Defenders of the long form are up in arms at the government's decision, claiming that the information gleaned is a crucial element in determining allocation of resources in key areas like the health industry.
So entrenched is the idea that the long-form is vital to Canada's future that not only has a robust campaign been launched by vested interests, a FACEBOOK group has been started up for ordinary Canadians to voice and demonstrate their displeasure at the government's decision to axe it.
But not everyone agrees, especially not the FRASIER INSTITUTE.
Last week the language commissioner waded in as well;"The think tank, an evangelist for free-market solutions, says it's wrong for the state to coerce Canadians into handing over personal information that should instead be obtained on a voluntary basis through market research or polling.Senior economist Niels Veldhuis says the chorus of criticism that's opposing the census change are groups that have been benefiting from relatively cheaply-obtained data gleaned from the mandatory long-form questionnaire." Read More "No more free ride on census data, Fraser Institute says"
"Graham Fraser, commissioner of official languages, said he would examine whether the government respected its obligations under the Official Languages Act when it made the decision late last month. The mandatory long census form is being replaced with a voluntary survey next year." LINKPerhaps one of the factors in the Conservative decision to dump the long-form is the general contempt that the party has for Statistics Canada, especially in light of the apparent data manipulation by some Francophones outside Quebec in the 2006 edition.
It seems that an anonymous e-mail urged bilingual Francophones outside Quebec, 'not to report' that they knew both official languages, in order to assure that the federal government would not cut services to French programs. This erroneous assumption (bilingualism has nothing to do with apportioned services) led many bilingual Francophones to declare that they only spoke French, leading to a spike in the data pertaining to unilingual Francophones.
The Ottawa Citizen reported that Statistics Canada put a note on its website, explaining that;
But StatsCan is changing it's tune, having removed the note and now claiming that they have no idea why the statistical anomaly exists."In view of the data, however, it seems plausible that the e-mail influenced some francophones in their responses to the question on knowledge of official languages,''
Rosemary Bender, an assistant chief statistician with the agency, is now telling anyone that will listen, that there could be other reasons for the drop in francophone bilingualism outside Quebec.
This back-tracking seems to be a reaction to a robust counter-attack by certain francophone groups, who are claiming that the notion that information was manipulated is unproven. In an article on June 4, the Maritime-based Franco.presse.ca accused the Ottawa Citizen of carrying out a witch hunt. The article did its own analysis to defend the new StatsCan numbers.
Whether or not there was a manipulation of data is perhaps moot, the bigger problem is what would have happened with next year's census, in light of all the publicity of the false reporting.
What may have been a small problem back in 2006 may have become a massive problem in 2011 with more and more francophones aware of the gambit and climbing aboard the language fraud.
Some Quebec commentators have voiced fury over the decision to get rid of detailed questions about language because they believe that the long form will prove that French is in a precipitous decline.
'....Consider the state of French, especially in the Montreal area, where it's becoming a major concern. With the abandonment of the long form, researchers will no longer be able to monitor the situation with the same precision. "For Quebec, it is a matter of survival," wrote demographer this week in the pages of Victor Piché Forum Press. "In the absence of ethnic data and detailed language, anyone can say anything! How will we know in the future if the language policies are effective? It's opened the way for the worst demagoguery!" It goes without saying that the francophone minorities outside Quebec are also outraged.' LINK (Fr)And so the elimination of the long-form solves the problem neatly.
The short-form questionnaire doesn't ask about bilingualism, something that infuriates the language militants, but is pleasing to the Conservatives party.