Statistics Canada
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Inside the world of Statistics Canada

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Statistics Canada has no written statement on its mission beyond what is said in the opening of the Statistics Act. Yet, a common understanding of the Agency's values is remarkably pervasive among its staff. The Agency's values are the guiding principles behind the work of all employees and the decisions of the Chief Statistician. Indeed, Dr. Fellegi, the former Chief Statistician, said it very clearly when he took office in September 1985:

"I will continue to place emphasis on the foundation of the Agency's (Statistics Canada's) program, including vigilant attention to the relevance of our program and our service organization character; the principles of confidentiality, neutrality and scientific excellence, which I feel are absolutely crucial because they establish the intrinsic value of our information for users; on response burden; and co-ordination and integration."

Statistics Act states that our mandate is:

  • to collect, compile, analyse, abstract and publish statistical information relating to the commercial, industrial, financial, social, economic and general activities and condition of the people;
  • to collaborate with departments of government in the collection, compilation and publication of statistical information, including statistics derived from the activities of those departments;
  • to take the Census of Population of Canada and the Census of Agriculture of Canada as provided in this Act;
  • to promote the avoidance of duplication in the information collected by departments of government; and
  • generally, to promote and develop integrated social and economic statistics pertaining to the whole of Canada and to each of the provinces thereof and to coordinate plans for the integration of those statistics.

Ensuring objectivity

By ensuring objectivity, Statistics Canada makes a fundamental contribution to the functioning of Canada's democratic system. The government and its political opposition can argue about their conflicting views on policy while agreeing on the underlying basic information. And the electorate can judge the performance of a government on the basis of its 'score card', a good portion of which is based on information compiled by Statistics Canada.

Protecting confidentiality

In collecting information from thousands of Canadian individuals and organizations, Statistics Canada has always put the highest priority on protecting the confidentiality of individual respondents' answers. With few exceptions, it is mandatory to respond to surveys collected under the Statistics Act. For its part, Statistics Canada is also obliged by law to ensure that individual answers are fully confidential. No other government agency, not even the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, is allowed access to individually identifiable responses.

Professionalism and reliability

Statistics Canada prides itself on the objectivity of the information it produces. But for its information to be considered authoritative, it must be reliable and its users must be persuaded that it was compiled in a thoroughly professional fashion. Statistics Canada has gone a long way in promoting reliability and professionalism. Many organizations across the world have given Statistics Canada the ranking of one of the top statistical agencies in the world.

Focusing on analysis

As Statistics Canada accentuated its analysis in the mid-1970s, the importance of this activity in disseminating data has grown. Analysis also plays a role in ensuring the relevance of the Agency's programs and priorities and improving communications with users. In the words of Canada's former Chief Statistician, Dr. Fellegi:

"Analysis also popularizes our information. It highlights nuggets of information from among the mass of data we produce, giving Canadians information they can use and helping them know what the Agency does."

Reducing the response burden

Statistics Canada has always been conscious of the burden its surveys impose on respondents, particularly small businesses.

The Agency works at controlling the intrusiveness of its surveys by

  • minimizing what we ask by using information that has already been collected through administrative purposes, such as tax or customs records
  • shortening and simplifying questionnaires and reducing the number of surveys
  • joint collection activities, such as joint federal-provincial surveys
  • establishing guidelines for determining when surveys should be voluntary and when mandatory.