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Making Sense of the 2011 Census controversy

The census is a major source of information for genealogists. In fact, it is one of the first places most of us go. It helps us track where our ancestors were and what they were doing at a given time.

 The news at the end of June that the Canadian government plans to make the long census form voluntary as of 2011 came as a bad shock to not only genealogists but many organizations which rely on census information to help them develop services and activities that meet the needs of their communities.

Here are some places you can go to inform yourself about the census and what these changes could mean for you.

The modern Canadian census is conducted every five years. The last one was in 2006. Here is some information on the questions that were asked in the long form for that census. It is the long form that the government is intending to make voluntary.

In his Statement on the 2011 Census Industry Minister, Tony Clement cites privacy concerns as the reason for the cancellation of the mandatory long forms. Some of the concerns he may be referring to are described in a speech by Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddard whose 2004 address at the Tenth Annual National Conference Organized by Privacy & American Business in Washington D.C. discussed concerns over the use of the U.S. based company Lockheed Martin to process census information. She expressed concern over Canadians’ personal information crossing borders and how this information would be used particularly with regards to the Patriot Act in the United States. Similarly, Saskatoon’s Sandra Finlay, who went to court after refusing to fill out the 2006 census cites concerns over the use of Lockheed Martin to process the census  as a motivator for her decision not to comply with law and fill out the forms.

Many organizations are demanding that the government re-instate the mandatory long form. In a letter copied to the Canadian Press,  the Statistical Society expresses concerns about the bias of information gathered from a voluntary form, and of course, news writers all across the country are reporting their opinions and the opinions of individuals and organizations.  The Quebec Inter-university Centre for Social Statistic has assembled many of these articles for you to read.

As of Wednesday, our  Chief Statistician resigned over this issue.

 Inform yourself and decide where you stand.

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One Response to “Making Sense of the 2011 Census controversy”

  1. [...] few months ago, the plan to scrap the long form census was all over the media, even here at the OGS blog. The opposition to losing the long form census and replacing it with a voluntary National Household [...]