Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Census Long Form Mess

The resignation of the head of Statistics Canada over political misrepresentation of advice given is a serious matter. Chief Statistician Munir Sheikh is to be congratulated for taking a principled stand.

I've not blogged about this issue lately as the controversy has been about the gathering of information for statistical purposes for short-term policy considerations -- nothing to do with genealogy.

I've previously mentioned I find the long-form census overly intrusive. With a couple of exceptions as long as the long form information is used only for statistical aggregation I don't have much objection. Statistics Canada certainly has my confidence in their ability to keep that information confidential.

It would be oh so simple for everyone to fill out the short form, and for those who receive the long form on extra pages to have the initial short form pages detached and released after 92 [or some such] years while the remainder of the long form is never released.

What we have in Canada is a case of the government acting too fast and without due consultation. By contrast, in the UK where a decision has been made not to conduct a census after 2011, there is a whole decade for the statisticians and other stakeholders to figure out alternate means for achieving the same benefits. Presumably if after say five years no better alternative can be found the census can be reinstituted. More likely the study will find a better method.

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