Monday, July 19, 2010

Is Census Brouhaha Based on Language?

As you probably know, the Federal government has decided to dump the long form component of the national census ostensibly over privacy concerns. The long form was distributed to about one in five families and took around 45 minutes to complete. It asked some very intrusive questions which those unlucky enough to be selected had no choice but to answer, under penalty by law.
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.
"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"
 Last week the language commissioner waded in as well;
"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."   LINK
Perhaps 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;
"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,''
But StatsCan is changing it's tune, having removed the note and now claiming that they have no idea why the statistical anomaly exists.

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 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.


  1. Wow! A win-win situation! I didn't realize the census was being rigged, so I already learned something new just minutes into this new day.

    It's a win for all Canadians because they won't have to fill out an intrusive "long form" anymore; and it's a win because the language zealots are foiled. Foiling those fools is ALWAYS ALL good!

    Congrats to whoever uncovered this plot. About time there are language zealots on OUR side of the ledger.

  2. Which problem exactly? Lack of statistics won't remove the Francophones from Canada, neither lower the demand for French/bilingual services.

  3. Note the ambiguity and vagueness in the questions asked. I think this is done deliberately. For example take the question about "can you speak English and French well enough to conduct a conversation?" What does that mean anyways? What kind of a conversation? How long of a conversation? Does that mean a conversation lasting an hour or so and discussing a wide variety of different subjects in depth? Or does it mean a few goodwill hello/bonjours and not much else? My hunch is that the government asks such a soft, easy and non-specific question so that as many people as possible will count themselves as "bilngual". The feds do this to try to make Canadians think the expensive, wasteful and misguided bilingualism policies work and to try and convince Francophones in Quebec that Canada is safe for their language. In reality all but 50,000 Francophones outside Quebec can speak English anyways. I would bet that a really tough question on language would see a big drop in the number of so-called bilinguals in this country. The Toronto guy.

  4. Ok, we're ready for the referendum ! Vive le Québec libre !

  5. The point you raise seems about as valid as Maxime Bernier's rant about the people who indicated that their religious affiliation was "Jedi Knight".

    But do carry on with your whimsical displays of francophobia.

    By the way, it's the Fraser Institute, not FRASIER.

  6. derteilzeitberliner:

    Nobody is trying to remove the Francophones from Canada. If anything, you'll remove yourselves, at least if you live in Quebec, and the chances of that have dropped.

    Now that Arabic has taken over English as the most frequently spoken second language in French schools, it looks as if those people are going to become your new nemeses. While most of the North Africans and Arabs are part of the Francophonie, French is usually their SECOND language, not their mother tongue, and many of them know English, too!

    It was the Roman Catholic Church that pushed for a manority population through «La Révenche des berceaux», i.e., revenge of the cradles. For 200 years, this worked like a charm. Too many oversized families that were poor, but the working class provider had to stretch his few dollars as far as possible. The Church advocated being the "small bread" of society was satisfactory while the English and other minorities adopted the Protestant Work Ethic of work hard and prosper.

    It took the Quiet Revolution to enable the massive poor oversized Francophone families to come around and realize that God doesn't always provide. Perhaps he helps people who help themselves. Beyond the Church, the politicians, esp. Duplessis took full advantage of the ignorance. He was such a despot that I believe his death, along with Paul Sauvé's just 100 days later, marked the beginning of the Quiet Revolution.

    Sadly, the replacement for the Church doctrine was nationalism, and 50 years later, the ugly monster is showing more if its ugly self. The unemployment rate in Quebec is highest amongst many of these immigrants. They are not Québécois «pur laine», but immigrants that the Quebec government does a very good brainwashing job of convincing these immigrants they have not come to Canada, but to Quebec.

    In spite of the conditioning, many of the immigrants learn Quebec is not a country unto itself, but it sure is trying. I'm not even stating Quebec should leave unless it wants to. One thing for sure I am saying is Quebec can stay, but if it only consists of 22% of the population of all Canada, it should only be granted 22% of the federal money available, no more no less.

    Despite its share of the population, Quebec would still get more out of the federal tax base than it puts in as too many Quebecers are not even on the tax rolls. If that doesn't satisfy Quebec, then audios.

    If Quebec were to separate, you can be sure English schools, TV and radio would be abolished as well as government services in English. Outside Quebec? There would probably be a backlash, but I wouldn't start it. I have no problem with the French language, but they would not be invited to establish institutions where it's English speakers persona non grata. You can rest assured though that the number of Francophones in the federal civil service would reduce significantly, and a more equitable proportion would remain employed.

    Second language? Yes, knowledge of a second, even third language would be important, but I can see Spanish becoming increasingly significant especially if the Americas form a trade bloc. I do see that happening someday. Maybe Mandarin would pick up in importance as there are well over a billion consumers in China and their increasing affluence will have them demanding more goods and services.

    No derteilzeitberliner, I don't see anyone trying to remove Francophones from Canada, but maybe them trying to remove themselves from Canada.

  7. I have had the honour of getting the long form at least twice. I can say that it's a pain in the ass having to fill out this thing. One time I even ignored it, and I had a census guy show up to my door asking me to fill it out with him. Not a fan of this. Too many questions, and too much government meddling in my life.

    There should be a basic two page form for everybody.

  8. Can someone provide a link to the "intrusive" long form? The one I found, ( 2006), asked detailed questions about age, ethnic origin/ race/ ancestry, language spoken at home and work, income ( if one did not want the tax info available used), employment and home conditions.

    Nothing that intrusive.

    Private companies track your purchases from debit/ credit cards, track your 'Net habits, track mortgages and other major purchases, etc;etc; and no one thinks this "intrusive".

    Is there some curious disconnect here?

    "Big Brother" may really be "Big Business".

    As for the language brouhaha, a bit more clear reflection on the situation needs to be done by lots of people including this place.

  9. The metis/French have been lying about the language numbers for decades. Ottawa is a prime example. They say they make up 15% of Ottawa’s population but a poll was done and only 7% actually speak French at home. As you can see, they lie to government, more lies, more money, more phony demands for French BS, French jobs, grants…and on and on…Now you see why metis/French groups are up in arms over this census nonsense. The rest of couldn’t care less about the census. It’s a mess in Kebec but boy is it becoming a mess outside Kebec where they demand more and more and more…$$$