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Sunday, August 08, 2010

Intellectual freedom in Canada: Census panic

There has been a local left panic in Canada, on account of our prime minister Stephen Harper's attempt to abolish the dreaded mandatory B-form of the Canada census.

Allegedly, Harper is chummy with the ghost of Hitler because he doesn't believe people should be forced to answer intimate questions ... Harper wants to make it voluntary.

As a census rep, I once had to deliver these dreaded long forms. One of five, at least in those days. Basically, a bunch of intrusive questions.

I once had to explain to a woman who was living with her boyfriend, "No, I am not the Censor, I am just a census rep." But how do I know that that data wouldn't become public, as opposed to private, some day, if the government has the data?

For the record, I do not object to the mandatory nature of the short form census. It promotes wise use of tax funds. Knowing how many children live in a household is critical to determining where elementary schools should be built, as opposed to just hiring a school bus. Knowing how many seniors live there is critical to determining whether proposed old age home projects should receive tax funds. Knowing how many people are recent immigrants is critical because they may be handicapped by poor English language skills. That may help determine whether an English as a Second Language (ESL) program is needed in a given area. So - to me, at least - these are reasonable mandatory questions in an advanced society that provides a proper infrastructure. This critical data could not easily be obtained from a source other than the householder.

But the rest is just intrusive.

Anyway, I wrote back to a journalist friend, summarizing my views on the long form:


As I said, I share your concerns, and feel that the Toronto Star [a highly leftwing major circ paper] is on the wrong side of the issue on this, entirely, even for itself!.

Here are the sorts of questions I object to, that can appear on such a form, along with answers I would be inclined to provide, if permitted. Usually, I will not be.

What is your religion? I am a fruitarian space alien, but would rather not admit that just now. I need a job. I need funds to get my antennae fixed. (Okay, okay, I am really a traditional Roman Catholic, but I don't see whose business it is, except the Church's. The information should not be forced from me by the government. Whatever happened to separation of church and state.)

Who does the housework at your house? No one. We just let the mess pile up. Public Health has not visited yet, so why are you compelling us to tell you about it?

Who disciplines the children? Well, if no one is alleging child abuse, what business is it of yours?

Are you divorced? Again, whose business is that? Given that I am not trying to get married again at a Catholic Church, it is no one's business at all, really.

What kind of house do you live in? That IS a justifiable question. Housing is a legitimate public concern. But the City can tell the census takers that. They know, because I pay taxes for the property, registered with them. Why not work with their accurate data, instead of bothering or threatening me?

What is your ethnicity? Oh. Are you suggesting that that guy is not my father? Why shouldn't I go over to your office and whack you in the face with a banana cream pie? Just get out of my life. Now. Granted, that may not be flagged as a mandatory question, even on the long form, but why are you even asking?

The mandatory long form as a whole is just creeping totalitarianism, and I am glad that the Prime Minister opposes it.


Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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