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Column published: 30 June 2010
By: Gordon A. Watts Biography & Archived Articles
The following article contains vital information to all genealogists and historians. I view it important enough that it is the only article contained in this issue of 'Gordon Watts Reports'. Please read it carefully.
On Saturday, 26 June 2010, the Canada Gazette Vol. 144, No. 26 published Orders in Council P.C. 2010-793 June 17, 2010 and P.C. 2010-793 June 17, 2010. These Orders in Council detailed the wording and questions to be asked in Canada's 2011 Census of Agriculture (P.C. 2010-793 June 17, 2010) and Census of Population (P.C. 2010-792 June 17, 2010). This Census is scheduled to take place on 10 May 2011. The Census of Agriculture contained 201 questions, the answers of which will never be made public because when Bill S-18 modified the Statistics Act in 2005 it specified public access to only the Census of Population. Statistics derived from the Census of Agriculture will only be released in aggregate form after compilation is completed.
Federal Government Destroys Value of Future Census
The wording for the 2011 Census of Population contained only the eight questions included on the Short Form used for the 2006 Census. What was lacking was any questions for, or even any mention of the Long Form questionnaire that has been included with every Census taken since 1951. There was no explanation as to what had happened to the Long Form questionnaire - it was simply not there.
The first indication I had regarding this was a call from a Canwest News Service reporter on the morning of Tuesday 29 June 2010. Shannon Proudfoot asked if I was aware of changes that had been made in regards to the Census to be conducted 10 May 2011. She advised that the 2011 Census would consist of only the 8 short form questions asked on the previous Census, and that questions previously asked on the long form would no longer be included. Those long form questions would henceforth be included in a National Household Survey.
On accessing the home page of the Statistics Canada website I accessed a link relating to the 2011 Census Questionnaire. The resulting page stated, in part:
The National Household Survey will be conducted within four weeks of the May 2011 Census and will include approximately 4.5 million households."
Genealogists and historians will understandably be extremely upset with these changes, as am I. There had been hopes that some of the information included on long form questionnaires might be transferred to the short form. For genealogists, information relating to makeup of the family, immigration and nationality, ethnicity and religion, is particularly important in determining their ancestry. Without that information, many researchers may never discover their ancestral country of origin. Information relating to the remaining topics covered by the NHS is important to future historians in documenting the history of our country.
I am particularly upset regarding the fact that there has been no apparent consultation with those communities most affected by this decision, nor was there any notice that such a move was being considered. I have reviewed the online reports regarding Statistics Canada's 2011 Census Consultations, and have found no mention that such a move was requested by those consulted, or that it had been suggested by those conducting the consultations.
The news article published by Shannon Proudfoot states Erik Waddell, a spokesman for Industry Minister Tony Clements, indicated the decision to change the Census came from the federal government and not from the Ministry or Statistics Canada. The opening statement of Order in Council P.C. 2010-792 June 17, 2010 however, would put the lie to this comment. The statement reads, in part, as follows: (emphasis mine)
It is my considered opinion that that this move is an underhanded attempt by the government to thwart the wishes of the many thousands of Canadians, and others, who lobbied long and hard to regain the public access to historic Census records that had been denied us by a policy decision of the former Chief Statistician. Apparently the hundreds of thousands of communications with Members of Parliament and Senators, and more than 75,000 signatures on petitions, have no meaning to the current government. This even though during our campaign the official position of the Conservative Party of Canada supported public access to Historical Census records.
The Census is the single most important documented information available to the historical and genealogical communities. It is the only source in which you find information regarding families instead of individuals. Through successive censuses, you can track the formation of the family, you can track when children are born, when children grow up and move away, and you can track patterns of migration. By removing the information contained in the Long Form questionnaire, the government is taking from us the greatest source of information for the history of the country. It is a huge change, one that will have disastrous consequences for future genealogists and historians, and one that genealogists and historians will have to protest.
In the coming week I will be composing a letter to my Member of Parliament, protesting the removal of the Long Form questionnaire, particularly when there has been no consultation or advance notice that such a move was being contemplated. I will also be putting together Access to Information requests seeking any and all information relating to the decision to remove Long Form information from the Census.
It is my hope that genealogy and family history societies, and their counterparts in the historical communities, will band together to let the government know, in no uncertain terms, just how unhappy we are with their actions in this matter.
Until next time.
Gordon A. Watts firstname.lastname@example.org
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To view back issues of Gordon Watt's columns, visit Gordon's biography page where all of his archives articles are available.
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