Census hide & seek, Language watch dogs

A Senate question on language issues has resulted in

Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser say[ing] he wants to see whether the government respected its legal obligations when it made the decision.

(Canadian Press)

and

Graham Fraser, commissaire aux langues officielles, a annoncé aujourd’hui qu’il allait procéder à une enquête sur la décision d’Industrie Canada d’éliminer le questionnaire complet du Recensement de 2011.

(Site Officiel du Commissariat)

Phew! Some are taking their offices seriously to ensure that Ministers follow law. The Census has many legislative obligations and one can’t just change it. Those laws are there for a reason, and even the Industry Minister can’t change that. Fortunately for us, there are many dedicated former Statistics Canada employees and Chief Statisticians who stand up for what is right. There are also numerous other organizations working on this issue:

The Canadian Economics Association, the Canada Census Committee, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Statistical Society of Canada, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and multiple newspaper editorial boards are among those that have spoken out against the decision.

While others such as

representatives from business and finance, health and social services and other levels of government say the long form is vital to the country’s health and well-being

are forming coalitions to call on government to reverse the census decision. Even the cartographers, archivists and librarians are on the case with the Association of Canadian Map Libraries and Archives (ACMLA) and have written a letter to Mr. Clement on this issue. Data pundits, experts, academics, associations, cities, and business people have spoken loud and clear – do not politically interfere with the Canadian Census.

And so, what does the minister do when his smartest citizens provide him with advice on what not to do? On his own public consultation, he removes the #2 most popular submission and relegates it to outcast status as his Media Relations personnel claims that:

changes to the Census are important, [but] they are not directly related to the development of a digital economy strategy for Canada

So there we have it. The nations smart people speak and the nation’s leaders play hide and seek with consultations, make up evidence to make decisions and forget to check and see if they might have broken any laws. This is the state of our democracy folks. Media relations people are the new spokespeople. Democracies are fragile indeed.

References:

  • CIQSS Centre de données de recherche, Recensement 2011.
  • Canadian Press: Census discussion disappears from federal consultation site
  • Canadian Press: Languages watchdog launches census probe
  • Commissaire aux langues officielles: entreprend une enquête sur la décision du gouvernement du Canada d’éliminer le questionnaire complet du Recensement de 2011
  • Canadian News Wire: Media Advisory – Broad coalition calls on government to reverse census decision
  • Liberal Senate Forum: 2011 Census
  • Winnipeg Free Press: Official languages commissioner launches investigation into census change
  • CanWest: Former top StatsCan officials among those opposing census changes
  • ACMLA: Letter to Tony Clement concerning the 2011 decision to cancel the mandatory Long-Form Questionnaire
  • David Eaves: The Census weak link: What the Liberals, Bloc & NDP should do
  • Digital Economy Consultation: Reinstate our Census Long Form aka Questionnaire 2B