Categorized | Canadian Politics


Posted on 21 July 2010 by .

Do you believe that the government should be asking you what time you leave for work in the morning? Whether your house needs renovations? Or how many bedrooms you have?

What if you discovered that the federal government requires Canadians to divulge this private information under the threat of fines or jail time, only to turn around and sell it to marketing firms looking to sell you their products?

Until recently, this was the case in Canada.

Every five years the federal government conducts a national census. It is made up of two parts – the short-form and the long-form.

The short-form censes is a mandatory eight-question survey. It is sent to all Canadians and asks questions such as the date of birth, gender, marital status and mother tongue.

The long-form censes is a 47-question survey sent to 20 per cent of households. It asks a number of personal and intrusive questions such as the number of bedrooms in your house, and the size of your utility bill.

Until last month, completion of the long-form census was mandatory. Canadians who refused to fill it out risked prosecution.

During the last census the long-form proportion was sent to approximately 2.5 million households. More than 160,000 Canadians refused to fill it out, a five-fold increase over 1981. More than sixty of those who refused were referred by the government for prosecution.

There are some people including the leader of the Liberal party, Micheal Ignatieff, who believe that Canadians should be forced to divulge intimate, private details about their personal lives to the federal government. We disagree.

We believe Canadians should be free to choose whether they share the private details of their lives with federal government. Acting on this belief, the government recently announced that the long-form version of the 2011 Census will be voluntary.

Canadians will still be required to complete the standard short-form census that provides basic, necessary information that every government needs. The only substantive change is that the long-form will now be voluntary.

Statistics Canada will continue to conduct and oversee the census process. And its employees will maintain the same rigorous methods and standards used for all of its surveys.

We believe this new approach strikes a fair and reasonable balance between ensuring the federal government has the basic information every government requires, and protecting the privacy of Canadian citizens.
Author:Tony Clement,Minister of Industry.

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