Thursday, May 11, 2006

Canadian Census -- Help future historians!

If you are subject to the Canadian census being taken this month, historians both professional and amateur are urging you to answer "yes" to question 53:

53. The Statistics Act guarantees the confidentiality of your census information. Only if you mark "YES" to this question will your personal information be made public, 92 years after the 2006 Census. If you mark "NO" or leave the answer blank, your personal information will never be made publicly available.

Does this person agree to make his/her 2006 Census information available for public release in 2098 (92 years after the census)?
Much of what we know about 19th century Canada comes out of census returns. Most of it is fairly impersonal stuff, like age, place of birth, occupation. Until recently nobody could see how the release of century-old data would hurt anyone, but there has been a controversy over the release of early 20th-century data. Thus this question.

If you answer "no" you will be contributing to the historical blindness of future generations. A systematic source compiled at great expense will be unavailable, unless legal doctrines change.

This idea of confidentiality forever strikes me as absurd. Think how much credit bureaus know about you right now. Or Google. Yes, especially Google.


Blogger b0131944 said...

Not surprisingly, 18 600 hits come back for "Steve Muhlberger".

The surprising part is that most of them are relevant to you. When I type my name in, I get the telecommunications CEO and a Japanese poet with the same name. The latter isn't bad, since more people will associate my name with writing (and maybe my book sales will exceed 200).

Perhaps more on topic, I can't seem to understand why there would be a problem in releasing the information in the census 92 years from now. I plan on being long dead and even if I'm not, there is absolutely no harm in releasing that sort of information. As a whole, we have become so afraid that any release of information will spiral out of control until everyone knows what we do in the privacy of our own home and it will utterly crush us, both financially and socially. Then again, this is fun to consider: what if 92 years from now, nobody really cares what our world is like?

5:57 PM  
Blogger Darrell Markewitz said...

Steve et All

Remember the LAST census? I was one of the randomly chosen few who got the long form - and appearently one of the roughly 15 % plus who promtly broke the law.

The law says you have to fill out the census, completely and return it. Defacing it carries a penalty.

Some place about question 10 on the long form - at the bottom of page one, there was a question on 'ethnic background' - or something like that. Pick from list of possible national ethnic types. Many choices - not CANADIAN as a choice.

You know my history. Admittedly Immigrant grand parents - who all DIED when my own parents were four and five years old respectively. ABSOLUTELY NO cultural influances from the 'old country. My ethnic background is CANADIAN - Hockey Night in Canada, Kraft miniature marshmellows, Wayne and Shuster, CBC...

So I took the black magic marker and defaced the document by writing Canadian in bold letters across the front.

When the data was announced some months later - from the talking heads: 'surprised to find so many (roughly 15%) respondants indicated Canadian as nation of origin..'

I guess I was not the only one...


6:44 PM  
Blogger Steve Muhlberger said...

I wonder if my ethnic background is on this form -- American?

9:25 PM  

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