Many of you are aware that I issued a personal statement about the G8/20 events on the evening of the summit weekend. I am happy to supply that statement to anyone who would like it. Given that it could be interpreted as a partisan political statement, I issued it personally, and not as president of AOTS. And it will not be posted on the AOTS website.
Last month’s monthly report was a sermon I delivered at Northminster United the week before the summit.
However, political news continues to shape our world and demand our comment. But rather than be politically partisan it is sometimes useful just to examine the facts. And that is my purpose in this month’s missive. Like Joe Friday of Dragnet fame I am just going to stick to the facts.
And the fact of the matter is that there has been a lot going on our political world over the last month: G8/20, the Census, a once-again crisis ridden RCMP, troubling and terrible news of the war in Afghanistan.
As with last month’s report I welcome comments and feedback to this article. The discussion is important.
A Shutdown Federal Parliament
Fact number one is that our politicians haven’t been sitting down to talk about all this. Our Federal parliament has met a total 65 days this year and isn’t scheduled to resume until September 20. Instead we have a mentality that suggests Parliament isn’t necessary, that it can be pro-rogued, dispensed with and ignored. Why pay attention to it, when everything can be handled by executive decision or decree and the public informed or misinformed about it surreptitiously? I don’t think I am being harsh.
Take the very weekend of the G8/20 meetings in Toronto as a case in point.
Mis-leadership at the Provincial Level (Ontario)
An illegal law was foisted on the public (a fact and mistake now acknowledged by Ontario Premier McGuinty) causing mass confusion, the cessation of people’s civil rights, arbitrary arrest, extensive personal injury, resistance to the illegal law, followed by property damage and more arrests.
Many are suggesting that the troubles at the G8/20 meetings and protest were manufactured by security services to reassure the Canadian public that the $1.2 billion expenditure for security was well spent.
“There is a real temptation to think that an issue is less spiritual for being more political, to believe that religion is above politics, that the sanctuary is too sacred a place for the grit and grime of political battle. But if you believe that religion is above politics, you are, in actuality, for the status quo – a very political position. And were God, the god of the status quo, then the church would have no prophetic role, serving the state mainly as a kind of ambulance service.” William Sloane Coffin
A $1.2 Billion Dollar Extravaganza
The G8/20 Summit costs are not consistent with those of recent similar events. The 1.2 million price tag is $270 million over the initial projected budget of $930 million. It is almost six times the $190 million spent for the two-day G8 summit in Kananaskis, Alberta, in 2002. And this figure is much, much more than summits in Japan ($381 million in 2008) Scotland ($110 million in 2005) London ($30 million in 2009) and Pittsburgh ($18 million in 2009).
With $500 million of that allocation going to our troubled RCMP where there is a crisis of leadership, it is easy to see why many people are raising the inquiry sign.
The facts are that of the 1100 people arrested “charges” have been already been dropped against 850+. In fact, most weren’t even formally charged. They were simply arbitrarily arrested, detained and jailed, often treated poorly by police services and subsequently released.
Yet it was on the Saturday of that very busy weekend that Prime Minister Harper’s government, which was itself in charge of all aspects of security at the summit, quietly announced massive changes to the Canadian Census – and like his counterpart in Ontario, without consultation or public discussion.
Now this is an old government trick - release something at 4:30 pm on a Friday in the hopes that the media will miss it or ignore it.
Evidence-based Decision Making is replace by Decision-based Evidence making
But this was not just a release (actually an order in council along with a host of other orders) to fundamentally change the Canadian Census rendering it an unusable tool in measuring Canadian demographics. Now it is just not me that is saying that.
The facts of the matter are that Canada’s Chief Statistician, Munir Sheikh has resigned over this issue and Canada’s previous Chief, Ivan Fellegi, who led the agency for 21 years and is now Canada’s Chief Statistician Emeritus has also been very clear that changing the census to a voluntary vehicle will render it useless.
In a report complied independently there were over 160 organizations against the government move including the United Church of Canada and only three individuals of groups in support of it. (See below.)
It is also the case the 2011 long form census included a question on religion. The religion question is asked every 10 years and many organizations look forward to what the census story will tell us about who we are, how we are and what role God plays in our lives.
“To sin by silence when they should protest, makes cowards of human beings.” Abraham Lincoln
On July 22, 2010 our church made the following statement on the Census issue:
“Toronto: The United Church of Canada has added its voice to those protesting the government’s recent decision to eliminate the mandatory long-form census. In a letter this week to Industry Minister Tony Clement, the church urged the government not to implement a voluntary system of collecting detailed census information.
“We see this as a step backward at a time when Canadians need access to reliable census information to help build a more equitable and just society,” says the Rev. Bruce Gregersen, General Council Officer, Programs.
He adds that because the long-form census also contains questions related to religion, it would be a great loss to faith communities and to the country in understanding the multiplicity and richness of the spiritual makeup of Canada.
Gregersen says like other non-profit organizations and charities, the United Church benefits from the wealth of data that is collected and analyzed by Statistics Canada.
He explains that many local United Church congregations, particularly those facing significant demographic change, use census information to help identify community needs within the neighbourhoods they serve.
“Knowing who your neighbours are is an important part of adapting congregational outreach programs and advocacy initiatives that are integral to the church’s mission,” says Gregersen.
“Responding to community needs, both spiritual and social, is how the United Church, its congregations, and its members live out our faith in this world,” says Gregersen. “Losing the statistical tool that helps to identify these needs will seriously handicap our ability to respond as effectively in the future.”
A Compromise Approach
In closing I will quote a recent editorial from the National Post – hardly a left-lib think tank. Here is their response to the Census issue.
We are on record opposing the government's slapdash approach to cancelling the mandatory long-form census. Nothing has occurred in the two weeks since to change that opinion or to alter the impression that this was a hasty decision, and that the dubious explanations now being offered for it were concocted after the fact.
Still, no matter how stringent Statistics Canada's privacy safeguards might be, we understand some Canadians' visceral discomfort with the federal government asking intimate questions about their lives--on pain, however theoretical, of imprisonment. And we also understand the protestations of those outside the nation's capital that this has been blown out of proportion. It's almost certainly true that if it weren't July and political journalists weren't starved for topics, we wouldn't still be talking about this.
But it's making the government look foolish, and it doesn't appear that anything more salacious will come down the pipe to distract the chattering classes' attention before autumn. For this self-interested reason--and also, for the more important and substantial reason that good census data is a valuable resource -- the government should accept a compromise solution offered by the National Statistics Council: Remove certain long-form questions that are deemed particularly invasive and eliminate the threat of imprisonment from the relevant legislation.
Organizations & Individuals SUPPORTING the Government Decision
1. National Citizens Coalition census
2. The Fraser Institute
3. Lorne Gunther and Ezra Levant, National Post
Organizations & Individuals AGAINST the Government Decision
2. Association canadienne d’économique
3. Association de la Recherche et de Intelligence Marketing au ministre Clement (ARIM)
4. Association féminine d’éducation et d’action sociale (AFEAS)
5. Association francophone pour le savoir (Acfas)
6. Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA)
7. Association of Canadian Map Libraries and Archives (ACMLA) / Association des cartothèques et des archives cartographiques du Canada
8. Association of Educational Researchers of Ontario
9. Association of Municipalities of Ontario
10. Association ontarienne des chercheurs et chercheuses en éducation au ministre Clement (AERO)
11. Association of Public Health Epidemiologists in Ontario (APHEO)
12. Atlantic Provinces Economics Council
13. BC Non Profit Housing Association
14. Bloc Québécois
15. C.D. Howe Institute
16. Caledon Institute of Social Policy
17. Calgary and Red Deer City Planners
18. Canada Census Committee
19. Canada Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)
20. Canada West Foundation
21. Canadian Association for Business Economics (CABE)
22. Canadian Association of Journalists
23. The Canadian Association of Public Data Users (CAPDU);
24. Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL)
25. Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT)
26. Canadian Conference of the Arts
27. Canadian Council on Social Development
28. Canadian Economics Association
29. Canadian Evaluation Society
30. Canadian Federation of Demographers
31. Canadian Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities
32. Canadian Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences
33. Canadian Historical Association / Société historique du Canada
34. Canadian Housing and Renewal Association
35. Canadian Institute of Planners
36. Canadian Jewish Congress
37. Canadian Labour Congress
38. Canadian Marketing Association
39. Canadian Medical Association Journal
40. Canadian Network of Metropolis Centers / Réseau canadien des centres Metropolis
41. Canadian Nurses Association
42. Canadian Population Society
43. Canadian Public Health Association
44. Canadian Research Data Network Centre / Réseau des centres de données de recherche
45. Canadian Society for Epidemiology and Biostatistics (CSEB)
46. Canadian Sociology Association
47. Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
48. Canadian Urban Institute
49. Capital Regional District (in B.C.)
50. Mel Cappe, former Clerk of the Privy Council
51. Centre for Study of Living Standards
52. Chief Statistician of Canada, Munir A. Sheikh
54. Cities Centre – University of Toronto Research Institute
55. City of Calgary
56. City of Edmonton
57. City of Ottawa
58. City of Red Deer
59. City of Toronto
60. City of Victoria
61. Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada
62. Commissariat aux langues officielles
63. Community Development Halton (Ontario)
64. Community Foundations of Canada
65. Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria
66. Conference Board of Canada
67. Conference des Lecteurs et Principaux des University de Quebec/
68. Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities (Association of Universities in Quebec)
69. Conférence régionale des élus (CRÉ) de Laval
70. Conseil permanent de la jeunesse (CPJ) en désaccord avec la décision du gouvernement fédéral CNW
71. Conservative MP James Rajotte
72. Département de démographie of Université de Montréal
73. Don Drummond; former chief economist of TD bank, former ADM of Finance
74. Environics Analytics
75. Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
76. Fédération canadienne de démographie
77. Federation des chambres de commerce du Quebec
78. Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec
79. Federation of Canadian Municipalities / Fédération canadienne des municipalités
80. Frank Graves, EKOS Research (polling)
81. French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario
82. Glendon School of International and Public Policy
83. Stephen Gordon, economist Université Laval
84. Greater Halifax Partnership
85. Greater Victoria Community Indicators Network
86. Green Party of Canada
87. Alex Himelfarb, former Clerk of Privy Council
88. Imagine Canada
89. Information and Communications Technology Council
90. Institut de statistiques Quebec
91. Institute for Research on Public Policy
92. Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
93. Ivan Fellegi, Former Chief Statistician, Statistics Canada
94. JJ McCullough
95. Kevin Milligan, economist at University of British Columbia
96. Liberal Party of Canada
97. Lumina Research Valuation and Advisory Services
98. Marketing Research and Intelligence Association (MRIA)
99. Roger Martin, Rotman School of Management
100. Martin Prosperity Institute
101. Medical Health Officers Council of Saskatchewan
102. Metcalf Foundation
103. Metropolis British Columbia
104. Mike Moffatt
105. Nanos Research (polling)
106. National Specialty Society for Community Medicine
107. National Statistical Council ( acts in a consultative capacity for StatsCan)
108. New Democratic Party of Canada
109. Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association
110. Official Language Commissioner
111. Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
112. Ontario deputy finance minister Peter Wallace
113. Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (OPNHA)
114. Ontario-Municipal Social Services Association (OMSSA)
115. Opportunities Waterloo Region
116. Peel Poverty Action Group (PPAG)
117. Planning Council of Cambridge and North Dumfries (Cambridge,Ont.)
118. Poverty Free Halton
119. Prentice Institute at University of Lethbridge
120. Province of Manitoba
121. Province of Ontario
122. Province of Ontario – Office of Francophone Affairs
123. Province of PEI
124. Province of Prince Edward Island
125. Province of Quebec
126. Quebec Community Groups Network
127. Quebec Inter-University Centre for Social Statistics
128. Regional Municipality of Halton
129. Regional Municipality of Peel
130. Regional Planning Commissioners of Ontario,
131. Richard Florida, University of Toronto
132. Rural Ontario Institute (ROI)
133. Saskatchewan Students’ Union (USSU)
134. Social Planning Council of Kitchener-Waterloo
135. Social Planning Council of Sudbury
136. Social Planning Network of Ontario
137. Social Planning Toronto
138. Social Policy in Ontario
139. Société franco-manitobaine
140. SPARC BC (Social Planning and ResearchCouncil of BC)
141. Statistical Institute of Quebec
142. Statistical Society of Canada
143. Statistics Canada Advisory Committee
144. Statistics Canada Advisory Committee on Demographic Statistics and
145. Studies / Comité consultatif sur les études et les statistiques démographiques de Statistique Canada
146. Tasha Kheirridin
147. Toronto Association for Business Economics
148. Toronto Board of Trade
149. Toronto Immigrant Employment Data Initiative (TIEDI)
150. Toronto Public Health
151. Town of Milton
152. Town of Smith Falls
153. United Steelworkers
154. United Way of Canada
155. United Way of Kitchener-Waterloo and Area
156. United Way Toronto
157. Université de Toronto
158. Urban Futures
159. Valerie Preston, director of CERIS research centre on immigration and settlement issues York University
160. Volunteer Toronto
The religion question is asked every ten years and was scheduled to be asked on the long form census in 2011. There are only a few days