Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

Action Alert to Prime Minister Harper, Party Leaders, and the Minister of Industry: Reverse the Unwise Decision to Cancel the Long Form Census

Action Alert to Prime Minister Harper, Party Leaders, and the Minister of Industry: Reverse the Unwise Decision to Cancel the Long Form Census

July 23, 2010 Update


Please Act Now!  Over the few days since RNAO first asked you to contact the Prime Minister about reversing the decision to cancel the long form of the census, the government’s refusal to listen to reason on this issue has prompted the resignation in protest of Chief Statistician, Munir Sheikh. Mr. Sheikh’s resignation as the head of Statistics Canada was based on his unequivocal technical judgment that a voluntary survey cannot become a substitute for a mandatory census. The loss of this respected public servant and the perceived attack on Statistics Canada’s independence and integrity threatens the credibility of an agency that was formerly known as the “world’s gold standard.”


In addition to the broad coalition of professional, community, and business groups that have registered alarm at this decision, the government of Ontario has warned that scrapping the long-form census questionnaire will threaten Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Plan by hindering access to reliable data. If the Harper’s decision is not reversed, it will be as the Canadian Medical Association Journal’s editors noted, a triumph of ideology over evidence.



On June 26, 2010 it became public that the federal government has arbitrarily decided to cancel the 2011 long form Census and replace it with a less reliable voluntary survey. This hasty decision was taken without consulting the various levels of government, business, and civil society groups that depend on this data to inform evidence-based policy decisions.


In sharp contrast to the proposed voluntary survey that will be biased, unreliable, and not representative of the population, the long form Census has a response rate of over 95 per cent and provides “the only source of regular, highly detailed, systematic information on immigration, family and household structure, racialization, demography, and other vital information about Canadians.” The risk of undercounting vulnerable groups such as new immigrants, Aboriginal Canadians, and those in lower socio-economic groups through a voluntary survey has the potential to impact our ability to best provide services as well as identify societal trends such the racialization of poverty, income inequality, hours worked without pay providing child and elder care, etc. The proposed changes will cost more and deliver less reliable data. The anecdotal rationale provided by Industry Minister Tony Clement of the long form Census as intrusive contrasts with the very few complaints received by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. For most households, the long form questionnaire requires less than 20 to 30 minutes on average and statistically, the average household will receive the long form once every 25 years.


Read RNAO’s Open Letter to Prime Minister Harper with full references here.


  • Email the letter below to the Right Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada; Hon. Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Opposition; Hon. Jack Layton, Leader of the New Democratic Party; Hon. Gilles Duceppe, Leader of the Bloc Québécois; and the Hon. Tony Clement, Minister of Industry. You can edit the letter to share insights from your nursing practice and/or life experiences on why good data is needed to inform health and public policy decisions.
  • Please share this action alert with your colleagues, neighbours, friends, and family and ask them to email as well.
  • Click here to sign a petition to keep the Canadian long census form



Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (2010). Open Letter to Prime Minister Harper: Maintain the Long Form Census. July 20, 2010


Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (2010). Media Release: Ontario nurses urge Prime Minister Harper to reverse decision to eliminate long-form census questionnaire.


Joint letter by 23 professional, business, and community organizations, including the Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Public Health Association, July 19, 2010.


Petition to Keep the Canada Long Form


Facebook Group on Keep the Canada Census Long Form


Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Read CCPA Open Letter, Updates, and CBC Interview with Armine Yalnizyan



Campion-Smith, B. (2010). Ontario blasts plan to scrap long-form census. Toronto Star. July 20, 2010. Link


Cohen, M. & Hébert, P. (2010). Ideology trumps evidence with new voluntary survey. Canadian Medical Association Journal. July 15, 2010. Link


Globe and Mail (2010). Editorial: Federal statistical folly in full view. July 21, 2010. Link


Schoffield, H. (2010). StatsCan’s reputation in question. Winnipeg Free Press, July 23, 2010. Link