Isabelle Michelle, who heads up the Sudbury and District Health Unit’s research division, said if the mandatory nature of the long form census were taken away, minority groups would be underrepresented in the resulting data. She said those populations are less likely to fill out a voluntary survey.
The information provided by the long form census is critical to health unit researchers, Michelle explained. The data resulting from the questionnaire helps the health unit do things such as identify schools to target for health promotion activities. “Without the information that we can obtain only from the long form census, we would be working in the dark,” she said.
Dr. Chris Bourdon, acting chief of staff at Sudbury Regional Hospital, said he’s “not insensitive” to the idea of protecting people’s privacy, which is one of the concerns raised about the long form census. “But...we’ve put mechanisms in place to ensure the privacy of that information.”
Dr. David Marsh, associate dean of community engagement with NOSM, said the government’s plans to change the census would “seriously impact” the medical school’s ability to do good quality research. “(NOSM has made) specific efforts (to improve) the health care needs of francophones and aboriginals across the north,” he said.
Janet Gasparini, executive director of the Social Planning Council of Sudbury, said her organization uses long form census information to help shape social policies. She said she thinks the government made its decision without being aware of the “full impact” it would have on the population.
Claire Warren, of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, said the loss of reliable census data would stop in its tracks much of the research being undertaken in the north.
"Losing the long-form census will clip the wings of health-care professionals," she said. "It's bad for our health."