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2011 Census changes cause alarm

09/07/2010

The federal government's decision to make major changes to the collection of data for the upcoming 2011 Census reaises concerns for both businesses and genealogists.  In previous censuses, 80% of Canadian households received a short questionnaire consisting of 8 questions, and 20% of households received a long questionnaire with 53 additional questions covering topics such as place of birth, education, employment, income, etc.  Both the short and long census forms were required to be completed by law.  For the 2011 Census, the long form has been eliminated, and all households will receive the short questionnaire.  The questions covered by the long form will be asked on a new, voluntary National Household Survey which will be distributed to one-third of Canadian households.  The fact that the form will be voluntary raises questions about the reliability of the data collected.  Census data is heavily used by researchers and businesses gathering social and economic information about Canadian communities.

Genealogists are also concerned about the change to the Census.  Currently, Census data is made public 92 years after its collection, and provides a treasure trove of historical information for genealogists tracing their family trees.  Under the new procedure, the data will never become public, because Statistics Canada does not release survey data.

More details on the change can be found in a June 20 Globe and Mail article Tories Scrap Mandatory Long-Form Census, and on the Statistics Canada website.  The decision has generated much discussion in the media, both pro and con, and at least one Facebook group, Restore Canada's 2011 long form Census.