Standing on the shoulders of giants
History of Statistics Canada: 1970 to 2008

Release date: December 03, 2018
Standing on the shoulders of giants - History of Statistics Canada: 1970 to 2008


A century has gone by since the Dominion Bureau of Statistics—later renamed Statistics Canada—was created.

Much has changed since 1918, including the rapid evolution of technology and the emergence of an increasingly global society and economy. Statistics Canada has changed as well, enhancing our processing and analytical capabilities, and expanding our programs. Today, the agency's reach extends from coast to coast to coast and far beyond, as we work with colleagues around the world.

We continue to innovate. Now more than ever, we are focused on the needs of our users. We are adopting leading edge statistical methods, and collaborating with clients, stakeholders and partners. We are striving to meet Canadians' evolving information needs, and using new tools and channels to make our data more accessible and engaging.

Statistics Canada's centennial is an opportunity to honour the generations of talented people who have brought the agency to where it is today. It is also a chance to celebrate what has remained consistent over time: the quality of our data, the dedication of our employees and most importantly, the value that we add to Canadians' understanding of our society, environment and the economy.

As we mark this milestone, Statistics Canada remains committed to providing Canadians with high-quality statistical information that matters. Together, we are laying the groundwork for another remarkable century.

Anil Arora
Chief Statistician of Canada

Robert H. Coats
Dominion Statistician, 1915-1942

Sedley A. Cudmore
Dominion Statistician, 1942-1945

Herbert Marshall
Dominion Statistician, 1945-1956

Walter E. Duffett
Dominion Statistician, 1957-1972

Sylvia Ostry
Chief Statistician of Canada, 1972-1975

Peter G. Kirkham
Chief Statistician of Canada, 1975-1980

Martin B. Wilk
Chief Statistician of Canada, 1980-1985

Ivan P. Fellegi
Chief Statistician of Canada, 1985-2008


It has been a true privilege to have been bestowed the honour of writing the next chapter of Statistics Canada's history. Sitting day after day in a somewhat chilly room at Library and Archives Canada, I methodically delved into the richness of our past - holding in my hands documents ranging from letters from Prime Ministers to mere transactional memos. I felt truly humbled - here I was, assembling a portrait of the great women and men who bit by bit, made Statistics Canada the world renowned institution it is today. Believe me when I say that we truly stand on the shoulders of giants.

It was definitely a challenge to assemble that "bit by bit" perspective into a narrative. I see this as analogous to how it can often be difficult to appreciate the value of our day-to-day work. It is only when we pause and stand back from the gallery walls, and look with greater perspective at our collective history, that we truly perceive the bigger picture to which we all contribute. To that end, when enough time has passed to allow for sufficient objectivity, it will again be time to document the next chapter of the agency's history. So take time to reflect and to celebrate, and to document your successes and your failures - for both of these help shape who we are and who we will become.

The people I met during this project helped shaped its outcome. From the kind and helpful folks in the Statistics Canada library and at Library and Archives Canada, to the external review board who generously donated their time to read my disjointed narratives and to patiently steer me in the right direction, to Dr. Wilk's French teacher who I met while on holiday and who was moved to tears by his memories, to all the friendly folks in Communications and Dissemination Branch who always had a smile for this fish-out-of-water and who took this project to the finish line, thank you.

I hope that I have done justice to the formidable task of illuminating our path from the early 1970s through to the end of Dr. Fellegi's tenure. Any errors, misinterpretations or omissions are mine.

Margaret Morris
Author of the book
Statistics Canada

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