Students Fight Census Ban

Concordia Student Circulates Petition to Reinstate Mandatory Long-form Census

  • Concordia Student Union VP Adrien Severyns attends a protest against the long form census ban in August. Photo Justin Giovannetti

Montreal students are uniting in opposition to the federal government’s forthcoming ban of the mandatory long-form census.

“The information in the long-form census doesn’t just help our studies,” said Mehreen Rushdia, a councillor for Concordia University’s Graduate Students’ Association. “The information is there for the good of society.”

Rushdia is currently circulating a petition to stop the ban. The petition has garnered the support of the Concordia Student Union, McGill’s Post Graduate Students’ Society and the Students’ Society of McGill University.

“The petition is just a drop of water in the ocean,” she said. “But we have to take some kind of action.”

In July, the Conservative cabinet decided to do away with the mandatory long-form census, which one out of five Canadian citizens fills out every five years, and replace it with a voluntary form by 2011.

Critics of the ban have expressed a number of concerns regarding a voluntary long-form census, namely that it would not produce nearly as much reliable information as a mandatory one.

Industry Minister Tony Clement claimed the ban was a result of complaints from Canadians over the “intrusive” nature of some of the long-form census’ questions.

Clement also said the decision came without consulting organizations that work with Statistics Canada.

On July 21, Munir Sheik resigned from his post as the head of Statistics Canada in protest of the ban. In his letter of resignation, he wrote that a voluntary survey was no substitute for the mandatory form.

Tom McGurk is a Concordia graduate student studying population density in urban areas. He needs the census data for his work, which determines the transportation needs of urban neighbourhoods.

“The long-form census provides details about a neighbourhood that I need,” he said. “By identifying low income areas, we can determine what kind of public transit these people need and address that.”

An Angus Reid poll conducted between July 22 and 23 found that only 27 per cent of Canadians support the decision to replace the mandatory long-form census with a voluntary form.

“It’s a shallow political move,” said Adrien Severyns, CSU VP External and Projects. Severyns and members of the CSU attended a protest of the ban in August.

“It’s ironic that a government that was elected on a platform of transparency in government is making information so hard to come by,” said McGurk. “We’ll have to pay for the kind of information that should be our right to have.”

The PGSS or SSMU could not be reached for comment.

This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 05, published September 14, 2010.

By commenting on this page you agree to the terms of our Comments Policy.