Hon. George H. Hees (Minister of Trade and Commerce):
Mr. Speaker, during the past few weeks I have received representations from various parts of the country and from various groups to the effect that certain of the population census questions which have been used for some time do not produce the exact statistical information required in some respects for the analysis of the characteristics of the Canadian population for such purposes as social analysis and some general business requirements. For this reason I asked the dominion statistician and his staff to give me their opinion as to whether improvements are possible in the questions in order to produce more accurate results so that the needs of the users may be better served.
I have received from the dominion statistician this letter, which I shall read to the house, dated January 20:
Dear Mr. Hees:
You asked us a short time ago to let you have our considered opinion about the adequacy of the form of questions on the ethnic and cultural and religious background of the Canadian population and their birthplaces as obtained through Canadian censuses over the years. We have given this matter some study and we have some observations and suggestions to offer.
An example of the type of change which I believe would be most desirable is found in the existing questions on citizenship and origin.
The existing form of the origin question has, indeed, limitations, some of which are very difficult to overcome and others which we think can be remedied. The principal problem arises from the practice which originated with the 1951 census of accepting Canadian as an answer to the question on origin, whereas in fact the information which was being sought related to the ethnic groups and cultures of the old world. It would be desirable to bring the 1961 census data back into line with information obtained prior to 1951 and to avoid the confusion which inevitably arises out of mixing North American with European and other origins. This could be done by rephrasing the inquiry to make the intent of the question clearer to the respondent.
If it were felt advisable to take steps to overcome this difficulty to the extent possible in a general census, it would be necessary to rearrange the questions somewhat.
I believe that the question on citizenship should be asked in the following form: "Country of
citizenship-Are you a Canadian? If not, of what country are you a national or citizen?" .
To clarify the question of ethnic origin, it should now read, "To what ethnic or cultural group did you or your ancestor-on the male side -belong on coming to this continent?" Obviously there will be some change in the listing of possible answers to the question on cultural origin.
The rephrasing of these questions will result in considerable increase in the clarity of the information and help to avoid the confusion between citizenship and origin.
There are several other changes which could be made in the population form at the same time to facilitate the operation of the census. If the suggestion set out above appeals to you, I shall have a new census form prepared and submitted for your approval.
Walter E. Duffett, Dominion Statistician.
Mr. Speaker, I am much impressed with what the dominion statistician has told me about the need for revision of the census population form so that it will produce the exact information required. I have therefore asked the dominion statistician to submit a new and revised form embodying the changes which he and his associates believe are necessary to produce the information for which the census is intended. These changes will, I am sure, meet the points raised by the various groups who have pointed out to me some deficiencies in the form as originally proposed.
Subtopic: STATEMENT ON SUGGESTED CHANGES IN QUESTIONS