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Column published: 26 July 2010
By: Gordon A. Watts Biography & Archived Articles
Topics in this column include:
Public backlash on Canadian government Census decision
In my column published 30 June 2010 I reported that Canada's federal government had destroyed the value of future Censuses for genealogical and historical research. They had accomplished this by eliminating the long-form questionnaire from the 2011 and subsequent Censuses.
It is on the long-form questionnaire that future researchers would have been able to find information regarding citizenship, ethnic origin, place of birth, birthplace of parents, immigration status and period of immigration. Without such information being available on Census, many of our descendants will never be able to find where their ancestors originated.
Granted, in the past, the long-form questionnaire has only been available regarding one in five households in Canada, but that is far better than the alternative posed by the elimination of the long-form questionnaire.
The elimination of the long-form questionnaire was done quietly, with no notice or consultation with the many communities affected, simply by publication of an Order-in-Council in the Canada Gazette. There was no press release announcing this action. The first public notice was when CanWest News Service reporter Shannon Proudfoot wrote an article on 29 June 2010.
If the Conservative Cabinet had hoped to slip this issue through without receiving any backlash from the many communities it affects, the past three weeks will have been disappointing to them. Since the original article appeared, there have been dozens of media reports across the country, voicing objection to the elimination of the long-form Census questionnaire, including some from sources that surprised me.
Opposition to the elimination of long-form questionnaires has come from a broad spectrum of sources, including subject matter experts and professional bodies; businesses; business groups and Labour; NGOs; churches; municipal, city, and provincial governments; newspapers and media; educational organizations; academics, and think tanks. (See the "save the census coalition" website). Unfortunately, the attitude of the government on this issue appears to be "Don't confuse me with facts - we have made up our minds and those that don't like it can go to hell!" So much for representing the people that voted them into office!
Conflicting statements prompts resignation of Canada's Chief Statistician
Minister 'consulted' with MPs - numbers don't add up
Since the Post-1901 Census campaign began in 1998, it has been my experience that any correspondence dealing with Census issues, received by Industry Canada, was immediately forwarded to Statistics Canada. Correspondence re: Census issues received by MPs or Senators were usually copied or forwarded to Statistics Canada as well. On 19 July 2010 I sent the following question to Statistics Canada:
My Access to Information request
In order to resolve, at least in my own mind, the discrepancies regarding the reported numbers of complaints I have submitted the following Access to Information request to the Office of the Minister of Industry.
Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator
235 Queen Street, 5th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0H5
Dear Sir or Ms.
On 26 June 2010, the Government of Canada, through an Order in Council published in the Canada Gazette, eliminated the long-form questionnaire for the 2011 and future Censuses. This was done with no prior notice or consultation with the communities most affected by this unprecedented decision.
Since then, a number of statements attributed to coming from the office of the Minister of Industry have been reported in the media. These statements include the following:
In regards to the period of collection of the 2006 Census of Canada I wish to know the following:
In regards to the period from 1 January 2007 to 1 June 2010, I would seek answers to the same questions as for the period of collection of the 2006 Census above.
In regards to the 26 June 2010 publication of the Order in Council in the Canada Gazette, wherein it became known that the long-form Census questionnaire would not be included in the 2011 and later Censuses, and in response to the various comments issued through the Office of the Minister of Industry since that time, I wish to know the following:
Gordon A. Watts
Co-chair, Canada Census Committee
As a result of the hundreds of complaints received on this issue, a meeting of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has been called for Tuesday, 27 July 2010 at 9:00 AM Ottawa time. It has been allotted 7 hours and 30 minutes. Indications are that the proceedings will be televised. The webcast can be accessed here.
Click on the link for "INDU Meeting No. 29"
9:00 am to 10:00 am
Tony Clement Minister of Industry
Richard Dicerni Deputy Minister - Department of Industry
1030 am to 11:30 am
Ivan P. Fellegi Former Chief Statistician of Canada
Munir Sheikh Former Chief Statistician of Canada
12:30 pm to 1:30 pm
Martin Simard Research Professor, Department of Human Resources Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
David Tanny Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, York University
2:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Ernie Boyko Adjunct Data Librarian, Carleton University Library Data Centre
3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
Peter Coleman President and Chief Executive Officer, National Citizens' Coalition
Elisapee Sheutiapik Board Member, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
To be announced Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
While not all of us can attend the meeting, there is nothing to stop us from letting members of the Committee how we feel regarding the elimination of the long-form Census questionnaire.
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.
Canadian Genealogy & History Resources from Global Genealogy: