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HIST 203 - Canada Since 1867

Finding Primary Sources: Government Reports

Reports commissioned by or produced by governments are important resources for historians.  Many government reports, such as Royal Commissions, include testimony by first hand participants in historical events.

The vast majority of federal government reports for the period before 1924 can be found in the Sessional Papers.  This invaluable set for historians represents all reports tabled in the House of Commons for each parliamentary session. The Sessional Papers include annual reports of the various governmental departments, Royal Commissions, statistical reports and censuses, and represent a rich source of documentation about the activities of the Canadian government.  Sessional Papers cover a vast array of topics including among others foreign affairs, religion, law, native peoples, natural resources, finance and communications.  Comparable sets of Sessional Papers also exist for the provincial governments.

Another basic source of governmental report literature is the Canadian Parliament.  Parliamentary Committees are assigned to investigate a wide range of topics, and issue both reports of their inquiries and minutes of their proceedings.

The individual reports which are included in the Sessional Papers do not appear in the catalogue. Nor do all Parliamentary Committee reports. To find out if there is a report on your topic, you will need to consult the printed indexes in the Government Documents Department of McLennan Library.  Don't hesitate to contact your liaison librarian, Eamon Duffy, for assistance.

The Chicago Manual of Style does not give specific details on how to cite Canadian government documents.  The McGill Library has prepared a specific guide.

Footnotes in modern secondary works, particularly in articles or sections of books dealing with contemporary political reactions to events, are also a useful source for finding references to Royal Commissions, reports and governmental studies, as is the Canadian Encyclopedia.

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