Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank the committee members for inviting me, as a representative of Statistics Canada, to appear before them to contribute to their study on the issues related to the enumeration of rights-holders under section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I’ll cover three main topics.
I’ll begin by discussing some considerations and challenges related to the addition of questions to the 2021 census concerning the enumeration of children of rights-holders.
I’ll then provide background information regarding the enumeration of rights-holder parents under section 23 of the charter using official statistics.
Finally, I’ll provide some information on the 2021 census content consultation process.
Let me say that Statistics Canada recognizes the importance of official languages and the statistical tools it provides to data users in the government and the communities in general. For many years, the government has been committed to ensuring that the Canadian public has access to an extensive amount of statistical data on language.
Canada is the only country to ask seven questions on language in its census of population. This shows that the Government of Canada recognizes the importance of this topic and is committed to taking this key dimension of Canadian society into account in the framework for its policies and programs.
Statistics Canada recognizes that the collection of data on rights-holders and their children constitutes a very important need for official language minority communities. As such, the committee members’ comments and suggestions are very important to us.
Given the number of questions in the census and the number of requests to add new questions, Statistics Canada must find a balance between needs on the one hand, and, on the other hand, costs, the response burden, data quality, and so on. In other words, adding questions to the census requires a whole set of considerations, and those related to data quality can’t be sacrificed.
In general, consultations led by Statistics Canada reveal that information needs are much larger than what the census can accommodate. The federal agency is always looking for ways to take those needs into account and to measure them.
Therefore, the enumeration of rights-holders and of their children requires a careful and precise assessment of the available means and tools by which the best data can be collected on this subject. Statistics Canada must assess the advantages and disadvantages of the various data collection processes.
The Census of Population includes a question on the first language learned in childhood and still understood—that is, the mother tongue—by the parent. This addresses paragraph 23(1)(a) of the charter.
It does not, however, contain a question on the language of instruction received by the parent in primary school—paragraph 23(1)(b) of the charter—nor does it contain questions on language of instruction in elementary or secondary school of the child of a Canadian citizen—subsection 23(2) of the charter.
Statistics Canada conducted testing in the national census tests of both 1993 and 1998 to assess the collection of data related to language of instruction within the census. The assessments showed that respondents had significant difficulties distinguishing between immersion programs, second-language programs, and official-language minority school programs. Therefore, past experience has demonstrated that in order to accurately capture the information on language of instruction, a more comprehensive set of questions is needed.
While the census collects information on mother tongue and citizenship, the only Statistics Canada data source that can directly estimate the number of rights holders is the 2006 survey on the vitality of official language minorities.
Statistics Canada conducted the post-census survey on the vitality of official language minorities in partnership with 10 federal departments and agencies. Among other themes, the survey included more than five different modules to measure various dimensions of education, including the complex enumeration of the population covered under section 23 of the charter. It also provides information on the main reasons behind parents' choices for the language of instruction of their children.
In addition to the question on mother tongue, 11 questions were required in the post-census survey to address paragraphs 23(1)(a) and (b) and subsection 23(2) of the charter. This survey has been proposed as a solution for the enumeration of rights holders on the basis of previous experiments and tests results regarding language of schooling.
According to the post-census survey, 52% of children in Canada outside Quebec with at least one rights holder parent attended French school. Of the children enrolled in elementary school, 56% went to French school, compared to 47% of secondary school students. Lastly, 15% of children of rights holder parents were enrolled in a French immersion program.
The census of population enumerates rights-holders only as defined by paragraph 23(1)(a). The question is how this one piece of information is relevant to the intended goal.
According to the 2006 census, following which the post-census survey of 2006 was conducted, 185,675 children aged 5 to 17 in Canada outside Quebec had at least one French-mother-tongue parent. They represented 89% of the 209,220 children of rights-holders in the same age group who attended an elementary or secondary school, as determined by the vitality survey.
These results are consistent with the analyses produced using only this post-census data. When we consider all children of rights-holders in Canada outside Quebec in this survey, 96% had at least one parent whose mother tongue is French. This means that, although the census provides for the enumeration of rights-holder parents only under paragraph 23(1)(a), these comparative analyses nevertheless confirm that a strong majority of rights-holders outside Quebec are represented.
As regards the estimation of rights-holders in Quebec, census data on mother tongue isn’t useful, since paragraph 23(1)(a) of the charter isn’t in force in Quebec as a result of section 59 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
The census of population is based on a well-established seven-year process, which begins with census planning and ends with the official data release. Four years prior to census day, consultations with data users and partners begin across Canada to gather feedback and recommendations on the information collected in the census.
In fall 2017, Statistics Canada will start the 2021 census content formal public consultation process. This process will include a publicly available Internet questionnaire and discussions during meetings with provincial and territorial representatives, the various levels of government, community organizations and academics across Canada.
Any changes proposed to the content of the census of population will undergo a rigorous assessment, including qualitative and quantitative tests, based on Statistics Canada’s high quality standards. For the 2021 census, tests will be conducted in 2018 and 2019. The testing will include focus groups with specific population groups that may be impacted by the proposed changes. These focus groups will be conducted in several languages and in various regions across the country.
Lastly, qualitative tests will be followed by large-scale pilot tests with different content options and methods administrated to a large sample of Canadians in several regions of the country. The consultation process led by Statistics Canada for the 2021 census will also draw on all government partners, which are important contributors to each census of population cycle.
In addition, within the context of those consultations, Statistics Canada will take positive measures to reach out to official language minority community representatives to discuss the enumeration of rights-holders. However, the decision to add questions on languages to the census is not made only by Statistics Canada. The decision is ultimately made by the government.
Therefore, Statistics Canada will prepare content recommendations for the 2021 census based on feedback from the consultations and test results. The content recommendations for the 2021 census will then be presented to the government for consideration. Pursuant to the Statistics Act, the Governor in Council shall, by order, prescribe the questions to be asked in the 2021 census.
As regards the time frame, the activities leading to the 2021 census include the consultation process, the development of questions, the tests, and, lastly, the census content recommendation to the government. All these activities will take place over the coming years, in other words, between now and the end of 2019.
Thank you. I’ll gladly answer your questions on this topic.