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Column published: 16 December 2010
By: Gordon A. Watts Biography & Archived Articles
Topics in this column include:
Concern and complaints continue to be heard regarding the government's decision to remove the mandatory long-form Census questionnaire and replace it with a voluntary survey. Even though this decision has been decried by untold numbers of organizations and individuals, and even by departments within the government itself, Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuses to reverse his position. Even international statistical organizations have expressed concern regarding the reliability of data obtained through a voluntary survey.
Questions regarding the decision continue to be raised in Parliament, although not as frequently as they had been. The pat response from the Minister of Industry remains focused on forcing Canadians to respond to questions under penalty of imprisonment. It is so repetitious that he may as well record it and have it played back after each question is asked. Perhaps he has someone holding up cue cards so he doesn't forget his lines.
Debate on Second Reading of Bill C-568, that would restore the mandatory long-form Census and would remove imprisonment as a punishment for failure to complete the Census, took place on 5 November and 3 December 2010. The vote on a motion to pass second reading and to refer the Bill to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology took place on 8 December 2010. The motion was passed on a division of 147 to 136.
Following consideration by the Committee, the Bill will be reported back to the House of Commons, with or without recommendation. It may then be debated in Third Reading, and if passed there, would be referred to the Senate for consideration.
While this Bill may very well receive Third Reading in the House of Commons, I think it unlikely that it will pass through the Senate. There are currently 152 sitting Conservative members of the Senate. If all of these Senators voted against the Bill, and all non-Conservative Senators (151 in total) voted in favour of it, it would fail by one vote.
Bill C-583, dealing with the method of appointment of the Chief Statistician and some of the responsibilities of that position, received First Reading in the House of Commons on 30 September 2010. As of this writing, it has not yet been placed in the order of precedence, and so debate on Second Reading has not yet begun.
Second Court action taken on long-form Census
Media reports indicate that a coalition of aboriginal organizations and chiefs from Atlantic Canada were in Halifax Federal Court Monday 13 December to argue that the removal of the mandatory long-form Census questionnaire violates their Charter rights. Lawyers for the Native Council of Nova Scotia, the New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council, the Native Council of Prince Edward Island, and the Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council, and three Atlantic chiefs claim that the changes to questions about ethnicity and ancestry will make it difficult for the government to discharge its constitutional duties to aboriginal peoples.
This is the second group to take the government to court over the government's decision to do away with the mandatory long-form Census. The first was a francophone organization in Quebec that argued the long-form Census was the only reliable source of information about minority French-speaking communities. A Federal Court judge ruled against that argument.
The federal government has stated that they will be introducing legislation to remove the imprisonment penalties for failing to complete the Census from the Statistics Act, but to date I have seen no indications of any such legislation being presented to the House of Commons.
This column will be the last I write for the year 2010. This year my daughter and I will again have Christmas dinner at my girlfriend's place, along with her family. My daughter's son and daughter will be having dinner at their father's place. I will miss having my grandchildren there, but such is one of the realities that result when marriages fail and families are split up, or when distance precludes the whole family being together at one time.
On Boxing Day, weather and road conditions being favourable, I will be travelling to Calgary to join my son and his new family, including my newest granddaughter, 10-month-old Caris Sofia. Timing of this trip was governed by when my son's two oldest girls would be there, as they live in Kelowna with their mother. When travel and split families are involved I try to alternate my visits between Christmas and New Years when I can visit the greatest number of my family in each location.
Whether you say 'Merry Christmas', 'Happy Hanukkah', or whatever other greeting your tradition or faith might suggest for this time of year, I wish each and every one of you the very best. I wish for you, what you wish for me.
If you are traveling to be with family or friends for the Holidays, I urge you to do so safely. Take the time to arrive safely, and to return home the same way. A few minutes, or hours of difference in travel time is not worth the heartache and suffering that could result from being involved in an accident because you are in a hurry.
Until next time.
Gordon A. Watts email@example.com
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