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