Switch to voluntary census puts vulnerable at risk, coalition charges

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SCRAPPING the long-form census is risking the health of some of the most vulnerable people, says a group calling itself Save the Census Manitoba.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/09/2010 (4368 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

SCRAPPING the long-form census is risking the health of some of the most vulnerable people, says a group calling itself Save the Census Manitoba.

The group, made up of doctors, academics, senior public servants and heads of social service agencies, sent out a letter Thursday calling on the federal Conservatives to reverse their stand and reinstate the long-form census.

The mandatory, random survey is a vital public-health planning tool, said Dr. Joel Kettner, Manitoba’s chief medical officer of health and a member of Save the Census Manitoba.

“When we asked the question ‘Who is going to fill out the survey?’ and it was random and involuntary, we knew we would get a good proportion of people of all different backgrounds,” said Kettner. “Now the concern is, if it’s voluntary and some questions are taken out, there will be less information and it will be less representative.”

The long-form census is used to “understand and address inequalities of health in different population groups,” said Kettner. “It’s quite important for aboriginal people, immigrants, refugees and those who are less educated.”

Replacing the long-form survey with a shorter form that’s voluntary will hamper public-health planning, he said.

“We know from other experiences people who volunteer to fill out forms and come forward are not representative,” Kettner said.

“Those who are less likely to fill out the survey voluntarily may well be those with challenges around language and understanding and other things that might alter their ability or interes.”

First Nations and other aboriginal Manitobans are particularly at risk, Save the Census Manitoba said in a news release issued by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. The Manitoba group is part of a national campaign being led by the Canadian Council on Social Development and the Social Planning Council of Toronto.

Without the long-form census, there will be even larger gaps in planners’ ability to describe the health of aboriginal peoples in Canada, Dr. Marcia Anderson, past president of the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada, said in a prepared statement.

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