October 20, 2020 – Ottawa, ON – Statistics Canada
Today, the Canadian Statistics Advisory Council (CSAC) issued its first report (CSAC 2020 Annual Report - Towards a Stronger National Statistical System) on the state of the country’s statistical system to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. The release of this report coincides with World Statistics Day. “Our report recognizes how, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Statistics Canada’s modernization efforts have helped the agency pivot to meet many of the country’s statistical needs,” says CSAC member Dr. Howard Ramos. It also highlights the importance of accelerating those efforts to bridge crucial data gaps to overcome the statistical challenges that are facing both Statistics Canada as an agency and Canada as a nation.
Decision makers were hampered by a lack of timely, consistent and disaggregated data in areas such as health care and on racialized Canadians and Indigenous people. This situation served to highlight the broader need for high-quality statistical information to address nationwide health issues and socioeconomic inequities. Collecting these data while respecting the privacy of Canadians’ personal information remains of key importance.
The council’s mandate is to advise the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry and the Chief Statistician of Canada on any number of issues concerning the relevance, accuracy, accessibility, timeliness, and privacy and confidentiality of the agency’s data.
The report includes five core recommendations: (1) including statistical data requirements in planning federal government programs, (2) addressing critical data gaps, (3) rectifying serious imbalances in funding national statistical programs, (4) ensuring the privacy of Canadians and the need for Canadians to provide data to Statistics Canada, and (5) modernizing microdata access.
Through the course of its work, the council found that, as shown by the pandemic, Statistics Canada’s central role as an independent national statistical organization has never been more critical to meet the country’s needs for timely and high-quality statistics. The pandemic has shown that nationwide data are key for decision makers, governments and the general public to understand and address important social, health, economic, environmental and energy issues facing Canadians. CSAC member Jan Kestle notes, “Bringing together data from different levels of government, and private sources, is necessary to get a complete and up-to-date picture of the social and economic well-being of Canadians. Collaboration across jurisdictions is complicated. But this challenge must be met head-on for Canada to fill data gaps and ensure a strong foundation for decision making.
Serious shortcomings in the timeliness, completeness and quality of Canadian health care and health outcome data have greatly impaired the ability of governments at all levels to monitor and assess the evolution of the pandemic, let alone address serious health issues in Canada. The council also saw that the ability to address barriers faced by racialized groups and Indigenous peoples in Canada is seriously hampered by the lack of timely, consistent and disaggregated data. As CSAC member Gail Mc Donald explains, “The year 2020 has brought the issue of systemic racism to the forefront. By truly addressing Indigenous data gaps on the impacts of racism within our society, only then can we harness the power of data to effect change and make a difference.”
To overcome these gaps, stable core funding for Statistics Canada’s programs is essential to having high-quality data and statistical information that represent all regions of Canada and the full range of circumstances of individual Canadians.
The council also found that, going forward, it is important for researchers, decision makers and communities to be able to access the data they provide to the agency. The modernization of Statistics Canada’s microdata access infrastructure is a long-awaited initiative that will greatly improve the quality and depth of research and analysis in Canada across all sectors. However, its timeline for full implementation is too long and should be accelerated. As CSAC member Dr. Céline Le Bourdais observes, “The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need for Statistics Canada to continue to modernize its infrastructure and rapidly move toward new distributed modes of data access. This will ensure that duly authorized researchers are able to pursue timely analyses on the pressing challenges faced by society.”
Canadians have provided personal data to Statistics Canada for over 100 years, and there should be no conflict between respect for the privacy of Canadians and the need for Canadians to provide data to Statistics Canada. The council found that this is also key to ensuring a robust statistical system and a stronger country.
Contact info and expertise of CSAC spokespeople
Dr. Howard Ramos
Media release CSAC facilitator
Availability on October 20, 2020: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. EDT
Expertise: General insight on the report, focus on race and ethnic data, data access, balance of privacy and need for data
Availability on October 20, 2020: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EDT
Expertise: The importance of high-quality data and evidence-driven decision making, modernizing methods for the production of official statistics, national data strategy, privacy and security of data
Dr. Céline Le Bourdais
Availability on October 20, 2020: 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. EDT
Expertise: General insight on the report, focus on data access and addressing data gaps and imbalances in funding
Gail Mc Donald
Availability on October 20, 2020: 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Expertise: General insight on the report, focus on Indigenous data, capacity development and governance