Thursday, September 2, 2010

Census. Indeed.



I haven't really gotten into the whole discussion about the long form census fiasco because... I don't really know what to say about it.

On June 28, the following email was sent by the Chief Statistician of Canada, Munir A. Sheikh (Munir.Sheikh@a.statcan.gc.ca):

Subject: Update on the 2011 Census

This is an update on the 2011 Census. On June 26, 2010, the census questions were published in the Canada Gazette as required by the Statistics Act. The 2011 Census will consist of the same eight questions that appeared on the 2006 Census short-form questionnaire. All households will receive a short-form census questionnaire.

The information previously collected by the census mandatory long-form questionnaire will now be collected as part of the new voluntary National Household Survey (NHS). The NHS questionnaire will include questions on language, immigration, Aboriginal peoples, mobility, ethnicity, education, labour, income and housing.

The NHS will be conducted within four weeks of the May 2011 Census. Approximately, 4.5 million households will receive the NHS questionnaire, up from the 2.9 million households that would have received the census mandatory long-form questionnaire.

I know that I can count on your ongoing support to ensure the success of these two important Statistics Canada priorities.

This change means that the mandatory long form census questionnaire, sent to 20% of the Canadian population and consisting of detailed questions will be replaced with a separate voluntary survey. I really doubt many Canadians will willingly provide all of the data formerly gathered using the mandatory census, which has lasting implications not only for the research community, but for all levels of government and community groups that will no longer have access to information used to create public policy and support many programs and initiatives.

As an important note, On July 21, 2010, Sheikh resigned from his post as head of Stats Canada. Following his resignation, in a public letter, Sheikh expressed his disapproval of the government's decision, writing:

I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion. This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census.

It can not.

—Munir Sheikh

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