Friday, 2 July 2010

Canada Census Concerns

Gordon Watts in an article "Federal Government Destroys Value of Future Census", at, expresses concern about the short form being adopted for the 2011 Canadian census, and the fact that there was no prior consultation with the historical or genealogical community.

In the 2011 short form you will be required to supply:

  • Telephone number
  • Address
For each resident
  • Family name, Given Name
  • Sex
  • Exact date of birth, and age
  • Marital Status
  • Whether living common law
  • Relationship to first person in household
  • Language first learned (English, French, other)

Complaints about the census are hardly new and have usually been about it being too intrusive. Some early UK objections are recounted in "Why did some Victorians object to the census?" at . Neither have complaints been restricted to the UK.
Many native groups rejected participation in the census in 1986, and reportedly had done so on previous occasions,,4449277&dq=census&hl=en.
In a 1983 column Don McGillvray opined on overly intrusive questions
In 1961 there was concern in Quebec about the ethnic origin question, see,867180&dq=census&hl=en.
We also have the Jedi census phenomenon, which brings the census into disrepute.

You're likely to be comfortable giving someone your name and address, and less comfortable telling them your salary or your religion, whether Jedi or not. The less intrusive the census the more likely people are to agree to the data being released, and in 2011 Canadians will have the option to decide whether they want their census responses to be released after 92 years.

Those protesting the government's decision should consider the likelihood that our descendants may well have more, not less information available as a result of adopting the short form.


Mary Anne said...

Actually, it appears that this new "National Householders Survey" will never be released to the public, except as aggreggated data, and the consent question becomes redundant, because this is not a 'real' census under the meaning of the Census Act. According to Gordon Watts' article, it "...will exclude the question asking for consent to release personal census information after 92 years as this is only required by the census."

The strategy seems to be just come in the back door and create something else that is not subject to the same rules as the census, if you want to avoid changing the census legislation because it will be too much debated. And we know how this government wants to avoid debate ...

Mary Anne

Brenda said...

Also, see Chris Paton's "UK Census to be Scrapped" Saturday 10 July. Is this a trend?
- Brenda