Thursday, May 12, 2005

Happy Birthday: Hansard Turns 125!

We'll ignore for the moment the fact that the Canadian parliament has degenerated into a totally dysfunctional playpen. Or is it the Northern version of Animal House? Or X-Treme Wrestling? Never mind.

Let's celebrate something happy about all those wonderful folks in Ottawa: starting in early May and throughout 2005, the personnel of the House of Commons will be celebrating the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the official reporting branch of Parliament, the people who put together the debate volumes known as Hansard.

My math isn't perfect but I thought Canada was created in 1867, or more than 125 years ago...

In the decades following 1867, various attempts were made to record parliamentary debates, including contract reporting and a compilation of newspaper reports prepared by journalists, known as "scrapbook Hansards". These methods gave rise to complaints and the need to establish an unbiased and independent official reporting branch.

So in May 1880 the House of Commons put in place a reporting branch as part of the service to the Chamber and its committees.

In related news,, (formerly known as the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions) announced in its April 2005 bulletin that it will be cooperating with the Library of Parliament to digitize the approximately 6,500 pages of the House of Commons Reconstituted Debates and the Senate Reconstituted Debates of early Confederation. will make the images available for free on the Early Canadian Online website:

"(I)n the early years of the newly formed dominion of Canada, no official parliamentary debates were published. Instead, debates were published unofficially in newspapers such as the Toronto Globe and the Ottawa Times. Many years ago, Library of Parliament staff clipped these newspaper debates and pasted them into scrapbooks (hence their name "Scrapbook Debates")... In the 1960s and 1970s, with the goal of making these Scrapbook Debates more accessible, the Library undertook the painstaking task of editing and publishing them in book format. These
published volumes (known as the Reconstituted Debates) have gone a long way towards increasing the accessibility of these debates."

It is this material that will be digitized.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:07 pm


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