The mandatory Long Census Form

Published on: 5 Jul 2010

Scrapping of the mandatory long census form - CHA's response

The federal government is moving to eliminate the mandatory Canada census long form questionnaire, replacing it with a voluntary survey. The CHA sent the following letter on this issue.

The Honourable Tony Clement
Minister of Industry
Government of Canada
C.D. Howe Building
235 Queen Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0H5

5 July 2010

Dear Minister Clement:

As President of the Canadian Historical Association, Canada’s leading organization of professional historians, I write to express our dismay and concern regarding the recently announced intention of your government to cancel the long census form as part of our national census. We believe that this decision will significantly diminish the ability of Canadians to understand our country, and it will impair the capacity of future historians to write the history of Canada.

Our concerns are threefold. First, the census decision was apparently made without consultation with the population data research community, both university-based and genealogical researchers. Expert users from these groups have asserted that the elimination of the long census form will harm current efforts to understand trends in Canadian society. We believe that their expert knowledge must now be enlisted and we urge you to consult these research groups before implementing this decision.

Second, abandonment of the comprehensiveness of the census will greatly reduce its usefulness as a historical source in the future. The optional character of the National Household Survey will result in uneven and unreliable measures of the questions contained in that form, preventing historians of the 22nd century from developing a comprehensive picture of Canada in our own age.

Third, in scrapping the collection of comprehensive data, the government appears to be abandoning major social constituencies such as women who have used the aggregate data captured in the long census to identify anomalies and inequalities in Canadian society. This information is essential for all governments seeking to develop sound public policies for Canada in the future.

Our concerns are apparently shared by senior officials within Statistics Canada, albeit that they may be reluctant to speak out for fear of censure.

We urge you to reconsider this unwise decision and to reinstate the long census form as an essential tool of data collection for our country, both for today and tomorrow. Beyond reinstating the long census form, we ask for your commitment to ensuring that these records will be made universally available to researchers within 92 years’ time, in keeping with current practice.

Failing the immediate reinstatement of the long census form, we would like to request a meeting with you to present our concerns in detail, at which I am sure that we will be able to address any questions you might have regarding our detailed arguments. I look forward to hearing from you regarding our concerns at an early date.


Mary Lynn Stewart FRSC
President, Canadian Historical Association

For more information on this issue, please see the blog site Census Crisis Information Centre which has formed around the issue at

Or contact John Lutz: or 250 721-7392, fax 250 721-7392

Other links

Gordon Watts' Reports

Save the Census Website

Historian Gwynneth Jones' letter to Minister Clement

Update - January 2011

Update - July 30th

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