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Article written by: Kit Chokly & Tracey P. Lauriault

The phrase “flatten the curve” has recently come into the vernacular to encourage slowing the spread of COVID-19. The concept comes from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) report (p.18), where the curve renders the daily number of COVID-19 infections on the Y-axis and the day these are counted on X-axis of a line chart. A flatter curve visually depicts when the illness is under control, while a higher peak curve emerges when the health case system becomes overwhelmed and instances of the virus are high. Together we work to “flatten the curve” by following the recommendations of our Chief Medical Officers of Health.

This is not the only visual metaphor used to refer to COVID-19, however; the “second wave” has also been used to describe the spread of COVID-19. This term refers to another peak in the line chart that may appear as restrictions are lifted and cases spike as a result. By visualizing health data, we can see the spread of COVID-19 and set public health goals through the peaks and valleys of a line chart.

In addition to demonstrating a growing public awareness of the pandemic, the popularity of these phrases shows the importance of data visualization in understanding—and thus managing and communicating—the virus. Following this prevalence, many official sources now share live data to track and communicate COVID-19 data. John Hopkins University, for example, rendered COVID-19 datasets into the first global and US dashboards. Health Canada provides an interactive map of Canada featuring case counts and rates. Some city public health departments such as Ottawa Public Health have also launched dashboards to communicate the current status of local COVID-19 cases.

These dashboards get complex information across quickly and include many types of indicators. For instance, as seen below, the City of Ottawa dashboard includes key indicators such as the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalization levels, and other case data. These are depicted in a cumulative curve of confirmed cases, their rate across time, bar charts of cases reported by age, and a pie chart that shows cases by gender. Visualizing these data in a dashboard makes it easy to see patterns and trends.

A screenshot of the city of Ottawa’s COVID-19 dashboard, which effectively condenses complex data on COVID-19 cases and outcomes into bite-sized visualizations (Ottawa Public Health, 2020).

A screenshot of the city of Ottawa’s COVID-19 dashboard, which effectively condenses complex data on COVID-19 cases and outcomes into bite-sized visualizations (Ottawa Public Health, 2020).

While the city and all the other public health agencies across Canada should be lauded for their dashboards, these, like all other demographic reporting systems, suffer from a lack of a nuanced and intersectional approach to collecting and reporting data. For example, this dashboard alongside those just mentioned do not report how COVID-19 affects people of low socio-economic status. They do not include how living in a densely populated area may also influence health outcomes. There is also little to no data on how COVID-19 may disproportionately affect racialized groups such as Indigenous, Black, and other people of colour. And most importantly, they do not demonstrate how all of these variables intersect. As Jamie Bartlett and Nathaniel Tkacz (2017) explain,

“Like all visualisations of data, dashboards necessarily distort the information that they are attempting to present neutrally by defining how a variable is to be understood and by excluding any data which isn’t compatible with this definition” (p. 15).

As Maggie Walter and Chris Andersen (2013) discuss in their book Indigenous Statistics, data dashboards—like all data and technological systems—are more than neutral numerics as they play,

“a powerful role in constituting reality through their underpinning methodologies by virtue of the social, cultural, and racial terrain in which they are conceived, collected, analyzed, and interpreted” (p. 9).

They also emphasize that there is a distinction to be made between groups of people being “statistical creations based on aggregated individual-level data, rather than ‘real world’ concrete groups” (Walter & Andersen, 2013, p.9).

It is not uncommon that dashboards miss these subtleties. We are only just coming to terms with the idea that data are not neutral objects, and that data dashboards are cultural artifacts. As such, they reflect the limitations of the normative values of the institutions that create them, of our health data collection systems, and of this very form of communication.

Overcoming these limitations means that we can improve the information environment of decision makers to target limited resources when and where they are needed most, while not reinforcing nor perpetuating inequality. Making things visible makes them actionable. Doing so also prevents the deep systemic societal problems that have led to such poor health outcomes for some during the pandemic. Below, we consider some ideas on how to re-think data and data dashboards by framing their creation with an intersectional design approach.

What is intersectionality?

Intersectionality is a term conceptualized by Black feminist legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. The concept has earlier roots in Black feminism and builds on the work and struggles of Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Louise Thompson Patterson, and Audre Lorde (to name only a few). Intersectionality refers to the notion that different forms of oppression interact with and multiply each other, demonstrating their inseparability. Health scientists Chandra Ford and Collins Airhihenbuwa (2010) write:

“Intersectionality posits that social categories (e.g., race, gender) and the forms of social stratification that maintain them (e.g., racism, sexism) are interlocking, not discrete” (p. 1396).

These scholars and social justice leaders emphasize that rather than adding these co-occurring categories together in public health research, it is essential that the interactions between categories are also considered (Ford & Airhihenbuwa, 2010). As an example of intersectional public health, Ford and Airhihenbuwa (2010) describe the importance of considering race alongside gender and sexuality when approaching HIV risk behaviours because of the way “racism operates via gendered and sexualized proscriptions” (p. 1394).

How does intersectionality relate to the Tracing COVID-19 Data project?

Epidemiologist Greta Bauer (2014) describes how datasets about public health and marginalized populations tend to only examine a singular axis of oppression, even though intersectional data reporting can help reduce health inequalities.

One of the aims of the Tracing COVID-19 Data project is to identify these asymmetries in COVID-19 data reports, as well as rapidly and effectively mobilizing this knowledge and communicating our findings with decision makers. As demonstrated by the growing use of dashboards in reporting COVID-19 data, data visualization can be a useful communication tool. We thus ask:

How can we communicate COVID-19 data in a way that improves health outcomes for all? How can we use data visualization techniques to communicate intersectional issues effectively?

We aim to provide answers to questions such as these for those responsible for official COVID-19 reporting. Our hope is that our recommendations will lead to an intersectional approach to communicating COVID-19 impacts and health outcomes.

How have people tried to visualize intersectionality already?

Visual metaphors are useful to describe intersectionality. Crenshaw (1989) herself uses the metaphor of the traffic intersection, writing:

“Discrimination, like traffic through an intersection, may flow in one direction, and it may flow in another. If an accident happens in an intersection, it can be caused by cars traveling from any number of directions and, sometimes, from all of them. Similarly, if a Black woman is harmed because she is in the intersection, her injury could result from sex discrimination or race discrimination (p. 149).”

In another metaphor, provided by Black feminist scholar Patricia Hill Collins (1990) is the “matrix of domination”. Here, she uses a multi-level matrix to describe how oppression—and privilege—must be understood through an interlocking structural model (Hill Collins, 1990).

More recently, communications scholars Jenna Abetz and Julia Moore (2019) describe how visual metaphors for intersectionality often focus on centralizing difference and are often conceptualized as linear. They suggest the use of fractals—repeating and irregular geometric patterns—as a metaphor for the scalability and recursion of oppression (Abetz & Moore, 2019).

An example of a von Koch curve fractal from Abetz and Moore’s (2019) article, which they use as a metaphor to explore the scalability and recursion of oppression.

An example of a von Koch curve fractal from Abetz and Moore’s (2019) article, which they use as a metaphor to explore the scalability and recursion of oppression.

The issue with metaphors

While these visual metaphors are extremely useful to conceptualize intersectionality, Bauer (2014) points to the issue with their use in quantitative research. She writes:

“Interestingly, quantitative applications of intersectionality can be obfuscated by the predominance of mathematical-like language in intersectionality theory, though its use there is conceptual rather than strictly mathematical” (Bauer, 2014, p. 12).

While illustrations of traffic intersections, graphic matrices, and fractal patterns can be used to explain intersectionality, they do not easily map onto the visualization of quantitative data in a data dashboard and can actually obscure the meanings of these data. They may, however, be useful instruments to help model which data should be collected and rendered visually.

Feminist Data Visualization

To address this issue, data scientists Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein (2016) suggest applying feminist theory to data visualization. Rather than resign ourselves to the limitations of current dashboards, feminist data visualzation offers the possibility of “challeng[ing] the validity of a variety of binaristic and hierarchical configurations” (D’Ignazio & Klein, 2016, p. 1). This includes non-intersectional data analysis.

D’Ignazio and Klein (2016) thus suggest that data visualization begins with the way data are collected and organized—even before they are visualized.

This means starting with the evidence collected and finding the best way to get the stories they tell across. This could mean enlisting the help of metaphors; however, it is important to find the stories from the data first and then use metaphor to communicate them as effectively as possible.

To find and interpret these data stories, D’Ignazio and Klein (2016) offer six starting principles:

  1. Rethink binaries
  2. Embrace pluralism
  3. Examine Power and Aspire to Empowerment
  4. Consider Context
  5. Legitimize Embodiment and Affect
  6. Make Labor Visible

Finding and using intersectional data

Despite the lack of intersectional data in current COVID-19 dashboards, a number of organizations are already making efforts to find and use intersectional data. The Data Standards for the Identification and Monitoring of Systemic Racism, produced by the Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate, not only takes an intersectional approach to the collection of data and data characteristics, but uses it to identify and monitor systemic racism. These ideals align with the Research, Evaluation, Data Collection, and Ethics (REDE) Protocol for Black Populations in Canada Protocol (or the REDE4BlackLives Protocol for short), which also suggests that these data should be part of ongoing conversations in pre-existing communities.

This is not unlike the work of:

The cover of the First Nations Data Governance Strategy, produced by the FNIGC as a response to direction received from First Nations leadership.

The cover of the First Nations Data Governance Strategy, produced by the FNIGC as a response to direction received from First Nations leadership.

A graphic from the Global Indigenous Data Alliance (2019) encouraging the use of CARE principles to encourage Indigenous data sovereignty alongside Wilkinson et al’s (2016) FAIR open data principles.

A graphic from the Global Indigenous Data Alliance (2019) encouraging the use of CARE principles to encourage Indigenous data sovereignty alongside Wilkinson et al’s (2016) FAIR open data principles.

The Tracing COVID-19 Data project is working to bring together some of these datasets as they pertain to COVID-19. For example, with the help of Aidan Battley, we are looking into social models of disability and data such as the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) by the World Health Organization (WHO). These models and data fall well into the intentions of this project, which is to encourage technological citizenship and a rights based approach to data during a crisis. Alongside collecting these data, visualization is key to reach our goals.

But how do we align these principles, protocols, standards, and practices? How might one model these in a population health data system? And how should these data be rendered visually? These are challenges worth pursuing, as lives are quite literally on the line.

What efforts might be useful to adapt for the Tracing COVID-19 Data project?

Following these principles, protocols, standards and practices, the Tracing COVID-19 Data project is critically thinking about data and data systems. We are currently collecting data from all over the country, including data on the way location, age, ability, race, Indigeneity, gender, and income may intersect with COVID-19 outcomes. From there, we aim to develop a series of rapid and archivable visualizations and blog posts to communicate our findings in ways best suited to both researchers and the communities they describe, as well as provide recommendations to decision makers on how to improve their data dashboards and other data visualizations techniques.

We are also mindful of becoming flexible and adaptable to new solutions (and issues) as they arise. The work of visualizing the intersectional impacts of COVID-19 is important, but loses its value if it becomes too brittle to be used effectively. We have already heard words of caution from racialized communities who rightfully fear becoming further stigmatized by being described through COVID-19 data. Listening to and working with the communities who are being multiply impacted by COVID-19 is critical to the success of this project. For this work to truly be intersectional, it is essential that we are all on board to listen and work together.

Slides from a presentation given on this topic (Sept 22, 2020)

References, Links, & Resources

Abetz, J., & Moore, J. (2018). Visualizing intersectionality through a fractal metaphor. In J. Dunn & J. Manning (Eds.), Transgressing Feminist Theory And Discourse (1st ed., pp. 31–43). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351209793-3

Bartlett, J., & Tkacz, N. (2017). Governance by Dashboard. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/80851285.pdf

Bauer, G. R. (2014). Incorporating intersectionality theory into population health research methodology: Challenges and the potential to advance health equity. Social Science & Medicine, 110, 10–17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.03.022

Centre for Disease Control. (2007). Interim Pre-pandemic Planning Guidance: Community Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Mitigation in the United States. 97. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/pdf/community_mitigation-sm.pdf

Columbia Law School. (2017, June 8). Kimberlé Crenshaw on Intersectionality, More than Two Decades Later. https://www.law.columbia.edu/news/archive/kimberle-crenshaw-intersectionality-more-two-decades-later

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1989(1), 31. https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1052&context=uclf

D’Ignazio, C., & Klein, L. F. (2016). Feminist Data Visualization. 5. http://www.kanarinka.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/IEEE_Feminist_Data_Visualization.pdf

First Nations Information Governance Centre. (2020). The First Nations Information Governance Centre. https://fnigc.ca/index.php

Ford, C. L., & Airhihenbuwa, C. O. (2010). The public health critical race methodology: Praxis for antiracism research. Social Science & Medicine, 71(8), 1390–1398. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.07.030

Fundamentals of OCAP®. (2020). The First Nations Information Governance Centre. https://fnigc.ca/training/fundamentals-ocap.html

Gilyard, K. (2017). Louise Thompson Patterson: A Life of Struggle for Justice. Duke University Press. https://www.dukeupress.edu/louise-thompson-patterson

Government of Canada. (2020, July 8). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html

Government of Ontario. (2016, June 28). Anti-Racism Directorate. https://www.ontario.ca/page/anti-racism-directorate

Government of Ontario. (2019, August 27). Data Standards for the Identification and Monitoring of Systemic Racism. https://www.ontario.ca/document/data-standards-identification-and-monitoring-systemic-racism

Government of Ontario. (2020, July 8). COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Ontario. https://covid-19.ontario.ca/

Greenwood, F., Howarth, C., Poole, D. E., Raymond, N. A., & Scarnecchia, D. P. (2017). The Signal Code: A human rights approach to information during crisis. Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. https://hhi.harvard.edu/publications/signal-code-human-rights-approach-information-during-crisis#:~:text=The%20Signal%20Code%20is%20the,have%20to%20information%20during%20disasters.

Hill Collins, P. (1990). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Unwin Hyman. http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/252.html

John Hopkins University. (2020, July 8). COVID-19 Map—Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

Lauriault, T. (2020, June 1). Tracing COVID-19 Data: Data and Technological Citizenship during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Datalibre. Retrieved 8 July 2020, from https://www.datalibre.ca/2020/06/01/tracing-covid-19-data-data-and-technological-citizenship-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

Lorde, A. (1981). The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism. BlackPast. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/speeches-african-american-history/1981-audre-lorde-uses-anger-women-responding-racism/

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. (n.d.). Ida B. Wells. Retrieved 8 July 2020, from https://freedomcenter.org/content/ida-b-wells

Ottawa Public Health. (2020, July 8). Daily COVID-19 Dashboard. https://www.ottawapublichealth.ca/en/reports-research-and-statistics/daily-covid19-dashboard.aspx

Podell, L. (n.d.). The Sojourner Truth Project. The Sojourner Truth Project. Retrieved 8 July 2020, from https://www.thesojournertruthproject.com

Research Data Alliance International Indigenous Data Sovereignty Interest Group. (2019). CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance. The Global Indigenous Data Alliance. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5d3799de845604000199cd24/t/5da9f4479ecab221ce848fb2/1571419335217/CARE+Principles_One+Pagers+FINAL_Oct_17_2019.pdf

The First Nations Information Governance Centre. (2020). A First Nations Data Governance Strategy. https://fnigc.inlibro.net/cgi-bin/koha/opac-retrieve-file.pl?id=9c677f3dcf8adbf18fcda96c6244c459

The Protocol: REDE4BlackLives. (n.d.). REDE4BlackLives. Retrieved 8 July 2020, from https://rede4blacklives.com/the-protocol/

Walter, M. (2013). Indigenous statistics: A quantitative research methodology. Left Coast Press. https://www.routledge.com/Indigenous-Statistics-A-Quantitative-Research-Methodology/Walter-Andersen/p/book/9781611322934

Wilkinson, M. D., Dumontier, M., Aalbersberg, Ij. J., Appleton, G., Axton, M., Baak, A., Blomberg, N., Boiten, J.-W., da Silva Santos, L. B., Bourne, P. E., Bouwman, J., Brookes, A. J., Clark, T., Crosas, M., Dillo, I., Dumon, O., Edmunds, S., Evelo, C. T., Finkers, R., … Mons, B. (2016). The FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship. Scientific Data, 3(1), 160018. https://doi.org/10.1038/sdata.2016.18

World Health Organization. (2018, March 2). International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). https://www.who.int/classifications/icf/en/

World Health Organization. (2020). https://www.who.int

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Its official!

StatCan expects a 50% response rate from the Voluntary National Household Survey and would have expected a 94% response rate from a mandatory Long-Form Census.

Read: StatCan National Household Survey: data quality

The Canadian Government cuts the Long-Form Census,creates a survey that costs  $ 35 million for less reliable data and then cuts the agency back again by $7 million!

Canadian Press: Troubled StatsCan facing $7M in cuts

Hamilton Spectator:  StatsCan to cut more 5 more surveys

The Article includes the following surveys – I think I have the correct links but I am unsure!:

  1. The Industrial Pollutant Release Survey (I cannot find a link)
  2. The article says The Quarterly Energy Use  (Households and the Environment: Energy Use or Quarterly Industrial Consumption of Energy Survey which one?) and the  Greenhouse Gas Emissions Survey (Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Private Vehicles in Canada, 1990 to 2007 or Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report which one?) both pilot projects;
  3. The National Population Health Survey;
  4. The Survey of the Suppliers of Business Financing; and
  5. The Survey on Financing of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises.


I will link the content later on!  Til then, you can enjoy digging for the info!  It has been a great couple of weeks where we have heard many discussions on Right To Know, Data Access and Open Data, and that is where I have been busy and thus a bit of a backlog on these round-ups.


  • Angus Reid Public Opinion Poll: Majority of Canadians Support Move to Reinstate Long Form Census http://www.visioncritical.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/2010.10.06_Census_CAN.pdf
  • The Hamilton Spectator: Census Lie Exposed http://www.thespec.com/opinion/editorial/article/262888–census-lie-exposed
  • CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/09/30/liberals-census-motion.html?ref=rss
  • CBC: Francophone challenge to census rejected http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/10/06/census-francophone-courts.html?ref=rss
  • Global News: Court rejects francophone census challenge http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/10/06/census-francophone-courts.html?ref=rss
  • Macleans: Census appeal hits dead end in Federal Court http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/10/06/census-suit-meets-dead-end-in-federal-court/
  • Toronto Sun: Group’s request to overturn census decision denied http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2010/10/06/15603441.html
  • Winnipeg Free Press: Canadians give PM an earful on decision http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/canadians-give-pm-an-earful-on-decision-104555779.html
  • Telegraph Journal: Federal court nixes challenge to Ottawa’s census changes http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/front/article/1252362
  • The Vancouver Sun: Bernier praised long-form census in 2006 letter http://www.vancouversun.com/news/canada/Bernier+praised+long+form+census+2006+letter/3637990/story.html
  • Ottawa Citizen: Census war still on http://www.ottawacitizen.com/technology/Census+still/3641182/story.html
  • Global Toronto: Bernier blunders http://www.globaltoronto.com/Bernier+blunders/3638971/story.html
  • Inside Halton: Halton MP’s town hall meeting draws out census debate http://www.insidehalton.com/news/article/883482–great-to-see-bonnie-of-bonnie-clyde
  • The Toronto Sun: Tories Reject Census Defeat http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2010/09/29/15523871.html
  • vancouver Sun: Minister praised long-form census in letter http://www.vancouversun.com/Minister+praised+long+form+census+letter/3642006/story.html
  • Macleans: Make your own Commons http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/09/28/make-your-own-commons/
  • The Globe and Mail: Opposition, provinces fail to stir Tories from census positionhttp://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/industry-minister-shoots-down-ontario-and-quebecs-last-ditch-census-complaint/article1731919/?cmpid=rss1
  • National Post: Tories ignore opposition motion to bring back long-form census http://www.nationalpost.com/Tories+ignore+opposition+motion+bring+back+long+form+census/3599603/story.html
  • International Statistical Institute: ISI President Jef Teugels sent a letter to the Canadian
  • Minister of Industry, and the Minister of Industry replied http://isi-web.org/news/long-form-in-the-canadian-census
  • The Toronto Star: Long and Short of the Census Debate: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/869260–long-and-short-of-the-census-debate
  • The North Bay Nugget: Agencies defend censushttp://nugget.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2781578
  • The whig Standard: Government’s census policy against the law: group http://thewhig.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?
  • Vernon Morning Star: Trustees fight for census http://www.bclocalnews.com/okanagan_similkameen/vernonmorningstar/news/103757984.html
  • The Montreal Gazette: Bernier backs off on census claims http://www.montrealgazette.com/Bernier+backs+census+claims/3628705/story.html
  • the Globe and Mail: Language groups hit snag in census battle http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/language-groups-hit-snag-in-census-battle/article1743946/
  • Vancouver Sun: Census saga continues with Liberal MP’s bill http://www.vancouversun.com/news/canada/Census+saga+continues+with+Liberal+bill/3603580/story.html
  • the CBC news: Industry Canada queried Bernier census claims http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/10/04/census-bernier-complaints-documents.html?ref=rss
  • The Vancouver Sun: Judge throws out census-decision challenge http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Judge+throws+census+decision+challenge/3632646/story.html
  • The Mark: http://www.iassistdata.org/blog/iassist-letter-canadian-government-loss-2011-census-long-form  http://www.themarknews.com/articles/2671
  • The Concordian: Voluntary census will cut federal costs http://www.theconcordian.com/opinions/voluntary-census-will-cut-federal-costs-1.1662988
  • CBC News: Francophone challenge to census rejected http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/10/06/census-francophone-courts.html
  • The Mark News: The long-form census controversy holds important lessons for both federal public servants and their political masters. http://www.themarknews.com/articles/2655
  • The Mark: Former industry minister Maxime Bernier said earlier this year that he received 1,000 complaints a day about the long-form census. http://www.themarknews.com/articles/2677-conservatives-exaggerated-census-complaints-data-suggests
  • The Chronicle Herald: http://thechronicleherald.ca/Editorials/1204970.htmlhttp://thechronicleherald.ca/Editorials/1204970.html
  • CBC Inside Politics: Orders of the Day – Let’s All Take A Trip Down Census Crisis Memory Lane! http://www.cbc.ca/politics/insidepolitics/2010/09/orders-of-the-day—lets-all-take-a-trip-down-census-crisis-memory-lane.html
  • Le Devoir:Recensement – Bernier veut aller encore plus loin http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/canada/297718/recensement-bernier-veut-aller-encore-plus-loin?utm_source=infolettre-2010-10-08&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=infolettre-quotidienne
  • Global News: Harper government faces court challenge on census http://www.globalnews.ca/entertainment/Harper+government+faces+court+challenge+census/3587334/story.html
  • Le Devoir: Recensement – La Cour donne raison à Ottawa http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/canada/297621/recensement-la-cour-donne-raison-a-ottawa?utm_source=infolettre-2010-10-07&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=infolettre-quotidienne
  • The Globe and Mail: The census is for Parliament to decide http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/editorials/the-census-is-for-parliament-to-decide/article1729166/
  • National Post: Tories will stick with census plan: Harper http://www.nationalpost.com/news/tories+will+stick+with+census+plan/3592632/story.html
  • Edmonton Journal: Paying both sides on census http://www.edmontonjournal.com/life/Paying+both+sides+census/3589380/story.html
  • Toronto Star: Government knew costs of axing census, documents show http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/census/article/866944–not-too-late-to-save-census-goodale
  • CBC News: Liberals move to reinstate long-form census http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/09/28/pol-long-form-census-liberals.html?ref=rss
  • Toronto Sun: Census….the debate never endshttp://www.torontosun.com/blogs/thehill/2010/09/28/15509581.html
  • The Ottawa Citizen: Court challenge, opposition both blast government over scrapped census http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Court+challenge+opposition+both+blast+government+over+scrapped+census/3586122/story.html
  • The Toronto Star: Government knew costs of axing census, documents show Liberals, critics still hope census decision can be reversed http://www.thestar.com/article/866944–not-too-late-to-save-census-goodale
  • The Montreal Gazette: Census compromise falls short, court told http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Census+compromise+falls+short+court+told/3588179/story.html
  • The Whig Standard: Census Controversy in Court http://www.thewhig.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2774901
  • Ottawa Sun: Opposition attacks government’s census policy http://www.ottawasun.com/news/canada/2010/09/26/15482996.html
  • The Telegram: Shorter forms lead to census information shortage http://www.thetelegram.com/Opinion/Columns/2010-09-25/article-1793117/Shorter-forms-lead-to-census-information-shortage/1
  • CTV News; Liberals introduce bill to reinstate long-form census http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Politics/20100930/bill-census-100930/
  • Northumberland Review: Liberals Introduce Motion To Reinstate Mandatory Long-Form Census http://www.northumberlandview.ca/index.php?module=news&func=display&sid=4461
  • Canadian Press: Layton loses bid for emergency census debate http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/100920/national/census_scrubbed_2
  • The Toronto Star: StatsCan credibility, independence feared damaged in census scrap http://themes.thestar.com/article/06NW8R08RT4WP/articles?q=
  • The Montreal Gazette: NDP bid for census debate thwarted http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/census+debate+thwarted/3553691/story.html
  • The Record: Census set to take centre stage on Parliament Hill http://news.therecord.com/News/CanadaWorld/article/782584
  • Winnipeg Sun: Opposition attacks government’s census policy http://www.winnipegsun.com/news/canada/2010/09/26/15482801.html
  • North Bay Nugget: Agencies defend censushttp://www.nugget.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2781578
  • Times and Transcript: Dieppe protests federal census changes http://timestranscript.canadaeast.com/news/article/1243621
  • toronto Sun: Anger over Conservatives’ census decision heads to court and House of Commons votehttp://www.torontosun.com/blogs/thehill/2010/09/28/15508596.html
  • The Toronto Star: Census debate: It just won’t go away http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/867582–census-debate-it-just-won-t-go-away
  • The Montreal Gazette: Conservatives to stick with census planhttp://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Conservatives+stick+with+census+plan/3595019/story.html
  • The Vancouver Sun: Court challenge, opposition both blast government over scrapped census http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Census+controversy+boils+over+Parliament/3586122/story.html#ixzz11no7H4cW
  • Canadian Press: Conservative Snub Parliament, Ontario, Quebec on Census Reversal http://news.sympatico.ca/canada/conservatives_snub_parliament_ontario_quebec_on_census_reversal/ae00f43e
  • The Mark: A bill will be tabled on Oct. 1 that would make it illegal to get rid of the long form census. http://www.themarknews.com/articles/2541-opposition-takes-census-fight-to-parliament
  • The Winnipeg Sun: Tories reject census defeathttp://www.winnipegsun.com/news/canada/2010/09/29/15523896.html
  • The Toronto Star: PM ‘confusing stubbornness with leadership’ over census, Ignatieff says http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/census/article/868232–pm-confusing-stubbornness-with-leadership-over-census-ignatieff-says
  • Toronto Sun: Ontario and Quebec Ministers urge the Conservative government to reverse census decision http://www.torontosun.com/blogs/thehill/2010/09/29/15522631.html
  • CBC News: MP launches bill to restore census http://www.cbc.ca/canada/ottawa/story/2010/09/30/liberals-census-motion.html
  • The Sault Star: City and local agency defend censushttp://www.saultstar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2779937
  • The Winnipeg Free Press: Conservatives snub Parliament, Ontario, Quebec on census reversal http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/mobile/ontario-quebec-want-long-form-census-reinstated-as-soon-as-possible-103991754.html
  • AOL News: Liberals Move To Reinstate Long-Form Census http://news.aol.ca/canada/article/liberals-move-to-reinstate-long-form/1299370
  • The Globe and Mail: Tories haul out ‘coalition’ label in census spat with oppositionhttp://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/tories-haul-out-coalition-label-in-census-spat-with-opposition/article1731436/
  • The Toronto Star: Speaker rejects NDP call for emergency census debate http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/census/article/863807–speaker-rejects-ndp-call-for-emergency-census-debate
  • PostMedia News: Liberals tout bill to re-introduce long-form census http://www.canada.com/news/Liberals+tout+bill+introduce+long+form+census/3570495/story.html
  • The Ottawa Citizen: Census change concerns brushed off by Clement http://www.ottawacitizen.com/technology/Census+change+concerns+brushed+Clement/3565872/story.html
  • North Bay Today: NDP keeps heat on census issue http://www.sootoday.com/content/news/full_story.asp?StoryNumber=48607
  • The Toronto Star: Olive: Carney is a game-changing central banker http://www.thestar.com/article/865817–olive-carney-is-a-game-changing-central-banker
  • CBC News: Census change challenge heads to Federal Court http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/09/26/census-court-challenge.html
  • Post Media News: Court challenge, opposition both blast government over scrapped census http://www.canada.com/news/Census+controversy+boils+over+Parliament/3586122/story.html
  • The Mark: A Francophone group is seeking an injunction against the voluntary survey that replaced the mandatory long-form census. http://www.themarknews.com/articles/2554-census-faces-court-challenge-today
  • Canadian Press: Axing census costs data, feds admitted http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/100927/national/census_challenge
  • Ottawa Sun: Long-form census asks too much http://www.ottawasun.com/comment/editorial/2010/09/27/15493306.html
  • CTV news: Feds knew they’d lose data in census switchhttp://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100927/census-court-100927/20100927/?hub=TorontoNewHome
  • CFRA 580 News: Census Debate Continues http://www.cfra.com/?cat=3&nid=75934
  • Winnipeg Free Press: Conservatives snub Parliament, Ontario, Quebec on census reversal http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/breakingnews/ontario-quebec-want-long-form-census-reinstated-as-soon-as-possible-103991754.html

Vote.ca was created by Larry Franschman, with programming by Michael Mulley, as an open data/open government effort, organizing public election info around your ward, electoral district or riding, the building blocks of our democracy in Canada.

La Ville d’Ottawa lance son premier concours public visant le développement d’applications à partir de données ouvertes et invite tous les résidents à participer à la fois à la création de nouvelles applications et au vote de leur favorite.

La Ville cherche à encourager les citoyens à élaborer de nouvelles applications novatrices qui font appel aux données de la Ville, en accès libre depuis peu grâce à l’initiative Données ouvertes, et ce, afin d’améliorer la vie communautaire, de stimuler la croissance économique et d’intégrer les citoyens à l’administration municipale.

The City of Ottawa is running its first public contest to develop apps from open data and is inviting residents from all over to participate both in creating new apps or voting on their favourites.

The goal of the contest is to encourage entrepreneurs, agencies, students, IT professionals and others to create innovative new apps that use open data to improve community experience, stimulate economic growth and engage residents in municipal government.

Ottawa Citizen Article: City launches $50,000 app contest

Its pretty funny!

Here is my response to a letter sent to me by Mr. Tony Clément, Minister of Industry of the “New Government” of Canada, aka the Conservative Party, regarding my letter expressing my concerns about the cancellation of the Long-Form Census.

I admit, that it is a passionate response!


Mr. Clément;

Thank you for this response;

I have provided my comments inline, please forgive the lack of brevity, and if you like you can also read this on datalibre.ca.

On Tue, Sep 14, 2010 at 11:37 AM, <Minister.Industry@ic.gc.ca> wrote:

Thank you for your letter regarding the 2011 Census of Population.  This government recognizes the importance of this issue for Canadians and appreciates the time you have taken to share your views on this matter.

Your welcome Mr. Clement, but I assure you, I would have preferred to be focusing my limited time to doing my version of citizenship by conducting research on and using the Census to inform public policy rather than doing citizenship by trying to save it.  I thank you for providing me with the opportunity to dis-place my civic energies.

As you are aware, the Government of Canada has made the decision to conduct the census as the short form only, which will be sent to all Canadian households in May 2011.  We believe that these recent changes to the Census, along with the introduction of the voluntary National Household Survey (NHS), strike a better balance between the need to collect information on households to inform public policy and protecting the privacy rights of Canadians.

Yes, I am acutely aware of the decision this “New Government” has made.  First in its announcement, then the media fanfare, and also, in how your office wiped deliberations on the topic in your Digital Economy Consultation (1) (2).  The balance you are alluding to is however tipping toward inaccuracy, lack of continuity,  removing the ability to do reliable time series analysis, ability to do micro scale analysis and is introducing sample bias, as was made clear by the numerous experts that appeared at the INDU Committee special sessions on the Census, former chief statisticians, academics, statisticians and by the National Statistics Council.  Further, local analyzes is only possible with a mandatory Census.  There are no other data sources that provide data at the micro scale on all of the items that could be and were collected in the long form Census.  The Census helps us understand who we are as Canadians, it is an inventory of the population and its composition.  Just like an auditor does not ask a business to do a partial voluntary inventory of their products for taxation purposes, we should not be doing a partial non mandatory count of who we are as a people.  It is just not good policy.

In addition, as the Privacy Commissioner rightly pointed out, there have never been Census privacy breaches.  Knowing Statistics Canada quite well, the thing I can say for sure, it is an institution extremely well attuned and organized to prevent privacy breaches.   Privacy is how they have built trust and it is why it was lauded as the best in the world along with their methodological rigour and its former distance from political meddling.

The 2011 Census of Population will consist of 10 questions: the same 8 questions that appeared on the 2006 Census short-form questionnaire plus 2 questions regarding the ability to speak in one of Canada’s two Official Languages and the language spoken at home.  I assure you that the addition of these questions will support the implementation of the Official Languages Act and its regulations.  The Government of Canada remains committed to official languages and to supporting the vitality of official language communities.

I am glad the government cares about French Language groups, as do I, but does the government not care about people with disabilities, women and their contribution to the economy even if unpaid, aboriginal people, ethno-visible cultural minorities, education, housing and employment?  Surely, these too are critically important to Canada and Canadians.

Census information previously collected by the long-form census questionnaire will be collected as part of a new voluntary NHS. The NHS will be distributed to 1 in 3 households, which represents approximately 4.5 million households, an increase from 2.9 million households surveyed in 2006. Statistics Canada has extensive experience in conducting voluntary surveys and will apply its same rigorous methods and standards to conduct and release survey data.  The Chief Statistician has indicated that this new approach will provide useful and usable data that can meet the needs of many users.

Yes, Canada does have experience conducting surveys.  And the outcome of that experience has demonstrated that you require a census that is mandatory to validate, weigh and adjust what has been collected voluntarily.  In addition, as we have seen with PALS, and many other voluntary surveys, they disappear because there is no strong legislated mandate to fund them. In addition, the sample sizes of voluntary surveys preclude community based local analysis which disables place based planning.  Not one of the voluntary surveys allow for sub city scale analysis, cross-neighbourhood comparisons let alone inner city health districts, city wards and most certainly provide little knowledge for rural communities.  Just like the telecoms did not fulfill the promise of connecting all Canadians, no private data collecting company will dare take the risk of studying anything but big cities leaving rural Canadians in the dark.  That is the role of the government, that is why we have government, civil society and the private sector with separate roles and functions.  National Statistics is a core function of government, that is why, like survey mapping, it is one of Canada’s oldest formal public functions.  Furthermore, many of these voluntary surveys are aggregated only at the level of the CMA.  As you are aware, CMAs are a statistical construct and not reflective of city or municipal administrations, making the data derived from these not helpful to city and community planners on the ground.  Finally, Statistics Canada has provided you with reports and analyzes on the problems of voluntary surveys.  I trust that those public servants had done their job at providing you with the good information you need to re-consider your position, that is what good governing is about – hire the best to give you the best.  Unless of course you have a team of highly specialized and qualified statisticians on staff who can provide me with grounded research to support your position and counter theirs.

Also, which Chief Statistician are you referring to and can you point me to the record where he has said that?  Which users?  Certainly not to anyone or any organization doing trend analysis, Mr. Carney or the 350+ organizations, associations, universities, medical practitioners, demographers, statisticians, planners, cities, rural municipalities, provinces, banks, students, sociologist, nurses, and business people, to name a few, that have explicitly stated that they want the long-form census reinstated (3).  Furthermore, I am not sure of the business case for the NHS, since you have indicated that it will cost more to Canadians yet be less reliable and accurate.  Furthermore, StatCan clients, experts and citizens alike, the same who have stated they want the long-form Census reinstated, those same clients, who normally purchase census data, have clearly stated that they do not trust that the NHS results will be as good as the Census and that it will not meet their needs.  Thus – while not in any way being an advocate on the selling of our public data – would you not also loose revenue by trying to sell a more expensive and inferior product to clients who no longer want or trust what you are selling?  Bref, it will cost more to create something of poorer quality that you may not be able to resell.  Perhaps you can enlighten me on that particular business model?  Are you suggesting that StatCan become a suburban big box warehouse shopping centre that sells low quality cheap products made in, well, less than suitable factories?  That is the only successful business model I know of that resembles this new NHS business model.

Beyond the provision of limited and essential information, we do not believe it is appropriate to demand extensive private and personal information from Canadians under threat of imprisonment.  That is why our government announced its intention to introduce legislation this fall to remove threats of jail time for persons refusing to fill out the Census and all mandatory surveys administered by Statistics Canada. An additional legislative amendment will also be made to require respondents’ consent on whether personal information from the NHS questionnaire can be released after 92 years.

I am glad you removed jail time.  However, as you know, no one has ever gone to jail for not filling out the Census.  Just like some towns still have laws on hitching posts, those and the jail term for the census are old remnants of our past, certainly you could have removed the jail time,  included a fine and kept the long-form census.  Regarding consent, that was already in the census.  It was a tick box were respondents allowed or disallowed the sharing of their responses after 92 years, so I am uncertain as to why you considered this as a valid reason for new legislation and the cancellation of the long-form.  Informed consent is something Statistics Canada is very good at.  Also, you may want to review the Canadian Tri-Council Statements on research with human subjects, since they have put into place excellent ethical research practices on the topic of consent in research for quite some time.  I do not recall them advocating for the reduction of research standards in order to meet ethical guidelines as you are advocating for the NHS.  Regarding private information.  Why is it that farmers must fill out the Agricultural Census?  It is a more extensive Census which also includes many private questions.  Also, CRA asks quite a few private questions, should we also stop the practice of collecting taxes? Personally, I do not collect AirMiles because I consider that a serious invasion of my privacy, more-so than any Census.  I also do not support RFID tags, nor do I disclose personal information in social media spaces like facebook.  Those are far more invasive than the Census yet Canadians willfully give out their personal data, lots of it, for some sort of economic, consumer friendly and social return all the while the “New Government” is manufacturing malcontent on the Census? I’m confused.  The Census is a collective civic duty, our national navigation system, it helps us understand ourselves, directs how we manage and helps us become a better more just country in all of our splendid diversity.

Okay, perhaps, this is where StatCan has failed a little, it did not make friends with its cost recovery policies, nor its regressive and restrictive data licensing practices, to no fault of their own since it is the Treasury Board that decides and allocates resources, and it was the “New Government” that turned down StatCan’s offer at giving back to Canadians what was already theirs, their Census data.  In addition, StatCan decreased its education and outreach functions.  StatCan used to reach out and explain what the questions were about, why they were asked, how they came to be and how important each and everyone was.  Like many great Canadian institution, reduced budgets and downsizing has led them to cut back on effectively communicating to Canadians how important they are as an institution, their function and most importantly, reminding us why they do what they do.  You can find that information, but really, beyond people like me, who goes digging in the deep lurkium spaces of the StatCan website for those reports? This lack of good communication and openness has led to the creation of the fertile territory within which the “New Government” has richly sewed its seeds of mis- and dis-information about the Census.  As a colleague said to me yesterday, never in her best dystopian dreams, had she conjured the idea of doing away with the census.  That says a lot, as she has been working on anti-poverty, social justice and homelessness issues for decades.

I encourage all Canadians who receive the 2011 Census form to complete it and participate in the National Household Survey if their household is selected.

Thank you for the words of Encouragement.  However, I would rather fill out the Census, as at least I know I am contributing and investing time into a solid, renown, well established and world recognized statistical institution.  A National Household Survey, well, it falls way way short of a mandatory Census, and for community based analysis, well it just does not cut it.  I would rather give my time to a Census than waste my time on an inaccurate and more expensive process.  But, I am hoping our governments will come to its senses and re-instate the long-form census, as that is what good governance is.

Yours sincerely,

Sincèrement à vous

Tony Clement

Tracey Lauriault

PS – Please forgive my grumpiness Minister Clement, it is just that I feel that  a key part of the democratic process has been usurped and dismantled, and well, like many Canadians, I loose sleep when, well, when I see ideology and ill informed opinions replace evidence based decision making.  Normally, that kind of doing, thinking or practice, happens, well, in un-democratic countries, and it worries the heck out of me when it is so overtly apparent here.

“former chief statistician Ivan Fellegi said Ottawa could postpone the whole census to September 2011 from May, gaining a few extra months to re-establish the long census.”

Globe and Mail – Sept 20

for tweeters –

Ivan Fellegi postpone #census to September 2011 from May, gaining time to re-establish the long census  http://tinyurl.com/386crt9

Bref – It ain’t over yet!

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