Canadian Statistics Advisory Council (CSAC) Meeting - March 19, 2021

Date: March 19, 2021

Location: Virtual meeting


CSAC members

Dr. Howard Ramos, Anil Arora, Annette Hester, Dr. Celine Le Bourdais, Jan Kestle, David Chaundy, Dr. Michael Wolfson

CSAC Member regrets

Gurmeet Ahluwalia, Gail Mc Donald

Statistics Canada guests/support

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

Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED)

Pierre Therrien

Meeting agenda

Meeting agenda for meeting on March 19, 2021
Time Agenda Item Lead Participant(s)
13:00 – 13:10 Chairperson Introductory Remarks Howard Ramos
CSAC Chairperson
13:10 – 13:30 Update from the Chief Statistician Anil Arora
Chief Statistician of Canada
13:30 – 13:50 Roundtable Discussion and Q&A CSAC members and all Assistant Chief Statisticians
13:50 – 14:50 Update on Working Group 1 CSAC members and all Assistant Chief Statisticians
Debrief of working group 1
20 minutes
Jan Kestle
CSAC member and Working Group 1 lead
Discussion and Q&A
40 minutes
CSAC members and Andre Loranger, Tom Dufour, Michelle Marquis, Pierre Desrochers
14:50 – 15:05 Health Break  
15:05 – 15:35 Update on Working group 2 and working group 3 CSAC members and all Assistant Chief Statisticians
Celine Le Bourdais
Update from Working group 2
15 minutes
CSAC member and Working Group 2 lead
Update on working group 3
15 minutes
Annette Hester
CSAC member and Working Group 3 lead
15:35 – 16:30 Next Steps for CSAC
In Camera
CSAC members

Meeting minutes

1. Chairperson Opening Remarks

Dr. Howard Ramos opened the meeting by welcoming members to the second CSAC meeting of 2021. Dr. Ramos took the time to thank Statistics Canada for the work the agency has done over the past year, and highlighted in the agency's most recent release, COVID-19 in Canada: A One-year Update on Social and Economic Impacts. Dr. Ramos also commended the agency for sharing currently available data of interest in anticipation of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21, 2021. Dr. Ramos requested that this information be shared with all Council members following the meeting. Dr. Ramos turned to the Chief Statistician, Mr. Anil Arora, for his opening remarks.

2. Chief Statistician's Opening Remarks and Questions & Answers

The Chief Statistician began by thanking Council members for their continued engagement and contributions, noting that their work is having profound impacts on the agency.  The Chief Statistician noted how crucial and relevant the council's three areas of focus are, particularly in the current context. The Chief Statistician briefly spoke about the agency's recent publication, COVID-19 in Canada: A One-year Update on Social and Economic Impacts, noting the important contributions of Statistics Canada's analytics team in preparing the materials over the course of the last year.  While the agency reflects on the impacts of the pandemic on all aspects of Canadian life this past year, it too is anticipating emerging data needs and innovative solutions to ensure it can remain relevant and continue to meet the evolving needs of Canadians.

CSAC members engaged in a discussion with the Chief Statistician and Assistant Chief Statisticians regarding challenges and opportunities the agency is facing. Access to data, reinforcement of the agency's stewardship role, increasing demands and limited resources were among some of the important challenges the agency faces.

3. Update on Working Group 1 "Enabling Statistics Canada" – Jan Kestle

As decided upon at the January council meeting, three working groups were struck to address key issues and offer advice. The work of the groups would also support the production of the council's next annual report. Jan Kestle was identified as the lead for Working Group 1(WG1), tasked with exploring how to enable Statistics Canada through legislation and engagement.  Working group 1, which includes CSAC members David Chaundy, Gail Mc Donald and Howard Ramos, met on February 23rd 2021. Statistics Canada representatives, Andre Loranger, Tom Dufour, Pierre Desrochers and Michelle Marquis, shared an update on the status of discussions underway on potential amendments to the Statistics Act. Ms. Kestle provided council members an overview of the discussion, emphasizing the importance of Statistics Canada's stewardship role, and the role of CSAC in terms of helping to articulate the policy questions and issues. Ms. Kestle expressed the importance of ensuring that the Statistics Act was reviewed now, particularly in light of amendments to privacy legislation underway (Privacy Act, Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act [PIPEDA]). Ms. Kestle also noted the importance of addressing First Nations' issues in any revisions, and the need for a stronger federal government point of view and national data strategy.

Council members shared their views, echoing the need for Statistics Act revisions to be taken into account as privacy legislation is being revised. Members noted that there may be opportunities to reinforce Statistics Canada's role through policy directions in addition to legislative amendments. Leveraging this opportunity to address issues around data access (incoming and outgoing) would be important. Members noted the complementary nature of the various working groups and the opportunity to work collaboratively across groups to address these issues – with the goal of ensuring any legislation remains relevant in a changing society and an increasingly data-driven and digital world. Members also discussed the need to raise awareness with various constituencies. Council members discussed the timing of adjustments to the Act, noting that the public environment and social acceptability will need to be considered carefully as we move forward with this work. Support of the Minister will also be key.

Next steps:

Jan thanked members for their feedback and noted that she will make some adjustments to the presentation shared to reflect the discussion today, with the help of colleagues in working group 1. Statistics Canada was also asked to prepare a short summary on the status of amendments to the Privacy Act and PIPEDA to further inform the work of the council.

4. Update on Working Groups 2 (Data Spine) and 3 (Data Gaps)

Working Group 2

Dr. Celine Le Bourdais provided an update on the scoping for Working Group 2 (WG2), Data Spine. Working Group 2 includes Gurmeet Ahluwalia, Dr. Michael Wolfson and Dr. Howard Ramos.  WG2 will focus on data stewardship and what advice the Council can offer on how Canada's Chief Data Officer should be defined.  All three working groups are examining this issue from different perspectives. WG2 may examine Statistics Canada's role as supporter and leader in improving data access by government, private, academic and non-governmental organization (NGO) researchers and users. The second issue relates to data spine/data core, where modern methods and technology allow for better integration and linking of data and increasing the availability of disaggregated data. A broad topic, WG2 will focus on high level elements of a data spine/data and core concept that would best support decision making on health, social, economic and environmental issues.  Considerations could include what data need to be linked, infrastructure needed to support it, training required, who should have access to the integrated data and how these data would be made available.

Working Group 3

Annette Hester shared her views on the initial scoping of Working Group 3 (WG3)), Data Gaps, which includes Dr. Michael Wolfson, Dr. Celine Le Bourdais, Gail Mc Donald and Dr. Howard Ramos.  WG3 will focus on building on the CSAC Annual Report in examining what are critical data and digital technology gaps at Statistics Canada and what should be done to address them.WG3 will explore the historical governance structure between Statistics Canada and the various federal departments, provinces, and indigenous organizations and how this may constrain the organization's ability to deliver what Canada needs to create wealth and prosperity in a world marked by a digital future. To realize its potential, a new governance model where Statistics Canada has the funding and authority to define and in partnerships, develop, the key datasets that follow the evolution of the country/world is needed.  WG3 could focus on a few areas (i.e., economic recovery, impact on Indigenous and racialized Canadians) to exemplify the impact of funding and governance/mandate to identify key data gaps and opportunities for collecting, integrating and sharing data.  Considerations could include examining the federal government's planning process, the leadership role Statistics Canada could play in determining program data requirements and options for financing data acquisition and data development.

5. Next Steps for CSAC

Dr. Ramos thanked council members for their contributions and for today's rich discussion. Follow up items were noted and the CSAC secretariat will work with the Council members to coordinate next steps for the working groups.

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