Canadian Statistics Advisory Council (CSAC) Meeting - January 29, 2021

Date: January 29, 2021

Location: Virtual meeting


CSAC members

Dr. Howard Ramos, Anil Arora, Annette Hester, Dr. Celine Le Bourdais, Gail Mc Donald, Gurmeet Ahluwalia, Jan Kestle, David Chaundy, Dr. Michael Wolfson

Statistics Canada guests/support

Monia Lahaie, Jacques Fauteux, Greg Peterson, Andre Loranger, Stephane Dufour, Lynn Barr-Telford, Martin St-Yves, Melanie Forsberg

Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED)

Pierre Therrien

Meeting agenda

Meeting agenda for meeting on January 29, 2021
Time Agenda item Lead participant(s)
13:30 – 13:40 Chairperson Introductory Remarks Howard Ramos
13:40 – 13:55 Updates from Chief Statistician of Canada Anil Arora
Chief Statistician of Canada
13:55 – 15:10 Roundtable Discussion and Q&A CSAC members and all Assistant Chief Statisticians
15:10 – 15:20 Health Break  
15:20 – 16:20 Discussion on Working groups and Next Steps for CSAC
In Camera
CSAC members
16:20 – 16:30 Closing remarks from Chairperson Howard Ramos

Meeting minutes

1. Chairperson introductory remarks

Dr. Howard Ramos provided brief opening remarks and welcomed council members to the first CSAC meeting of 2021.

2. Chief Statistician opening remarks

The Chief Statistician (CS) wished council members a happy new year, and discussed recent events including a cabinet shuffle which saw Minister Champagne take on the role of Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, the release of new supplemental mandate letters which highlight, among other things, the need for better disaggregated data, and Statistics Canada's participation in a recent Prime Minister stock take on economic inclusion. The Chief Statistician provided an update on the agency's work in the area of contact tracing, PPE and vaccine data modelling and management, the Canadian COVID-19 antibody and health survey, work within the public service to measure the impact of the pandemic on public servants, partnerships with key stakeholders, and preparation for census 2021. The Chief Statistician noted that despite great progress, challenges remain particularly in the area of data integration, data flows and reducing silos to create greater quality and insights for Canadians. The CS noted the important role of the Council in advising the agency and in supporting improvements to the national statistical system. The CS also introduced the Assistant Chief Statisticians, who through a round table, would go on to share additional details in terms of the context and challenges facing the agency.

3. Roundtable Discussion with Assistant Chief Statisticians

Each Assistant Chief Statistician (ACS) provided a short summary of their priorities, challenges and areas of alignment with the CSAC's draft work plan. Members' interventions centred around the agency's ability to modernize in the face of significant and systemic change: societal shifts towards greater diversity and inclusion and an increased emphasis on disaggregated data collection, a shifting framework on privacy and public acceptability, changes to the legal landscape, data access and sharing with an ever increasing number of data providers, challenges with social perspectives on data collection, changes in business processes, information management and enabling infrastructure (cloud), all while preparing for census 2021 in the midst of a national health crisis.

Council members commended Statistics Canada for their work, and asked the CS and ACSs how the council can be most helpful in its provision of advice. Topics were raised including: building data requirements into planning, perspectives on amendments to the Statistics Act, investments in data access infrastructure, acceleration of data science work through recruitment of top talent, social acceptability and privacy, the importance of partnerships, and raising awareness about the critical importance of having a national statistical office. The Chief Statistician noted that Council members' advice would be particularly helpful in terms of identifying gaps in perspectives that the agency should consider, the identification of new partnerships, strategic framing, the agency's data stewardship role, and overall communications and engagement to enable the agency.

4. Discussion on next steps for working groups

Dr. Ramos shared with council members the proposed outline for the working groups. Working group 1 is to focus on the enabling role of Statistics Canada, led by Jan Kestle, with Gail Mc Donald, David Chaundy and Howard Ramos as members. Working group 2 is to focus on the data spine/data core, led by Dr. Celine Le Bourdais, with Gurmeet Ahluwalia, Dr. Michael Wolfson and Howard Ramos as members. The last working group will be focusing on Data Gaps, this is led by Annette Hester with Dr. Michael Wolfson, Dr. Celine Le Bourdais, Gail McDonald and Howard Ramos as members.

Dr. Ramos noted that the topics of the working groups intended to help address the needs of Statistics Canada, and are geared towards deeper conversations with the intent of bringing back findings to the broader Council for discussion and strategic positioning. Members discussed the need to be focused on a small number of key issues, and to be purposeful and strategic given the timelines. Council members discussed the potential of identifying partnerships and seeking perspectives from other institutions or government departments to inform discussions.

5. Closing remarks

Dr. Ramos thanked council members for the discussion. Council members agreed to proceed with the working groups as discussed. Working group 1 will meet first and report back to the group on its findings. This work will inform the next steps and discussions for working groups 2 and 3. The CSAC secretariat will work with council members to schedule the working groups and arrange next steps.

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