Not any more

Census court challenge to be heard in Sept.

In Canada on August 11, 2010 at 13:32

Francophone groups have won a procedural victory in their attempts to get the Federal Court to fast-track their request to halt the government’s planned scrapping of the mandatory long-form census.

The court will hold a hearing on Sept. 27 in Ottawa to hear the request of the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities (FFAC) for an injunction that would block the government’s move to make the long-form census voluntary.

The lawyer for the government argued that the Sept. 20 court date requested by the francophone group was too soon and asked that the ruling be delayed until Oct. 19.

But the FFAC’s lawyer argued it would be too late to issue an injunction by mid-October because of printing deadlines for the long-form census.

In her ruling Wednesday, Federal Court Justice Roza Aronovitch said the federation was able to demonstrate the urgency of the situation, while the government would not suffer from an accelerated process.

The French-language group has argued that the mandatory census is critical to language rights and that a voluntary survey will result in a less accurate information, which will affect French-language services.

The legal challenge comes as newly released documents show Statistics Canada warned the Conservative government that the response rate for a proposed voluntary long-form census would be less than 50 per cent.

Former Statistics Canada chief statistician Munir Sheikh resigned after Industry Minister Tony Clement made comments in a Globe and Mail interview in July that suggested Sheikh and the agency recommended the decision.

The documents show both Sheikh’s and Statistics Canada’s resistance to the plan, as well as their concerns over the lowered quality of data and poor response rate from a voluntary survey. The chains of emails between the agency, Clement’s office and other senior bureaucrats also shed light on the government’s influence over Statistics Canada’s communication plan around the change.

Clement, the minister in charge of Statistics Canada, has been the government’s point man on the decision to cancel the mandatory long-form census. He has said Canadians should not be coerced to fill out the census survey with threats of jail time or fines for refusing to divulge personal details to the state.



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