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Canadian Government Sources Online

By Dean Tudor

The Internet moves so fast that by the time you read this column, there will be about 12 more sites or important databases up and running. Probably another two will have shut down, and about five will have moved to another location. Still, that's a net gain of 10 addresses or areas containing the sources you need for your story.

What am I talking about here? Let's review the online world: there are commercial databases, there are bulletin boards, there are CD-ROMs in an interactive mode. And, there is also the Internet.

Governments have bulletin boards (the prime leader is the US Federal Government, through its Fed World sites), but there are very few in Canada. Ontario has a couple — one deals with the environment — and so does British Columbia.

I am sure that there are others.

But all bulletin boards (called BBS) are mainly a local phone call away, and most governent boards are also on the Internet. There are, of course, no governments offering commercial databases nor interactive CD-ROMs. They want you to buy the CD-ROM. However, some governments are on local Free-Nets, offering publicly-released data.

That leaves us with the Internet, a sprawling collection of local networks that actually works in providing names of sources. There are three main application programs working for you on the Internet. One is e-mail, which may be one-on-one, or a restricted mail distribution list, or netnews public postings. Another is telnet, which allows you to sign onto another computer — if you have a login ID and password. This allows you full-range to whatever is accessible on such a computer, ie., you can leave messages, you can upload/ download, you can process files. The same things you can do with your own computer account.

The third major program is now known as the Web or WWW (World Wide Web). The Web allows you to "get and view" files maintained on public sec-lions of computers around the world. It is a further enhancement of Gopher, which itself was a further enhancement of File Transfer Protocol. Hardly anybody does FTP anymore, except for masses of binary information. And, even these can be had through the Web.

The value of the Web, for reporters, is that most files have names and addresses attached to them, so you can actually contact the person who put up the file.This is something not available by Gopher or by FTP. And, much government information is available through your Web browser, be it Lynx, Cello, Mosaic, or Netscape.

So here are some VERY important sites, each containing names arid addresses of Canadian federal government officials. This article would be more than twice as long if I attempted to cover the provinces and the larger cities. But I will include the major gateways. Maybe next time...

One of the first places to look is Cannon's Guide to Canadian Government Information (http://www.lib. uwalerloo.ca/discipline/Government/Can Guide).

Note: these "addresses" must be typed into your browser EXACTLY as we print them within the parentheses and without spaces, and they are case sensitive.

You might be thinking that you should go to Cannon's guide now, and skip this article. But, that's wrong because she doesn't have everything.

A second good source is Clamen's Guide to Canadiana (http://www.cs.cmu.edu: 8001/Web/Unofficial/Canadiana). He's got most of the rest. And. if you have telnet, you might want to go to the National Capital Commission Free-Net in Ottawa (telnet://freenet.carleton.ca) and log on as a "visitor" — or get an account. The federal government has tons of material there, usually from all of the smaller, Ottawa-based agencies, boards and commissions.

To keep these current, you'll also need the weekly update to WWW Canada's listing (http://www.csr.ists.ca/ w3can/whatsnews_list.html). which hassearchable archives if you miss a week or more. For example, just before writing this article, I used WWW Canada and round a new WWW site for Quebec Hydro.

If you have a factual and easy query about Canadian life and culture, try the Canadian Embassy m Washington, DC. (http://www.nstn.ca/wshdc/). They get these kind of questions all the time from American schoofkids. Or. you may want the Canadiana Collection at (http://www. usask.ca), with the 1991 basic population statistics, lyrics to the anthems, pictures of flags and arms, and much travel information.

Other major sources for that deep, archival and background area should include the National Library of Canada's Information Pages (http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/ecaninfo.htm). which is like the Library of Congress site. The Canadian Parliament site, also resembling the LC site, is (http://www.parl.gc.ca/engiish).

For geographic data and maps, try the National Atlas Information Service of Canada (http://www-nais.ccm.emr.ca). Note that all federal government sites have equal amounts of data and names/ addresses in the French language.

Search engines for the Canadian govermnment include the new Champlain Canadian government information explorer at (http://info.ic.gc.ca/champlain /champlain.html) and Canadian Federal Government Links at (gopher://gopher.nlc-bnc.ca/1 lgopher%24root3a%5benglish.can-govs.federal%5d).

Another good listing of sites is at the Public Works and Government Services Canada web (http://www.Pwgsc.gc.ca/ ottawa-e.html). The Open Government Project is also useful (http://www.info.ic.gc.ca/opengov/index. html), with its Industry Canada sponsorship, MPs' contact data, constitutional and treaty documents. However, most of what you'll find by searching will be scientific/technology agencies dealing with the environment, biology, CISTI, NSERC, telecommunications policy, and space program. The Internet was originally built for the scientific community and governments, back in the 1960s.

More specific sites include CPAC Online (Cable Parliamentary Channel) at (http://www.screen.com/english.cpac), the Dept. of Communications at (http:// debra.dgbt.doc.ca), the Supreme Court of Canada's decisions at (gopher:// gopher.droit.Umontreai.ca/11/English/SC C), the CBC (http://www.cbc.ca/ index.html), the CRTC (http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/english.htm). Natural Resources Canada (http://www. emrca/nrcanhp_e.html). National Research Council (http://www.nrc.ca/ nrc.html), Health Canada (http:// hpbl..hwc.ca/hpb.html). Finance Department (http://www.fm.gc.ca) for budget documents. Indigenous Peoples at (http://www.inac.ca), and Social Security Items and Policy at (http://www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca).

Need the weather? Try the Canadian Meteorological Centre at (http:/ /cmits02.dow.on.doe.ca/climale/climate.html). And, you should be able to find and then add to your bookmark the weather for your region, so you can get it within seconds and without future menuing.

Statistics Canada is at (http:// www.statcan.ca/welcome.html), with extensive explanations of all the publications and how to get them, along with links to such as the Consumer Price Index and the Census. (There is current and early Census data at the University of Toronto — gopher://gopher.epas.utoronto.ca:70/l1/data/census/). You can also go directly to the Daily (http:// www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/today/daily.htm) for the latest summary information on what is being released today.

Larger pointers to specific resources should include the Canadian Legal Resources at (http://mindlink.net/ drewjackson/mdj.html) which has gateways to many legal databases and sources on the Internet. Canadian Environmental WebServers at (http://www.ns.doe.ca/ inform/points/env.html#can) is offered by Environment Canada as a series ofGreen Lane pointers to other government sources and networks around the world.

Here are the important provincial sites, full of gateways. One is the Quebec government (http://www.gov.qc.ca/ anglais/index.html), another the BC Legislative Assembly (http://bbs.qp.gov. bc.ca/legis/legis.htm) or the BC government (http://www.gov.bc.ca). Alberta is (http://www.gov.ab.ca), Manitoba is (http://www.gov.mb.ca), New Brunswick is (http://www.gov.nb.ca), and PEI is (http://www.gov.pe.ca). Ontario government is (http://www.gov.on.ca). For cities, try the Free-Net site listing (http://herald.usask.ca/~scottp/free.html). All Free-Nets have copious amounts of local government data and sources.

The largest problem you will find is getting a proper e-mail address. Computers are not forgiving; so, if you don't type it in right, then you'll never get in touch with your source. And, bureaucrats seem to be shy with their addresses. You can always write to postmaster@site or root@site (for site, drop the "www" in front of the http addresses). And, play around with the name. For example, most Ontario government employees with loginIDs will be name@govonca.gov.on.ca. The name will be about 7 characters, usually the first six of the last name plus the first letter of the first name. But, there are variations. The perfectly best way to get an e-mail address is to ask the person, by phone. I know that sounds silly, but it works.

The absolutely best page that I have seen for gateways to information on the Internet for journalists is my own page. I'm not being modest here, because I developed it expressly for all kinds of journalism students from around the world, and there is a significant amount of Canadian content. Try it (http:// www.acs.ryerson.ca/~journal/mega-sources.html). Pages developed by Canadian journalists include Tom Regan's (http://www.tiac.net/users/tre-gan/media.html) pitched to newspaper journalists, Julian Sher's (http:// www.vir.com/~sher/julian.htm) for broadcast journalists, and Mike O'Reilly's HelpLink (http://publix.empaih.on.ca/HelpLink), mainly for the freelance writer. Each set of pages here has our own e-mail addresses, along with links to each other. Surely one of the four of us could help solve a problem...

 

Published in PN&N Autumn 1995

 

 



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