Connecting Stats, Stories and People
To mark Statistics Canada's 100th anniversary throughout 2018, this blog will feature stories of leaders and change-makers that have impacted the world of statistics. This special series of blog articles will include profiles on Jean Talon, Robert H. Coats and Agatha Chapman, among others. For more information about our program of activities to mark our Centennial, visit One Hundred Years and Counting.
Although never officially employed at the Dominion Bureau of Statistics (DBS), we consider her one of our own. After all, Agatha Chapman is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in the art of measuring the economic pulse of the nation through the emerging science of national accounts.
In the beginning, statistics in Canada were akin to the Wild West.
There was no shortage of statistics. Government departments at every level made earnest efforts over the years to learn about the social and economic conditions of their constituents, their employment status and what types of goods or services they produced and sold.
But these efforts at data collection were often sporadic and haphazard. Data were difficult to find. There were obvious gaps and needless duplication. If you finally did track down the data you needed there was often a reluctance to share.
When Jean Talon, the first Intendant of New France, arrived on the shores of modern-day Canada in 1665, he faced many daunting challenges. Yet, over his five-year tenure, the population climbed from 3,200 to 7,600—thanks, in part, to his realization that in order to develop the colony, he would need to better understand it. So, in the winter of 1665, Talon began his administrative appointment by taking stock of the colony, subsequently using knowledge gained from the 1666 Census—the first in North America—to help it flourish.
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