About the National Statistics Council of Canada

I am really excited to get information about Canada’s National Statistical Council.  Up and until recently all I knew about it was these 2 lines found in the deep lurkium about us section of the Statistics Canada Website.

Some time ago I called the StatCan general information line on numerous occasions, and asked officials about it.  All to no avail.  So I eventually submitted an ATIP request that StatCan has been working on for 2+ months. I still do not have the documents.  For some reason, the work of this Council is secret, as is its membership, as is what they are about.  I did however find some great papers that were submitted to it in the StatCan library.  The Library is a wonderful source of information as are their knowledgeable librarians.  Alas, they have come out of the closet as a result of this censuslessness.

If StatCan were more obvious with what it does and communicated its work more obviously, much of this whole censuslessness would have been much easier to counter.  For instance, other government agencies publish the legislation that govern them and/or mandates what they do.  StatCan does not have that information on their site.

In addition, all the justification about the questions they ask on the Census, how those questions came about, their public consultations are also available.  However one has to know the Agency really well to know where to find these, such as the names of the reports, and which sections of that report and so on.


Here is information about the National Statistical Council of Canada:

Council Role — Overview

The National Statistics Council advises the Chief Statistician of Canada on the full range of Statistics Canada’s activities, particularly on overall priorities. The government appoints Council members and its approximately 40 volunteer members represent sophisticated and diverse data users, researchers and those whose experience enables them to advise on priorities for the country’s statistical system.

A longer description, taken from the United Nation’s description of the Canadian statistical system, is included as another attachment (National Statistics Background.doc and here).

For those who may want to discuss statistical advisory bodies like the Statistics Council and, more generally, the relation between statistical agencies and governments, this is the subject of current research by Prof. Cosmo Howard in the Political Science department of the University of Victoria. howardc at uvic dot ca and has agreed to serve as a media contact on that subject.

It should be noted that Professor Howard is not associated with the Council, nor does he speak for it. He is, however, an expert on bodies like the National Statistics Council.

Also, here is a document that speaks about the Council in more detail:

Establishment of the National Statistics Council

In the early 1980s Statistics Canada embarked on a conscious program of strengthening its active consultative mechanisms with key clients and broadly based representatives of the national interest. Among the major new initiatives were the establishment of a series of bilateral senior committees with key federal departments – both clients and sources of data derived from administrative records (this supplemented already existing strong consultative mechanisms with the provinces); and some 10-15 professional advisory committees were set up. The latter involved experts (typically from outside government) in such areas as demography, labour, national accounting, price measurement, service industries, etc.

In 1985, the government established, at the apex of the Agency’s consultative mechanisms, the National Statistics Council. Its formal mandate is very brief: it is to “advise the Chief Statistician in setting priorities and rationalizing Statistics Canada programs”. In line with other aspects of Canadian policy in relation to statistical activities, a careful balance was attempted between policy relevance and professional independence.

Appointment process and membership

Members of the Council are appointed for a period of three years but subject to renewal. There are about 40 members. While there are no rules for representation, the following practice has generally been adhered to:

1. All members serve in their individual capacities – there are no formal representational appointments;
2. Most members are interested and prestigious analysts of some aspect of Canadian life, but few are professional statisticians;
3. Some members from Statistics Canada’s various professional advisory committees serve on the Council. This ensures the availability of a wide range of subject matter knowledge within the Council, as well as linkage with the Agency’s other advisory bodies;
4. A senior member from the Statistical Society of Canada sometimes serves;
5. At least one senior journalist on social or economic affairs is a member;
6. Membership is selected in such a fashion as to ensure appropriate knowledge of the different provinces and territories of Canada ;
7. No federal official is a member of the Council. This enhances the de facto independence of Council to “speak up” should it be necessary;
8. The Chief Statistician is an ex officio member;
9. An Assistant Chief Statistician serves as secretary.

A large proportion of the initial members, were appointed by the Minister from a list of persons recommended by the Chief Statistician. Subsequent appointments have been proposed to the Minister by the Chief Statistician following discussions with the Chairman of the Council.

As a result of these measures, the Council is a very knowledgeable, influential and broadly representative group. Indeed, its influence derives from the individual prestige of its members.

Agenda and Modus Operandi

The Council normally meets twice a year, each time for a day and a half. Regular agenda items are “Statements by Members” in which Council members may raise questions or concerns either for immediate response or subsequent discussion, and an in-depth report by the Chief Statistician on recent developments at Statistics Canada (including new substantive initiatives, forward planning, budgetary expectations). Other agenda items usually deal with major statistical or policy issues – such as: Census content, Environment statistics, Longitudinal data, Issues in social statistics, National accounts, Dissemination practices, Pricing policy, Privacy and record linkage, Contingency planning in the face of expected budget cuts, the Provincial component of the national statistical system, Significant statistical information gaps, etc.

Agenda items are selected from items raised by members and issues identified by Statistics Canada in discussions with the Chairman. From time to time a subgroup of the Council is formed to deal with particular issues (e.g. access to historical censuses) between Council meetings.

The Council generally provides feedback to the Chief Statistician through a discussion among its members. Consensus is usually (though not always) achieved.


There can be no doubt that members of the Council take their function seriously. The Chief Statistician regards their advice as being of very substantial benefit. In addition, through the prestige of its members and through precedent, Council has evolved into an additional and – should the need arise undoubtedly very influential – bulwark in the defence of the objectivity, integrity and long-term soundness of Canada’s national statistical system.


  1. Warren Munroe’s avatar

    thank you tracey.

    Is there a list of the 40 members?

  2. Yabut’s avatar


    Mr. Ian McKinnon
    Victoria, B.C.

    Chairperson Emeritus/Président émérite:
    Dr. Thomas H. B. Symons
    Founding President and Vanier Professor Emeritus
    Trent University, Peterborough


    Dr. Carl G. Amrhein
    Provost and Vice-President
    University of Alberta

    Ms. Elizabeth Beale
    Atlantic Provinces Economic Council

    Professeur Paul Bernard
    Sociologue, Université de Montréal

    Dr. Monica Boyd
    Canada Research Chair in Immigration, Inequality and Public Policy
    University of Toronto

    Mr. David Crane
    Journalist, Toronto

    Prof. Bev Dahlby
    Dep’t of Economics, University of Alberta

    Mr. Don Drummond
    Visiting Scholar, Queen’s University
    [& ex. Deputy Finance Minister & grand economic poobah of TD bank]

    Dr. Ivan P. Fellegi
    Chief Statistician Emeritus

    Mr. Jock A. Finlayson
    Executive Vice-President
    Business Council of British Columbia

    Dr. Vivek Goel
    President and CEO
    Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion

    Prof. John Helliwell
    Dep’t of Economics
    University of British Columbia

    Prof. Derek Hum
    Dep’t of Economics
    University of Manitoba

    Mr. Andrew N. Jackson
    National Director, Social and Economic Policy
    Canadian Labour Congress, Ottawa

    Professor Jane Jenson
    Vice-décant, Faculté des Arts et des Sciences
    Université de Montréal

    Mr. George C.C. Kitching

    Monsieur Robert Lacroix
    Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en analyse des organisations

    Professeure Céline Le Bourdais
    Chaire de recherche du Canada en Statistiques sociales et changement familial
    Université McGill

    Monsieur Rudy Le Cours
    Chroniqueur économie et finances

    Dr. Thomas Lemieux
    Professeur d’économie
    Université de Colombie-Britannique

    Professor Peter Li
    Dep’t of Sociology
    University of Saskatchewan

    Mr. Bruce Little

    Dr. Anthony C. Masi
    McGill University

    Professor Douglas May
    Dep’t of Economics
    Memorial University

    Ms. Jeanette MacAulay
    Director, Center for Life-Long Learning
    University of Prince Edward Island

    Professor Susan A. McDaniel
    Director, Prentice Institute & Prentice Research Chair in Global Population & Economy
    University of Lethbridge

    Dr. Arnold Naimark
    Director, Centre for the Advancement of Medicine
    University of Manitoba

    Dr. Thomas W. Noseworthy
    Professor, Health Policy and Management
    University of Calgary

    Prof. Nancy D. Olewiler
    Dep’t of Economics
    Simon Fraser University

    Prof. Poonam Puri
    Osgoode Hall Law School
    York University

    Prof. John Richards
    Graduate Public Policy Program
    Simon Fraser University

    Mr. William B.P. Robson
    President and Chief Executive Officer
    C.D. Howe Institute, Toronto

    Dr. Janet Smylie
    Centre for Research on Inner City Health
    St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto

    Dr. Douglas R. Stenton
    Director of Heritage
    Government of Nunavut

    Dr. Paul G. Thomas
    Professor of Government
    University of Manitoba

    Dr. Nico Trocmé
    Philip Fisher Chair in Social Work
    McGill University

    Dr. Terence A. Weninger
    Yukon College

    Dr. J. Douglas Willms
    Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy
    University of New Brunswick

    Dr. Thomas Arthur Wilson
    Institute for Policy Analysis
    University of Toronto

  3. Ernie Boyko’s avatar

    Wow, that is quite the list!

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