Not any more

Quebec language lobbies fight census change

In Canada on August 6, 2010 at 09:02

MONTREAL – Several groups in Quebec have joined the chorus of voices condemning the federal government’s controversial decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census, saying the move could have serious consequences for organizations and individuals across the province.

At the forefront of the backlash is the Quebec Community Groups Network, which says the loss of data from the traditional long-form questionnaire will make it much more difficult for the government to pinpoint where Quebec’s English-speakers are concentrated, and thus allocate services accordingly.

"The services provided by government to the Englishspeaking minority in the province are determined, in large part, by their numbers," Network president Linda Leith explained.

"So it’s absolutely vital to the vitality of the English-speaking community that this information be available."

The long form asks respondents to specify whether they speak English or French, while the short form asks only about a person’s mother tongue -which in many cases may be neither English nor French. That means many English-speakers will not be counted if the changes go through, Leith said.

"The revised census is going to be printed Aug. 9, so there’s not a lot of time here," Leith said. "The clock is ticking."

Marie-France Kenny, president of the Federation des communautes francophones et acadienne, shares Leith’s concern. Her organization represents minority francophone populations across Canada, and she says the same problems will arise for those communities if the mandatory long-form questionnaire is eliminated.

"Somebody didn’t measure that impact somewhere, so we said we need to let the powers-that-be know there has been that misunderstanding," Kenny said. "Once someone from the government finally understood, we were told we would get a letter, but they didn’t know when it would come and what it would say. We still haven’t received anything to this day."

The Network and the Federation have filed detailed complaints with the commissioner of official languages. The Federation has also filed a lawsuit in Federal Court for a judicial review of the census decree.

The Institut de la statistique du Quebec has also expressed opposition to the proposed changes. It says making the long-form survey voluntary would damage the "reliability, comparability and coherence" of the national census data upon which it relies heavily.

"This information is often necessary for research and decision-making by various actors in Quebec society," the Institut said in a release.

Some of those include community groups, provincial and municipal planners, and even the province’s universities.

mmuise@thegazette.canwest.com

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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