Census number of zero perplexes village resident

A long-time resident of Atwater, Sask., says there is something wrong with census data which suggests the population of the village is now at zero.

A longtime resident of Atwater, Sask., says there is something wrong with census data which suggests the population of the village is now at zero.

"I'm sorry, I'm still here," Sharon Gelowitz told CBC News Wednesday after learning her community's population had fallen to nothing, according to the latest census. "And I live right in the village."

Gelowitz said she heard about the odd finding while listening to the farm broadcast on the local radio station.

La Ronge also disputes census data

The mayor of La Ronge, Sask., north of Prince Albert, is also taking issue with the latest census data. The new information shows La Ronge's population has  dropped by 15 per cent. Thomas Sierzycki says that doesn't make sense.

"We're confident that La Ronge should be at its highest peak in terms of population," Sierzycki told CBC News Wednesday. "In 1996 we were at approximately 2,964 and definitely I think we are over that now, based on the fact that you can't find a place to live."

Sierzycki said town council will meet and begin the process of appealing the census data. He said the data is important because many grants to municipalities are figured on a per capita basis.

"It's crucial that we get that count up," he said. 

"We have to have this straightened out," she said. "We know that's not right."

She easily recalled how some people moved trailers into the community and how members of her own family have added to the population numbers.

"We've had a few people move out and then younger families move in," Gelowitz said. "There's about 31 [of us]."

She said it makes no sense that Atwater would drop to nothing, since the community has its own administration.

"I mean, we have a council, we pay our taxes," Gelowitz said, noting that some people moved into the community because it is more affordable. "People ... don't want to live where the taxes are so high," she said.

"I have done some inquiring," Gelowitz said, adding she used to work in the village office. As best she could figure Gelowitz said the village may not have met a threshold to be counted. "It's sort of like, if you're under 400, its just that you don't exist."

When asked about the community, Gelowitz admitted there was not much to it.

"The only business we have going here is the garage," she said.

A screen shot from new census data suggests Atwater's population is at zero.

Atwater is 171 kilometres northeast of Regina. According to the author David McLennan in his book "Our Towns", Atwater was first settled in the 1880s, opened its first post office in 1909 and was incorporated as a village in 1910.

"The community was never particularly large," McLennan wrote, "having reached a peak population of 106 in 1956."

The community was named after A. B. Atwater, a Grand Trunk Pacific official.