Advocacy for children

Letter Re: Decision to Alter the Census Canada Long Form

The Honourable Tony Clement
Minister of Industry, Government of Canada
C.D. Howe Building, 235 Queen Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H5

19 July 2010

Re: decision to alter the Census Canada long form

Dear Mr. Clement:

The Atlantic Pediatric Society, a group of 117 pediatricians in Atlantic Canada and beyond, urges you to reconsider your change to the long form of the Canada Census. The replacement of a mandatory with a voluntary approach will reduce the validity of the information collected since it is well documented that volunteers are not representative of the population. This is precisely the kind of bias that any high quality census or random sample is designed to overcome. The information collected with the mandatory form is not perfect but our organization sees no rationale for replacing an imperfect but highly useful method of data collection with a less robust approach.

The second point is that the long form must be looked at in the context of the Canadian government’s tools used to monitor the country and the impact of both private and public sector policy. Compared to other OECD countries, Canada does poorly in monitoring processes, policies and people. Unlike the U.S.A. or the U.K., we do not have comprehensive community survey tools that might be able to buffer the abandonment of the long form, as is the case in the United States.

For the foreseeable future, the Census Canada long form provides information that cannot be assessed by other information tools and decisions to alter it must take into account Canada’s overall evaluation strategy.

Finally, this change will be difficult to undo if it is realized later that the negative consequences outweigh the benefits. This again, implies a careful appraisal of the impact of this decision and the provision of a means by which stakeholders can provide input into such a consequential decision.

Yours sincerely,

(sent by regular mail)

John C. LeBlanc, MD, MSc, FRCPC
President, Atlantic Pediatric Society

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