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The non-mandatory long form census

2010 decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census

Another significant issue affecting accuracy of the census is the recent government decision to scrap the mandatory long form census.  Until recently, the long form census was handed out to 20% of households and was mandatory to fill out.  Jail time was a potential legal consequence but had never been used.  This past year, the government announced the elimination of the long form census, insisting that it violated privacy rights.  The opposition parties were willing to eliminate the threat of incarceration but insisted that the long form questionnaire remain mandatory.  So a compromise was met, which resulted in the long form questionnaire remaining but becoming voluntary and sent out to 33% of households instead of just 20%, starting with the 2011 census.  The response rate is expected to fall from 94% to 50%.  This resulted in the resignation of the Chief Statistician of Canada, who is a deputy of the Minister of Industry.

Potential implications of the change

What does this mean for reporting of religious affiliation?  Well, it may result in the figure for “No Religion” being higher or lower than it otherwise would have been.  However, it also means that the figure will be less credible than it otherwise would have been.  This is particularly unfortunate for the non-religious community because we stand to gain significant numbers looking forward.  Even though the question as it stands is biased against us and independent polls will still be conducted to document our growth, it is by far the most respected and reported figure and now it will be less credible.  The census has a much larger sample size than any other conceivable poll and is relied upon heavily for government policy and political advocacy.

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