Evidence of meeting #4 for Official Languages in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was question.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Anil Arora  Chief Statistician of Canada, Statistics Canada
Stéphane Dufour  Assistant Chief Statistician, Census, Regional Services and Operations Sector, Statistics Canada

March 12th, 2020 / 4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

I'm asking you a very simple question.

You have a long-form questionnaire that 25% of the population fills out, and a short-form questionnaire that the other 75% of the population fills out. What will provide the more accurate picture: a sampling of 25% of the population, or the results of 100% of the population?

4:05 p.m.

Chief Statistician of Canada, Statistics Canada

Anil Arora

We conduct sample surveys that generate high-quality data, which reflects the population as a whole and the current situation. This isn't theoretical, because we do this every month.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Your statement is correct if it applies to a homogeneous territory. However, territories where minorities live aren't homogeneous. That's the issue. Unless there's proof to the contrary, I'm convinced that, if we ask the question on right holders in 100% of the questionnaires, we'll obtain a better picture of the situation than if we rely on the 25% of the population to whom we send the long-form questionnaire.

Today, the Minister of Innovation told my colleague that he wanted to figure out the best way to collect quality information to enumerate rights holders. He probably meant “identify,” but that's the term that appears in the House of Commons debates.

I understand that the minister responsible for Statistics Canada wants to figure out “the best way.” In my opinion, the best way is to include the questions in 100% of the questionnaires. This means that we could adjourn today and say that the 2021 census will ask 100% of the population the questions on rights holders.

What do you think?

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

You have only five seconds left, Mr. Arora. We'll have a chance to come back to this matter in another round.

Let's avoid overly long preliminaries, please. Let's try to stick to short questions and answers. Thank you.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Let him respond, Mr. Chair.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

We'll go to Mr. Samson for five minutes.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I thank the witnesses for being here.

We have all received the questionnaire and we have all the questions in front of us. Let's go to page 7, where we see that five questions have been added.

Mr. Arora, I just want to thank you for a couple of things. You said that you would keep this at your heart and that you're going to meet the needs of the community. Let's keep that in mind as we go.

Let's do the questionnaire. It's simple. Let's go to number 12 on page 7. You all have that in English in front of you. I believe, Mr. Arora, that you have it as well.

Let's start with Mr. Godin. Mr. Godin, answer question 12. Is your house in Quebec, yes or no?

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Yes.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Yes. Gone. You're going on to question 16. Don't even do the question I asked you.

The next question is question 13: Did you go to a French school or immersion?

Mr. Chong, did you go to a French school or immersion, yes or no?

4:10 p.m.

Michael Chong

No.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

No. Gone.

There goes 70%, 80%, 95% of Canadians who don't have to answer all of those questions. There are two arguments. There's the argument that we bring forward that the test is too long and they won't take it seriously—not true. On top of that, when you do it online you're not even going to see it. In five years, 99% of the people will be doing it online. You won't even see questions 14, 15, 16. They're gone.

The argument that the test is too long is not at all acceptable.

Second of all, when we see the [Inaudible-Editor] is 25%, I can tell you that when you're focusing on one zone, looking at the number of kids, as my colleague said, the best way to do it is to do each and every one of them. I know it. I lived it for 13 years as a superintendent of the French schools in Nova Scotia. I was the president across Canada of the French school superintendents.... I can tell you that we're crying every day. This is the most important thing that we can deliver as a government to make sure that we're reaching all Canadians to get the answers we need. Is it too long? We can get rid of that. Those questions are gone.

Let me go to the next one. Let's go to page 9 of that questionnaire. As upset as I was there, I'm now stupefied. Now I'm gone. It says, “Reasons why we asked the question”. We're saying reasons why. Just follow the yellow.... For questions two and seven that you've been asking for years and years, you're saying the reason that you're doing this, asking those questions, because we want to make sure that the municipalities that are planning a variety of services such as schools.... Who knew? The majority of English people in Canada have always been able to receive the information of how many people will go to school and how many schools have to be built. Can you believe it? It's hard to believe that in this great country the French people and the English people in Quebec cannot have that. We have the question. It says, “from 12 to 17”. This is for the charter of rights and education. We're not even meeting the rights and now we're not meeting the education information. The only place it can be is in the short one.

I also want to bring you to question 10. That question 10 that's been there for years is a great question, but it's only ever asked in one category out of three. It was never asked in the other two categories, and guess what? There are more and more every day of category two and three than there is of one. It's the parents who took the education. It's the kids taking education. We're too far from getting the information we require. You could say we can put it in the long one or the short one, 25%. I already put that one aside. You shouldn't do that, based on that. But even if you did, on the long survey, do you know what happened? Did the long survey ever become optional in this country?

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

One minute.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

A quick yes or no.

Yes, it did. Did it not? It's a simple question. Was the long survey ever optional?

4:15 p.m.

Chief Statistician of Canada, Statistics Canada

Anil Arora

It was obviously made optional—

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Was that under the Harper government, yes or no?

4:15 p.m.

Chief Statistician of Canada, Statistics Canada

Anil Arora

It was under that—

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Thank you.

If another government came in tomorrow morning, you'd put it in the long one, and they made it optional.

What was the result when you made it optional? Was there an increase or a decrease in people filling out that survey?

4:15 p.m.

Chief Statistician of Canada, Statistics Canada

Anil Arora

Obviously, there was a decrease—

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Increase or decrease. You know your statistics. You know the facts.

4:15 p.m.

Chief Statistician of Canada, Statistics Canada

Anil Arora

Also, that language question was removed at the point from the long to the short one because it was no longer mandatory.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

This is what my community is asking me. Did you ever do a survey to see the prejudice that not having those questions on the survey has resulted in for the Acadians and francophones and English people in Quebec? Have you ever done a survey on that? Have you ever done a survey on the provinces that do want to help French outside of Quebec, and the English? They know exactly and they cannot fulfill that because you're not giving them the information.

I'm coming back to what you said earlier, that your heart is in this and that you want to meet the needs.

When you consulted that committee, did they tell you they wanted that in the short survey? Yes or no?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Mr. Samson, we'll come back to that in a future round. I'm sorry, but your time is up.

We'll let Mr. d'Entremont continue on the subject.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Chris d'Entremont Conservative West Nova, NS

This is my first experience as a committee member. I thought the Standing Committee on Official Languages would be interesting, but probably a bit dull. But it's not dull at all! It's exciting to see Mr. Samson and Mr. Arseneault speak up.

I'd like to know where we are in the process. You say that in theory the tests have been done and we're waiting for cabinet to make a decision. What's the timeline at the moment?

4:15 p.m.

Chief Statistician of Canada, Statistics Canada

Anil Arora

First of all, I'm really pleased to see that the questions, the way they are written, will reduce the burden on the people answering them while still providing high-quality data. So I thank Mr. Samson.

Second, as I said, there's a process we have to follow. We have already done our qualitative and quantitative reviews. So we've already done the data collection and we're in the process of analyzing the results. That way, under the act, we will be able to make recommendations to cabinet so that they can make a decision. We are currently in the process of making recommendations based on statistical science.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Chris d'Entremont Conservative West Nova, NS

In fact, I think you've already finished analyzing the data you've collected. I think your data is ready, I think you already have an idea of the results, and I think you're almost ready to communicate your recommendations to cabinet. Today, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry said he was ready to send them to cabinet.

So you can answer us: will these questions be in the 2021 census?