is bow before the Government asking for the incorporation of the Committee under the name of the Canadian Engineering Standards Association”.

Note that the original name for the CSA was the Canadian Engineering Standards Association.  The name was changed in 1944.

Note also that the request to the Government for incorporation refers to the CSA’s Federal Charter.  Unlike a normal incorporation, the CSA was granted a Federal Charter, the Canadian equivalent of a British Royal Charter.  Originally founded as a branch of the British Engineering Standards Association, the CSA enjoyed the privileges of the BESA’s Royal Charter, the BESA being an Imperial Government Agency reporting to the British Privy Council.  When the CSA was patriated to the Canadian Government from the British Empire, it lost its BESA Royal Charter and was afforded the Canadian equivalent, being a Federal Canadian Charter.  Hence the correspondence between governments to coordinate the patriation.

Hansard - 13th Parl 2nd Session - Image 652 - Page 3842
Mr. Maclean:  “The Canadian Engineering Standards Association (incorporated 1919) is a branch of the British Engineering Standards Committee founded sixteen years ago…”

Hansard - 13th Parl 5th Session - Image 428 - Page 1426
Mr. Casgrain:  “Do they make reports to the Department?”
Sir George Foster:  “Yes, and we have record of the results of their work.”

Remember James Moore’s claim that the CSA “does not report to the Minister of Industry either directly or indirectly”?

C.A. (O.C.) 597 Report on the Organization and Work of the Canadian Engineering Standards Association, as submitted to the Unofficial Conference of the Secretaries of the National Standardizing Bodies, convened under the instructions of the Main Committee of the British Engineering Standards Association, on 25 April, 1921
“[The Local Committees] were provided with offices in one of the Government Buildings and also had the franking privilege…”

Standardization: Its Fundamental Importance to the Prosperity of our Trade, a paper of the North-East Coast Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders, dated 1922 (printed in Transactions of the NECIES, Vol.38, P.477)
P.12:  “Steps were taken to form local committees in the great trading centres of the world, composed in the first instance of British engineers and traders to act in an advisory capacity to the Home Committee…”

Standardization: Its Fundamental Importance to the Prosperity of our Trade, a paper of the North-East Coast Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders, dated 1922 (printed in Transactions of the NECIES, Vol.38, P.477)
P.13 “…the consequent great utility to British industry of the existence in foreign countries of the Local Standards Committees to watch over British interests…”

Hansard - 14th Parl 4th Session - Image 886 - Page 3006-07
Mr. Meighen:  “Why this further amount?”
Mr. Low:  “Last year there was a grant of $10,000 to the Canadian Engineering Standards Association.”

Note that this Parliamentary debate dealt with dividing the Federal research budget between the NRC and the CSA.

Memorandum in Regard to the British Engineering Standards Association in Furtherance of British Export Trade [undated typescript]
“In 1917 in special order […] the Treasury made a special grant […] to the British Engineering Standards Association […] in order to assist the Association to commence this organization of Local Committees overseas […in several centres such as] Australia and Canada.”

Memorandum in Regard to the British Engineering Standards Association in Furtherance of British Export Trade [undated typescript]
“The Foreign Office has cooperated in this work and in many cases has placed at the disposal of our Local Committees its offices abroad.”

Memorandum in Regard to the British Engineering Standards Association in Furtherance of British Export Trade [undated typescript]
“From time to time information reached these offices through our Local Committees…” [emphasis added]

Memorandum in Regard to the British Engineering Standards Association in Furtherance of British Export Trade [undated typescript]
“If the B.E.S.A. can be assisted to continue its overseas propaganda work through the adequate dissemination continuously of British Standards in foreign countries and also in the British Dominions….” [emphasis in original]

Memorandum to the Board of Trade on the Work of the Engineering Standards Committee and the Proposed Extension of its Activities [undated draft]
“The Committee, therefore, proposes as a commencement the establishment of permanent Local Committees of British Engineers in some 12 of the most important countries overseas, the Committees to be under the Chairmanship of the British Consul in foreign countries and of an official of the Local Government in British Possessions.”

Evidence of Sir Archibald Denny [ESC Chairman] before the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry, 27 October 1925
P.49 - Q.991 [Chairman]:  “Are there similar organizations in existence in other countries?”  Answer:  “Yes, there are now, I believe, 19. […] We also had local committees in the Dominions.  Two of our Dominion committees, the Canadian and Australian, are now independent and yet allied with us.” 

Note that the term “independent” refers to the patriation of the CSA from the British Empire to the Canadian Government six years previously, in 1919.

Hansard - 17th Parl 6th Session - Image 481 - Page 1569
Mr. Hanson:  “…the main committee of the Canadian Engineering Standards Association has been created an associate committee of the National Research Council.  This committee receives financial support from the National Research Council on the same basis as other associate committees of the council.”

Industrial Standardization in the Mechanical Engineering Industry, dated 9 November 1931, drafted in pre-print by Charles Dresser and J.O. Cooke to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers
[The major goals of the Association were] “to establish in foreign countries and the British Dominions overseas, local committees to further the objects of the Association.  […] The Association was instrumental in getting parallel organizations established in the Dominions…”

Hansard - 19th Parl 5th Session - Image 160 - Page 3362
“The main committee of the C.E.S.A. is the associate committee on engineering standards of the council.” 

Note that the C.E.S.A. is the CSA and the “council” is the NRC.

Hansard - 22nd Parl 2nd Session - Image 353 - Page 6151
Mr. Knight:  “…the Canadian Standards Association does not have complete power to stop goods from being imported into this country.  But I claim it might almost as well have that power, because the effect of its decisions is practically the same.”

Note that by the 22nd Parliament (1953-57), the Federal Government had already started trying to muddy the legal status of the CSA.  If the CSA is a government body, then the government is responsible for its regulatory and legislative decisions.  And given CSA conduct, what government would want those liabilities?

Hansard - 22nd Parl 2nd Session - Image 353 - Page 6151
Mr. Knight:  “He says the work is entrusted to what he calls a private firm.  I expect that is not a good definition of the Canadian Standards Association.  This organization may be private but I believe it receives from the government a grant of some $20,000 a year.”

Hansard - 22nd Parl 2nd Session - Image 353 - Page 6151
Mr. Knight:  “This man even suggests, […] that somebody here [at CSA] has the power to prevent the very competition the minister has been talking about…”

Hansard - 22nd Parl 2nd Session - Image 355 - Page 6153
Mr. Hamilton:  “The problem of the Canadian Standards Association is another one of a similar nature.  As the last speaker said, it is difficult to find out just exactly what the situation is in connection with the association, or to ascertain its official status.  I notice that in their general information they indicate that the Canadian Standards Association is a non-profit, non-government standards development organization.  […]  The average person would assume that it had no connection whatsoever with any branch of government.  Yet if one will look at page 35 of the Ottawa telephone directory he will find the Canadian Standards Association listed under the telephone number 2 - 8211 of the government of Canada.  And if one goes to the official telephone directory issued by the government he finds the Canadian Standards Association listed at page 8.  So I assume we must give this association some kind of semi-official status, and we must ask that some recognition of that fact be given by the various government departments.”

Hansard - 22nd Parl 2nd Session - Image 355 - Page 6153
Mr. Hamilton:  “I do not think one can say to the businessman, ‘This association is entirely outside the government.  Even though we list it in the telephone directory and in our own government directory, it is outside.’  I do not think the government can say, ‘This association sets the standards from one end of the country to the other, but it is not our responsibility to see that those standards are observed.’”

Hansard - 24th Parl 3rd Session - Image 171 - Page 8046-47
Mr. Herridge:  [In reference to Colonel John Henry Jenkins, former Director of the Canadian Standards Association;] “…I believe however, the time comes when we should recognize what has been done by senior civil servants…” [emphasis added]

Hansard - 28th Parl 2nd Session - Image 1101 - Page 6583
Mr. McGrath:  “The Canadian Standards Association […] enjoys the privileges of a federal charter.”

Hansard - 28th Parl 2nd Session - Image 1101 - Page 6583
Mr. McGrath:  “…it can be usefully argued that the Canadian Standards Association can, for purposes of our dealings with the Common Market countries or other countries in the world, function in the same way as a government body because, as I said, up to this date the government of Canada has participated fully in this organization.”