January 23, 1961

THE CENSUS

STATEMENT ON SUGGESTED CHANGES IN QUESTIONS

PC

George Harris Hees (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Progressive Conservative

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.

Yours faithfully,

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.

(Translation) :

Topic:   THE CENSUS
Subtopic:   STATEMENT ON SUGGESTED CHANGES IN QUESTIONS
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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Hon. Lionel Chevrier (Laurier):

Mr. Speaker, we have listened with great interest to the statement of the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Hees). Of course, we would have to look carefully into this statement before we express an opinion.

For the moment I shall only say that it is obvious that the minister has completely reversed his position on the census.

Topic:   THE CENSUS
Subtopic:   STATEMENT ON SUGGESTED CHANGES IN QUESTIONS
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?

Some hon. Members:

No, no.

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PC

Émilien Morissette

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Morisseiie:

That is what you think yourself.

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

It is also obvious that because of the unanimous views held not only in one province but elsewhere in this country, the minister has seen fit to revise his position, as the government has done.

(Text):

Here, sir, I would like to add that the distinction, as we on this side of the house have maintained all along, is with reference to questions 7, 8 and 10. One of these questions had to do with nationality and the other

1302 HOUSE OF

Suggested Census Changes with racial origin, and by the conduct of the government there was confusion with reference to the origin of a citizen. That confusion would lead to only one thing, that those who are interested in compiling data for the information of all Canadians on the complexity and diversity of the Canadian population could not have found it possible to obtain that information by means of the manner in which question 10 had been established.

Then again, there is the very important problem for which the census has been established. The census has been established for the purpose of obtaining information with reference to the diversity of the population, the age, the occupation, the racial origin, the religion, and so forth. That has been the practice since 1891, I am informed, and the position so far as we on this side of the house are concerned was this. We could not understand why it was that this practice which had been in existence since 1891 should be changed at this time. As I said earlier, we would like to study the statement made by the minister now to ascertain just what its effect will be on the representations that have been made, but on the whole there can be no doubt that the Minister of Trade and Commerce, who considered this matter not too serious in the house when questions were put to him earlier-

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?

Some hon. Members:

Order.

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PC

Daniel Roland Michener (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Speaker:

Order. May I remind the hon. member that this statement is a statement of intention, of fact, of action being taken on a subject which has been controversial in the house. We have debated the same point in the course of the budget debate.

I hope that the hon. member, in commenting on the proposed action, will refrain from this kind of controversial or argumentative approach to the announcement that would necessitate or evoke an answer at this time. I say this because this is not a debate on the matter; it is a statement of intention presented to the house, without argument, and it seems to me to be appropriate to comment on it without provocative or controversial language.

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

Mr. Speaker, I am reminded that the Prime Minister has indicated that there would be an opportunity to discuss this on a later occasion-

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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

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PC

J.-H.-Théogène Ricard

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Ricard:

Now that everything is settled.

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

-and that opportunity may or may not have to be taken, having regard to the statement which has been made.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming (Eglinlon):

Where were you on Friday?

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

But there is one thing which I think should be brought to the attention of the house, and it is this. It is unfortunate that the minister and the government should have seen fit to rely now on the recommendations of the dominion statistician. If those recommendations had been followed in the first place-they were made quite clear-there would have been no difficulty at all about the matter.

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PC

Léon Balcer (Minister of Transport)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Balcer:

St. Laurent.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming (Eglinton):

You are criticising Mr. St. Laurent's decision.

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PC

Daniel Roland Michener (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Speaker:

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member again, but it seems to me he is debating the issue. If he proceeds in that vein it will be very difficult for me to prevent a debate arising at this time. This is not the appropriate time at which the matter may be debated in full, and I would ask the hon. member to leave his remarks at that point.

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

Mr. Speaker, my only purpose in making the statement I did was not only in answer to what was said by the minister, but in answer to interruptions which came from the other side of the house. I think I am entitled to reply to those interruptions.

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PC

Daniel Roland Michener (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Speaker:

I have heard no interruptions and hope that they are not part of the record.

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January 23, 1961