OCASI Media Release: Voluntary National Household Survey does not capture true state of Canada



08 May 2013/Toronto – OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants is deeply concerned that the Statistics Canada Voluntary Household Survey released today does not capture the full reality of Canada's populations, such as racialized residents, and foreign-born individuals.

The Voluntary Household Survey notes that foreign-born residents were one-fifth, or 20.6% of the Canadian population in 2011. It notes that recent immigrants (2006-2011) represented 3.5% of the total population and 17.2% of the foreign-born population.

Yet these figures do not accurately capture the full reality of all Canadian residents. The federal government cancelled the Mandatory Long-Form Census in 2010, replacing it with the Voluntary National Household Survey. As noted in Statistics Canada's own disclaimer included in today's report, the Voluntary Survey excludes residents in collective dwellings and persons living abroad, and has a potentially higher non-response error since the survey is voluntary.

Debbie Douglas, OCASI Executive Director noted, "The Mandatory Long-Form Census gave us accurate data about who we are as a nation, such as our racial, cultural, gender and socio-economic make-up; the languages we speak; our geographic locations. These are all important information for public policy and inter-government priority setting."

OCASI was one of several community-based groups that worked together to ensure that ethno-specific data will be included in the Short Form Census, which is still mandatory. However these efforts failed.

The groups were collectively concerned that the loss of reliable Census data will make it virtually impossible to better understand the experience of these communities. Research reports that document the growing inequities along lines of race, gender and immigration status, such as the 2011 “Canada's Colour Coded Labour Market: The gap for racialized workers” by Sheila Block and Grace Edward Galabuzi, have relied on data gathered through the Mandatory Long-Form Census.

OCASI is deeply concerned that at this present time of ever-deepening inequities, reliable data on how communities present in Canada are faring socially and economically is no longer available to Canadians. The lack of data has major public policy implications, both for understanding the impact of existing policy and for making new policy.

“Good data is necessary for good policy and effective program responses to meet community needs" said Debbie Douglas. "We can't be certain that the new Voluntary National Household Survey will give us comparable data, and that is a concern" she added.

OCASI is further concerned that Census tract-level data, which gives a neighbourhood breakdown of national statistical data, will no longer be provided free-of-charge. This change represents a downloading of costs to municipalities and others who routinely rely on such data for policy and program planning.

For more information, please contact:
Amy Casipullai, Senior Coordinator, Policy and Communications
amy@ocasi.org Tel: 416.322.4950 x 230 or Cell: 416.524.4950