Save our Canadian Census! Long Form under threat.

Please sign the petition to save the Canadian long-form census :

Save the Canadian Census - sign the petitionThe census is under threat.

My sister, a professor in Demography, has asked for my help in communicating this issue.  In reading about this issue, I find it unsettling and agree with her that we need to protect the census.  Please retweet, repost, link and promote.

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Dear colleagues,

You have probably already read in the press about the cancelling of the long-form census questionnaire for 2011.  In 2011, only the short-form questionnaire will be implemented, and the long-form questionnaire, which normally goes to 1 in 5 households, will be replaced by a new National Household Survey.  This will be the most severe cutting of the Canadian census since the launching of nominal censuses in 1851/52 (and since Brian Mulroney’s attempt to cancel the 1985 census, which was thwarted).  Heather Juby at CIQSS passed me a list of useful links about this situation, including responses (see bottom of this message).  See in particular this article by Richard Shearmur in the Montreal Gazette ” Canadians Must Be Able to Count on Statistics Canada

[Laurie:  or today’s Globe and Mail article entitled “Don’t mess with the census”]

I contact you to ask your opinion on this subject and to enjoin you to sign a petition to keep the long-form census : http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/keep-the-canadian-census-long-form.html

I and many other scholars are concerned that

  1. The Canadian government will not have the same commitment to the NHS as it had to the long-form census,
  2. As a volontary survey, the NHS will be biased against certain populations, particularly vulnerable subgroups who we particularly wish to study (and we will have no way of weighting the data to compensate, except with respect to the basic questions asked in the short-form census)
  3. Researchers (including those at Stats Can) will not have the census data needed to evaluate the representativity of other surveys,
  4. We will lose the possibility of conducting long-term comparisons and
  5. Our ability to conduct in-depth analyses using a broad range of control variables, examining small population subgroups, including racial minorities and at a very refined geographic level will  be erased.

Finally, the imposition of this change by the Conservative government with no consultation of Statistics Canada and other expert users is intolerable.

Please let us know of your reactions, so that we can unite in fighting this cancellation.

Thank you very much,

Lisa Dillon, Professeure agrégée, Universite de Montreal.

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16 thoughts on “Save our Canadian Census! Long Form under threat.

  1. Kelly Carmichael

    This is the People’s information – used by a vast variety of canadians to better understand our changing world. The Government has no business reforming our database. If they do anything, the questionnaire should be expanded.

  2. daviding

    @ldillonschalk Thanks for surfacing this petition on changing the form of the census. I’ve followed through your links, and signed.

    If the government was interested in reducing cost, a little automation could go a long way, i.e. couldn’t they create a system so that we have individual codes, and respond via a web browser?

  3. Laurie Dillon Schalk Post author

    Thank you so much for your thoughts. It is very surprising nay alarming that the gov’t would elect to do this type of reform. Those of us who do historical benchmarking or just seek to understand our demographic over time understand the significance of this move!
    Thank you for your support!

  4. Don Bryant

    The government is absolutely, 100% correct to cancel the long form, which is a gross intrusion into Canadians’ privacy. I applaud the decision. My personal life is just that – my personal life – it is my business and nobody else’s.

    1. Laurie Dillon Schalk Post author

      I struggled whether or not to approve this comment. I don’t agree with the idea of cancelling the long form at all. I don’t find it intrusive compared to millions of other ways we trade our privacy for value. This person who comments is easily found on google – with interests and community participation for all to read. So much for privacy

    2. Brad

      Excellent article in the Toronto Star yesterday, about how cities use the data, and what specific questions are used to better understand specific issues.

      http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/census/article/839660–why-the-long-census-matters

      In reply to Don Bryant, I worked for Stats Can during the 2006 census. Secrecy and discretion are absolutely paramount when doing that job.

      Honestly, I can’t remember specific data from any of the hundreds of homes I visited. They all blur together, which is similar to how the agency uses the data.

      I think most opposition to the long form is based in ignorance. I finished the form with people, and it only took 10 minutes for most families.

      Brad
      London, Ontario

  5. Nancy Pearce

    I had already written to CBC following listening to Tony Clement’s attempt to justify this action.
    The information collected is valuable – and no more intrusive than many other very public sources….e.g Facebook!

  6. Lisa Dillon

    The basic question is: what kind of a country do you want to live in?

    Do you want a country which maintains a reputable, effective statistics-gathering agency, which provides the reliable data necessary to understand how our society and economy are evolving over time, from the national to the community level? OR do you want decision-makers in government, charity groups and a variety of other institutions operating in a blind fog?

    If the long-form census is replaced with a voluntary survey, not only will that survey (at the cost of $30 million) be biased against some of the very groups we need to study, uncomparable to census data from the previous 150 years of census taking, from 1852 to 2006, but other surveys conducted by StatsCan as well as private groups will not have the data necessary to judge the representativeness of the surveys and create weights to adjust for problems of representativity.

    To be well-informed, check out the actual 2006 long-form census

  7. Canadianfawkes

    I couldn’t be happier with the gov’ts decision to scrap the long form. We live in a free country (although after the events at Toronto’s G20, this seems to not be the case) and the idea that someone could be imprisoned for not disclosing private information to the gov’t is repulsive. If they want to know some basic stats about me like age and household occupancy, fine. But, just because people volunteer their information too easily online, and through shopper loyalty cards or credit card purchases, doesn’t mean that privacy shouldn’t be something to strive for or protect. People need to stop using google and need think about what sort of gov’t and corporate databases their info is getting pulled and aggregated into (use startpage.com). As for the long form being a benefit for “social engineering,” well, that term is about as appealing to me as “eugenics” or “residential schools.” And if the census is still being run by the military industrial complex Lockheed Martin, I may be boycotting the census altogether.

    1. Laurie Dillon Schalk Post author

      Thank you for taking the time to provide your thoughts.
      I’m lucky to be related to someone with over 15 years experience in census related work and so she tells me that no one has ever actually been imprisoned over this. Importantly – this has never been an national issue by the very Canadians who did the long form. 22 complaints in 2006 (not necessarily about the long form but 22 in all) most or all cleared by a telephone explanation. 22 people. What the motivation is now for suddenly eliminating the long form with little consultation – heaven knows.

      Military industrial complex – ah.. the Einsenhower term comes forward. The census is quite a bit older than that – I’m fairly certain we have over 160 years of good data.

  8. Deanna Milligan

    I have run the Census for an area of over 100,00 people in 2001 and I found little reluctance to
    fill out the long form. Once , it was explained to
    citizens why the data was required they complied and we collected the data within 98 percent.
    Information in the long form is critical in making long term plans and it is a mistake to take it away.

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