The following item was prepared by RAC HQ volunteer Mike Kelly, VE3FFK, who is continuing the work of Carl Everson, VE3BYX, and compiling the lists of Silent Keys on behalf of Radio Amateurs of Canada.
A single line in the Silent Key listing may be the result of a few hours of effort, depending on what is available as a starting point.
RAC Headquarters receives a few different types of notices, with different amounts of effort required before the Amateur in question can be noted in The Canadian Amateur magazine:
“Mr Doe, a ham, passed away last year.”
“My husband died last year, please stop sending me these renewal reminders, signed Mrs. Doe.”
“Buddy is a Silent Key. His call sign is VE5&&&.”
“Buddy is a Silent Key. The URL of his obituary is https://www.....”
“John Doe, VE5&&&, commonly known as Buddy, is a Silent Key. The URL of his obituary is https://www..... , attached is a scan of the newspaper it was in.”
From time to time we get: “My husband died last year, his call sign was VE5&&&. Here is a copy of his Death Certificate.”
Often the first notification we get of a death is a note on a club or net website, which means we have to check each of the likely sites frequently. These notifications, intended for the regulars of the club or net, who all knew Buddy, tend to have little information beyond the call sign and the fact that they have joined the ranks of the Silent Keys. These tend to take a lot of work to confirm, as a single typo in the call sign (usually a VE in place of a VA) can gum up the works.
In the absence of the Death Certificate, a copy of an obituary needs to be found. There are a lot of people with the name Buddy Doe out there. Over time, a list of obituary aggregation, newspaper archive and funeral home websites has been built up to make the online searches possible. A general Internet search for “John Doe”, “Buddy Doe”, usually ends with too many or too few (zero) possible websites. If the obit doesn't specifically reference his call sign – or at least his Amateur Radio activities – it is hard to determine if it is the right Doe. If the initial report includes a date of death that corresponds to the one in the obituary, we can be certain enough that it is the same person. Sometimes the only confirmation is the online comments left by ham friends of the deceased, who frequently either mention on air activities or include their call signs in the comment. We try to publish the notice with the name they were known by on the air, rather than the name on their birth certificate, hence “Buddy”, rather than “Jonathan”.
Once we have a name and call sign, we next determine whether or not the deceased has already been removed from the list of Amateurs maintained by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED; formerly Industry Canada), and if they were a RAC member. If they are still in the public database, then the obituary is scanned and sent to the Amateur Radio Service Centre. The call signs of Silent Keys are held back by Industry Canada as unavailable, for one year after the date of death, to give family members time to get licensed and request the call sign. Some Amateurs use the Silent Keys list to attempt to apply for a two letter call just as one reaches the end of this one year span. (of course if multiple hams are doing this, it still only works for one of them.
Note: You could save us a step here if you CC them at when you inform us of a Silent Key.
They try to match the age given in the obituary with the date of birth they have in their offline records, to further ensure they have the correct Jonathan Doe. Some obituaries neglect to include either the person’s age or dates of birth and death. If they are members of RAC, their membership information is updated since membership expires when the Amateur does. We also have to check if the person's passing was noted in a previous issue of TCA. It sometimes happens that someone reads of a Silent Key in TCA, then tells another Amateur about it, without telling them how they found out. The second Amateur then kindly writes to TCA to inform us of the bad news. We prefer to be told twice, than not to be told at all.
If the date of death is within the past two years, a notice goes into TCA. If it is farther back than that, the Silent Keys information is not published unless the person informing us of the death requests publication.
In either case, the information is added to the "all time” Silent Key list (which is not published). The information in this list is used from time to time for research purposes, such as tracing the past history of a call. Once the list for an issue is compiled (even the Silent Key list has a “deadline day”), it is sorted, proofread and sent to the TCA Editor, who catches a few more errors and figures out how to fit it into the magazine. Because we are human, occasional errors slip by despite our best efforts. Please let us know about them and we will try to correct them.
What is the Procedure for Reassigning a call sign after an Amateur has died?
As per the document RIC-9 - Call Sign Policy and Special Event Prefixes (https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/sf02102.html), when an Amateur dies the Amateur Radio Service Centre (ARSC) (https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/025.nsf/eng/h_00010.html) must be notified of the death and be provided with either a copy of the Death Certificate or an Obituary Notice, which should include the Amateur’s date of birth or age. Once the documentation is verified, the ARSC places the call sign on hold for one year from the date of passing. During this period of time, a qualified immediate family member may obtain the call sign by submitting an application. If the call sign is not obtained by an immediate family member, within the one year time period, the call sign is then released and becomes available for re-assignment.
Note: Close family friends, etc., are not eligible to obtain the call sign during the year that the call sign is on hold. If the family does not want the call sign, they can write or email the ARSC granting permission to release the call sign early. Once a call sign is released it is assigned on a "first come - first served" basis.
The Amateur Radio Service Centre (ARSC) can be contacted at the following address:
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
Amateur Radio Service Centre
2 Queen St E
Sault Ste Marie ON P6A 1Y3
Telephone: 1-888-780-3333 (Toll free)
Hours of Operation: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Eastern time)