Letter to Minister Clement concerning long-form census
9 August 2010
The Honourable Tony Clement, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Industry
C.D. Howe Building
235 Queen Street
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0H5
I am writing to you on behalf of the Canadian Council for Refugees regarding the federal government’s decision to eliminate the mandatory long-form census. The CCR is dismayed by this decision, as it will be detrimental to the work of the CCR and our 170 member organizations across the country who use census data to inform public policy and develop effective programs and services that promote the settlement and integration of immigrants and refugees in Canadian society.
The data and information gathered through the census are invaluable to an organization such as ours, which is constantly working towards the amelioration of programs and services for newcomers to Canada. We rely on studies carried out by researchers across the country that use data gathered by the mandatory long-form census to inform our work. Research on Canada’s newcomer population relies on data gathered by the mandatory long-form census to understand trends in integration, and to identify gaps in settlement services and policies.
As has been pointed out by many economists and researchers, a voluntary long-form census will be unusable for all practical purposes. It cannot be used for analyzing trends since it is not comparable with past censuses, and it can’t be used to analyze current conditions since the data will no longer be representative of the Canadian population. Canada will no longer be in line with international standards, making it impossible to compare Canadian data with that of similarly situated countries, such as the United States where the census continues to be mandatory. This will undermine research aimed at comparing systems and programs across borders in order to identify best practices.
Making the long-form census voluntary will also be damaging for many of Canada’s marginalized groups. Canada’s former chief statistician has stated that marginalized groups typically are less likely to respond to a voluntary census. This suggests that many refugees and immigrants may not respond. This would deprive the federal government of a reliable source of data about the current realities in some newcomer communities, thereby making it much more difficult to address problems of marginalization effectively.
We strongly urge your government to reverse the decision on the long-form census, and to recognize the value of the important work undertaken by Statistics Canada.