Francophone census concerns dismissed by MP
'Silent majority' supports elimination of long form: Maxime Bernier
Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, the government's spokesman in Quebec on the elimination of the long-form census, says he's not concerned about the potential impact of the survey changes on francophones outside the province.
Bernier said if francophones want to be counted, they'll make the effort to fill out a new voluntary national survey.
The form will go to one-third of households in Canada, up from one-fifth in the last census in 2006.
"If the minorities outside of Quebec want to answer the long-form portion of the census, it will be their choice," Bernier told The Canadian Press.
"If they think it's important for them, they will answer it. Everyone will do what they want to do."
The main organization representing francophone minorities, the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities, filed a complaint with Canada's official languages commissioner about the census change.
The federation has said that the compulsory long form was the only one that included specific questions on the use of official languages. The short census form, which remains mandatory, asks which language the respondent first learned at home and what their second language is if they don't speak it any longer — but not specifically whether they speak an official language.
The lack of detailed questions about language means that immigrant Canadians who speak French as their second language, for example, might be overlooked, the federation has argued. In Ontario, there are approximately 45,000 people who fall into that category.
"The questions of the long census barely allow us to see that complexity," said Sylviane Lanthier, vice-president of the federation.
"If we take out those questions, we're going to have an incomplete portrait."
But Bernier said he's not concerned about the distinction.
"We have the most important question in the short census, in the one that everyone will answer, the question about the mother language, what language are you using at home," he said.
Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser announced last week he had launched an investigation into the matter. Bilingual federal services are delivered based on information collected through the long census form, and the government is obliged by law to consult on any decisions that might affect official language minority communities.
Bernier has said the decision to go from a mandatory long census to a voluntary survey was a response to the "silent majority" of Canadians who don't like the intrusive, coercive nature of the process.
The Quebec government, the Canadian Medical Association, the Toronto Board of Trade, the Canada West Foundation, the Canadian Labour Congress and the Canadian Jewish Congress are among the dozens of diverse groups who have opposed the change.
"We're not there to please all special-interest groups; we're there for the silent majority of Canadians," Bernier said. "I'm sure that the big majority of Canadians understand that and will agree with our decisions."
Bernier also said he had received 1,000 emails around the time of the last census in 2006 against the long form. On his personal blog on Monday, he said his staff had deleted the emails.