One could hardly have predicted that the replacement of the long-form census with a voluntary survey would have erupted into an ongoing debate. Most Canadians, I imagine, find census methodology a little pedantic, or welcome having one less piece of paperwork that they must fill out.
The controversy has drawn attention to the function of the census, which -- let's admit it -- we probably don't think about after we drop it in the mailbox.
So it might surprise you to learn that one of the beneficiaries of the survey is the Catholic Church. Yesterday, the Canadian Bishops asked the Canadian government to reconsider their decision and keep the long-form census. The Church, wrote Bishop Pierre Morissette, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, uses the data to help meet pastoral and charitable needs across the country.
The full text of Bishop Morrissette's letter, dated July 28th, reads below:
The Honourable Tony Clement, M.P, P.C.
Minister of Industry
Department of Industry
C.D. Howe Building
235 Queen Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H5
On behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Canada, I ask that you reconsider your position on the census and continue to require the completion by some citizens of the “long form”. A great deal of this information, based on data gathered by Statistics Canada, is most helpful to all faith groups.
One of the reasons frequently cited for the elimination of this practice is that the questions are intrusive. However, it is important to remember that the form is anonymous. Furthermore, in order to build a more harmonious society, it is in our government’s best interest to inquire into these areas. It seems reasonable to ask these questions so as to better meet the needs of Canadians. No aspect of Canadians’ lifestyles should be neglected in the effort to strengthen our nation’s identity. This is a holistically healthy practice. It allows that services provided are much more effective when the target is known.
The results provide precisely the type of data that we need. For instance, the question concerning one’s religion is asked every ten years. This is one of the only ways in which we, at the national, regional and diocesan levels can gain knowledge of the demographics and identify the geographic areas where our services are required. From an ecumenical and inter-faith perspective, for all religions, this information is vital. The purchase of specific information on age, language, levels of education and physical needs in any given province or territory assists us in knowing where we should focus our services, especially vis-à-vis minority groups. Finally, many of our charity and outreach groups count on these results to help them fulfill their mission more effectively.
It is our hope, Minister, that you will take our viewpoint into account and modify your position. I thank you for having taken the time to hear our needs. It would be our pleasure to discuss this further with you or your representatives. With every good wish, I remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ our Lord,
Bishop of Saint Jérôme and
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops