The Equal Right to be Counted
The Equal Right to be Counted finally had its day in the Federal Court.
Our challenge focuses on the Mandatory Short Form, the only mandatory tool that lands on every Canadian door step left in Stats Can's basket of tools. And the only "true" Census enshrined in our Constitution, not a survey, not voluntary and sadly not representative.
With all of the changes and meddling into the 2011 Census, the Government cancelled or changed well over 10 Stats Can surveys. The cancellation of the Mandatory Long Form was of course the lightening rod that set off wide spread push back and disbelief from almost every segment of Canadian society that something so fundamental to all of us, would be compromised by our Government and in sad fact, by design. Why doesn't the government want the best information to make the best decisions about how to meet the needs of Canadians? Particularly now that every level of government in the country is faced with significant deficits, if you have to ration tax dollars, wouldn't you want the best information available to guide you decisions? Apparently not.
So yes despite the loss of the Long Form and how misguided it was, our challenge focuses on the Mandatory Short Form, where once again, by design, the Government excluded key groups of Canadians by not asking questions about Ethnicity, Country of Origin, Disability or Aboriginal Heritage. Let's face it, these are already marginalized groups of Canadians, leaving them out of the census sends a message, we don't care, we don't want to know how you experience Canadian life, we don't want to respond to your needs...you just don't count. Unacceptable. As our Legal Counsel Paul Champ, said in his closing remarks, this is the least inclusive census in the history of Canada. Think about that.
During the Hearing the Government, suggested that including Disability, Ethnicity and Aboriginal Heritage was not necessary, they contend that the National Household Survey does the trick, because it asks some of the questions, so what's the big deal? For starters, its a survey that goes to 1 in 3 Canadian households, that is voluntary, it is not a census, that's the big deal. If you're going to ask about certain attributes, or characteristics such as martial status, sex and age, you should ask about other attributes, you can't cherry pick. Consider what was left out of the Short Form and consider what it is used for....these are the groups that require tailored services and supports, they have unique needs, they enrich our country in so many ways...they ensure that we are not homogeneous. Leaving them out paints a very dull portrait of our country, white, middle class, upwardly mobile, educated. And perhaps that's the point, if we leave out these groups you don't need to design programs and services to meet their needs, less $$ to transfer to other levels of Government. Huge implications.
So now we wait for a decision. In his questioning, Justice Mandamin clearly got the essence of our argument, and the argument is clear, simple, you can not design a tool that is so fundamental and exclude groups of Canadians, it is irresponsible and will have serious implications that will further marginalize groups of Canadians who often have to fight for their place in Canadian society. We want recognition of the importance of the Census, we want the Government to ensure its integrity, its use and its need to be representative, we do not want a repeat of 2011. Let the experts design the questions and the methodology and let Canada in all is diversity, splendour, prosperity and struggle be represented in our next census portrait.