BY TAMARA BELKOV
It's time to take attendance, Canada. Once every five years
Statistics Canada conducts a country-wide census on every
This year, the national rollcall will take place Tuesday,
The Statistics Act guarantees the confidentiality of census information, which is used by the government to calculate the levels of support for public services. At the municipal level, this can mean services such as fire protection, public transit, day care, and seniors' housing, all of which are assessed on a population basis. Statistic information can also used by businesses and community groups.
About 80 percent of households will receive a short questionnaire with eight questions, while 20 percent will receive a longer one with 53 questions.
The 2006 census will be the first time respondents will be given the opportunity to request their information not be released to future generations. In the past, census data has automatically been transferred to the federal agency Libraries and Archives Canada, 92 years after it was recorded. This information is a vital source of information for people researching family history.
Lynn Gainer, chair of the Sudbury branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, says  responding to the questionnaire is more than just civic duty.
"It's often the only record we have that lets us trace a whole family over time," says Gainer, who spends her spare time, tracing family lines historical documents.
"I can look at the 1911 census and know how many people lived in a Sudbury household and who they were. It tracks births and deaths by family name and locale."
Gainer has been sifting through historical records and documenting the history of Sudbury families with the Ontario Genealogical Society. Data contained in a census allows historians to put together a more accurate picture of life and society than letters and diaries alone and is a vital research tool for genealogists.
The census records from 1666 until 1911 are currently
available to the public and are stored at Libraries and
According to Gainer, the Ontario Genealogical Society is
concerned with the new question regarding informed consent that
has been added this year.
"Question 53 asks respondents to permit Statistics Canada to
make their information public in 92 years. For most, that's
probably long after their death. We're worried people won't
realize the importance of it historically and may not answer
yes to it."
Question 53 is on both the long and short version of the
Canada's national archivist Ian Wilson is also advocating a
yes response to Question 53.
In a letter on the Libraries and Archives website, Wilson
says, "Count yourself in and ensure that your role in Canada's
history is recognized now and well into the future."
By agreeing to the release of the information, respondents
will allow researchers and genealogists in 2098 to learn more
about Canadian society in 2006.
In Gainer's words, the information gathered in the census is
harmless to the respondents almost 100 years after the fact,
but of great value historically.
"We'd like to see everyone fill out all the questions on the
census forms especially Question 53. Our goal is to have a 100
percent yes response to the new informed consent question,"
The question on informed consent has been added to the
census after a seven-year campaign by historians and
genealogists to keep the government from withholding public
information as guaranteed them in the Access to Information and
Households can choose the convenience of completing their
census questionnaire online. The online questionnaire will be
available beginning May 2.
People can phone the 2006 Census Help Line at 1-877-594-2006 starting May 1 between 8 am and 9 pm if they did not receive a census form or have questions.