Many years ago, I became one of the lucky recipients of the “long form” census from Statistics Canada. When I read through the 20-some pages of questions, I became concerned: there were too many questions of a personal nature, and I did not feel that my anonymity was adequately protected by the census procedure. My concern was fueled, in part, by the fact that I just finished reading Edwyn Black’s book, IBM and the Holocaust, which detailed how the Nazi state used census information collected by way of IBM tabulating machines to quickly locate and round up Jews in occupied territories.
Indeed, I became sufficiently worried that I wrote a letter, addressed to the then Chief Statistician, Ivan Fellegi, expressing my concerns. Much to my surprise, I received a phone call a few days later from a senior employee at Statistics Canada, who politely listened to my concerns and seemed genuinely interested.
I was hoping for some reform that might alleviate my concerns. Never did I dream that one day, Canada will have a government that will disastrously undermine the statistical integrity of Canada’s census by replacing the mandatory long from census with a voluntary variety.
This is one of several acts of this government that show the depths of their scientific illiteracy and indeed, their hostility to proper science. And the damage is lasting; even if a future government restores the mandatory long form census, valuable and important data have been lost for good.
A government that shows such contempt towards scientific integrity does not deserve to govern. Perhaps minding cats is a more appropriate vocation for Mr. Harper and his colleagues.