Cynthia Levine-Rasky: “Without data, a problem suddenly disappears”

As I work to mobilize support for Bill C-626, my private member’s bill to reinstate the mandatory long-form census, I have been asking Canadians how the elimination of the mandatory long-form census has affected their lives and their work. Dr. Cynthia Levine-Rasky responded to my request, and wrote about her experience studying how the government can use census findings to identify and solve key social problems. Please help me. Please share your experience with census data by emailing me at ted.hsu@parl.gc.ca.

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From Dr. Levine-Rasky: 

“I have been teaching a course in the Department of Sociology, SOCY 235, Race and Racialization, every year since 2003. For the course, I refer to policies about demographics, Aboriginal issues, income and employment measures for different immigrant groups, and immigration/refugee policy. Without good and regularly updated census data, most of this information becomes outdated, unreliable, and ultimately meaningless.

My experience reflects only a very small part of how census data is used by sociologists and other scholars in our roles as researchers and educators. The impact of eliminating the mandatory census is profound. In addition to its consequences for teaching purposes, it has a broader consequence upon the identification and solution of social problems such as poverty, unemployment, and unequal provision of services like daycare, education, and healthcare. The country’s most vulnerable families are disproportionately affected since agencies aimed at alleviating their conditions are unable to obtain reliable information about them. Even their physical location remains uncertain.

Many critics argue that this was the very purpose in abolishing the census. Without data, a problem suddenly disappears. Resources that had been directed toward them may then be re-directed wherever the government prefers. The absence of a strong census supports the government’s argument that resources are unnecessarily spent on social inequalities. They can now say with confidence that the numbers—now only tethered to the significantly compromised census—do not justify the expenditure.

This decision is enormously problematic not only for the families who require such interventions, but also for every Canadian regardless of their demographic profile.

We need the long mandatory census form to be reinstated.”

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Cynthia Levine-Rasky is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Queen’s.

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