In this information era, data sources and the information needs of Canadians are constantly increasing and evolving. To address these mounting demands and, the equally important need to keep Canadians’ data safe, Statistics Canada is working in consultation with statistical and privacy experts from around the world to develop a new methodology framework based on the principles of necessity and proportionality—two important principles in Canadian and international law.
Principles of necessity and proportionality
Statistics Canada must collect data to produce official statistics that accurately measure our society, our economy, and our environment. With about 350 active surveys on virtually all aspects of Canadian life, some statistical programs, such as the Census of Population and the Labour Force Survey, are deemed necessary for the well-being of our country. These surveys support essential information needs, such as: providing data for the indexation of old age pensions, helping businesses remain competitive locally and internationally, and informing the establishment and funding of public transit, hospitals and schools. This is the principle of necessity.
Once necessity has been established, agency methodologists develop data collection strategies for each statistical program which take into account the principle of proportionality. This is where the experts at Statistics Canada determine how to balance the need to collect information, with the need to reduce the response burden on Canadians, all while protecting the privacy of their information.
While Statistics Canada has followed these two principles since its creation over 100 years ago, the agency is modernizing its approach by expanding on these principles to develop a scientific framework. This framework will explicitly assess proportionality and data sensitivity, and ensure statistical values, such as privacy and confidentiality, are respected.