Archive for July, 2010

The Census: Should We Abolish the Long Form?

As a social scientist I’m not happy with the idea that Ottawa is considering abolition of the long form.  The social sciences require data, especially data that can be compared over years. As a private citizen, I’m beginning to think that it might not be a bad idea. The long form nudges and prods. It’s intrusive.

This household had the long form in 2005. We were asked how many hours of unpaid work we did “in and around” the house. List and describe.

Person A (male, 69 years, of Jewish origin) said that his unpaid work around the house consisted of reading, writing, and thinking. In response to the form’s delicate inquiry as to how much time he spends daily on these activities, he wrote: “sixteen hours.” (As the song says: “that leaves eight hours for sleep”)

Person B (female, 70 years, admitting to a Canadian identity) said that she did no unpaid work in and around the house. Indignant thoughts filled her mind as she made out her reply. She’s a householder, not an indentured servant! Householders, homeowners, do not do “unpaid work.” They look after themselves. What would it mean to do “paid work”? Should a householder pay herself, or himself, out of the family account?  What nonsense.

Person B is Jewish, but she put herself into the census as “Canadian” because she wants to see the census continue to list “Canadian” as a category in the section on “identity.” When the question about “identity” first appeared, one was more or less forbidden to describe oneself as “Canadian.” One was not encouraged at any rate. There were complaints. On this form one was not able to indicate that one was both Jewish and Canadian. Pity.

A few weeks afterward, B came into the house to find A on the telephone. He was saying: “Well, she writes books on Canadian constitutional law.” For goodness sakes! It was Ottawa on the line, inquiring about just what B did with her time. Intrusive? I’ll say.

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The Queen of Canada Visits

The Queen of Canada visits. We’re delighted to see her. And then she leaves.

It’s odd, isn’t it? Our Head of State resides in a distant land. The French Head of State lives in France. Where else? The Israeli Head of State lives in Israel. That’s the norm.

Sure. But remember what the Queen said when she touched down in the Maritimes. “I’m glad to be home.” Home?

I consulted Wikipedia. It’s true. The Queen resides in England, but is legally, “at home” in Canada. This is her country.

She’s also “at home” in this legal sense in fifteen other countries. We share our Monarch with fifteen other “realms”! Wikipedia is firm on this point. She’s not just “at home” in those fifteen other places. She’s “equally at home.”

And then there are the other bits and pieces of the old Empire-Commonwealth, the ex-colonies and so on that don’t have the status of “realm.” The Queen’s not said to be “equally at home” in them. But she visits. She has obligations. She belongs.

Spell it all out and you begin to see why some people are suggesting that Canadians break away and establish our own Lives-In-Canada-Full-Time Head of State.

It would be a mistake. The present system works well. In the Queen’s absence the Governor General assumes her obligations. It’s been our system for a long time. In breaking away we’d be cutting loose a lot of history.

In the 1960s Canadians threw out the flag under which our forces served with distinction in two world wars. We changed the name of our country. (We used to be the Dominion of Canada.) We changed the name of our national Parliament. And in 1982 – this was the worst crime – a true crime against history – we changed the name of our founding Constitution.

Dear friends, think! In the entire history of the human race there’s been only one country with the right to call its founding constitution, the British North America Act. The constitution remains; it’s still the law of the land. (It’s been amended, but only in minor ways.) It’s now called the Constitution Act.

Any country can have a Constitution Act.