By TREVOR SCHWAB
Nov. 16, 2011
The federal government needs to make some serious repairs to the census after abolishing the mandatory long-form, says Canada’s former chief statistician.
Ivan Fellegi delivered a lecture on the importance and role of statistics in Canadian society and government at the ninth annual Symon’s Lecture at the Confederation Centre of the Arts on Nov. 8.
The census must be impartial and trustworthy. This can be done through following professional guidelines, personal ethics and following a scientific method when gathering and storing information, he said.
Many United Nations principles for gathering statistics were ignored by abolishing the long-form census. One was making the change after ignoring the chief statistician’s advice, he said.
“Trust in statistics brings me back to the U.N.’s principles, its basic motivations. These were clearly violated by not allowing Statistics Canada to comment on the census decision.”
The long-form census is still available, but as a voluntary household survey.
Without a proper long-form census, government cannot make informed decisions on where to improve upon society, Felligi said.
“The knowledge it offers forms the backbone of our society, an information society that needs and wants to know about itself.”
Phil Arbing was involved with Canada’s Criminal Justice system as a probation officer among other things for 30 years. He was at the lecture.
“Mr. Fellegi is an acquaintance of mine. In 1980, in an effort to improve criminal justice statistics, I was the P.E.I. representative of a board who conducted a study on the system. Ivan was also a member.”
He wanted to see what Fellegi had to say about statistics in terms of criminal justice, Arbing said.
“Ivan is very intelligent, very smart. He is also highly experienced. I think the lecture went very well and he dealt with the 2011 census process, a rather complex and sensitive issue, as best he could.”
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