Phonebooks

January 14th, 2018

Canada’s National Archives are located on Wellington Street in the capital, just up from the Ottawa River.  It’s a beautiful location, in summer.  I was there in Winter.

The place right now may well be beautiful, all cloaked in white, but it’s hard to appreciate while the whole of Ottawa is buffeted with a wind so cold it’s got daggers in it.

I felt the daggers, as I had to park at City Hall and brave the buffeting on foot, arriving at the Archives all cloaked in white myself.

Still, Archives Canada is by now a familiar facility.  I took my residency on the third floor and filled out the mornings’ pullsheets.  Today I was pulling old telephone directories.

The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) claims that they’re not part of government.  They say this repeatedly, at often at volume, to whomever should dare to suggest otherwise.  CSA affidavits for instance, drone on the subject repeatedly, that “CSA is a private organization.” 

We have chronicled CSA’s government status before, and it’s pretty clear that CSA is indeed a government Agency.  They’re chartered as a government Agency, they were registered as such, patriated as such, mandated as such, funded as such, housed and fed as such, granted spending and taxation powers as an Agency, given legislative immunities as an Agency, -and so on, and for some distance. 

But, says CSA, “we are not a government body.” 

Back at National Archives, my telephone directories had arrived.  My wee workstation was now entirely festooned with phonebooks.

You remember phonebooks, right?  Not too many years ago, we were awash in them.  Every house across the land received a new phonebook every year, and every basement of every house had its own mini-archive of phonebooks from years’ past. 

Phonebooks are an excellent historical resource to verify the legal status of entities in specific years. 

Still, of its own legal status, the CSA rages that “we are not a government body.  We are not an agent for any government body or any level of government.”

Hmm.  Well, have a look at this listing, from the City of Ottawa telephone directory.  See how CSA’s listed as the “Government of Canada”?

Or how about this one?  Or this one?  And it goes on like this, year after year, phonebook after phonebook, for decades.

What do you suppose would happen if I called the Bell Telephone Company, spoke to their director of directories, and asked that I be listed therein as a Government Agency?  Not much?  You’re right, I’d have a refusal, a head-patting, and an invitation to not call back.

The only way for CSA to get listed as part of Government is for Government itself to agree to that listing.  It is, after all, the Government that requests phone lines from the phone companies, it’s Government that advises them of what is, or is not, part of Government.  And it was Government that told the world that CSA was part of Government.

Alright, let’s move to the Government’s own directories.  When phonebooks were still being printed, larger enterprises -big businesses, governments, etc., would have their own internal directories printed, accessible to their own staff to enable them to connect with their other offices, buildings, personnel, across the organization. 

Just like municipal phonebooks, internal directories of the Federal Government are held in archives.  So I filled out some pullsheets and awaited the resultant bundles of bureaucratic joy in the stilted silence of the reading room.

I was pondering one of CSA’s rants in Court; “Mr. Knight states that CSA ‘is an Agency of the Federal Government.’  This is not true.  We are a private body”. 

Then the directories arrived.  Taking a phonebook at random, I opened to the first page and look at what I found.

This directory page is from 1954 when Canada was still a British Dominion, and when CSA was still listed as a “Government Department.”  A Government Department is not “a private body”.

Lest there be any doubt, and from yet another directory, here is a sample page listing.

For added mirth, note who’s listed as CSA’s Technical Officer.  Yes, well, we’re looking into that.

Here’s another example.  And another one.  And another one.  And another one.  And it goes on like this.

The CSA is listed as a Government Agency inside the Government’s own internal directories, in dozens of such directories, for decades on end. 

Another fun fact about city phone directories; they show office locations.

For example, in 1980 their office was at 701 - 280 Albert St.  In 1978 they were at 320 Queen St.  In 1964, they were at 235 Montreal Rd.  All of these addresses were government offices.

Yet CSA laments that we at RestoreCSA continue “to assert that CSA is a government body.”  The nerve of us, really.

Government office directories list CSA in Government offices too (like this one, or this one).  These Government buildings had suitably unsexy names, like “No. 7 Building Green Island,” for instance.  One can track their office moves from Government building to Government building through the decades. 

And these weren’t branch office moves.  Oh no, their “head office” was in their Government office.

One is reminded of the Parliamentary speech of an especially frustrated MP, John Hamilton.  Of CSA, said 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 this country to the other,” but it is somehow not the Government’s responsibility.”

The bottom line?  The CSA’s Government charter was last amended in 1944, to enable a name change.  Their legal status has not been altered since CSA’s patriation from the British Empire in 1919.  In this, the CSA remains an Agency of the Federal Government.  All their barracking does nothing, their legal status and the evidence of their treatment in accordance with that status is a matter of public record, no matter how inconvenient or embarrassing or expensive that reality may transpire to become.