Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Don't boycott the census, or spill coffee on it ...

Hi everyone,

So sorry to have been absent for the last few weeks. I promise that I'm back on the blog wagon. It's been a busy time, and the sunshine has been way more appealing than the glow of the computer screen. But a few recent events have brought me out of blog hibernation, and I'm back now. I promise. This entry's going to be a bit long, so bear with me .....

The Census

Okay, I have spent most of this week responding to people who have been forwarding me emails about the census from and Now I've linked to them, so you can read what they have to say, and decide for yourselves. But I maintain that boycotting or sabotaging the Canadian census is a stupid idea. I won't go into all of the reasons, because Ed Finn and Murray Dobbin have already done such a good job. But the gist of it is that Lockheed Martin (evil weapons manufacturer that it is) will have no access to census data. They just designed the software that the government will be using -- just like evil Microsoft designed the software that most of us use on our computers.

Am I happy that the Canadian government gave a big cheque to Lockheed? No. But as Dobbin points out, there is actually an activist VICTORY embedded in this story. When Stats Can originally contracted with Lockheed, the company would have had access to the data. Civil society groups complained, and Stats Can changed the contract, bringing ALL of the data collection in-house.

As many anti-poverty and social programs advocates will tell you, the census is one of the only ways that we can gain unbiased data about all sorts of social issues -- including poverty, wealth and demographics in Canada. Encouraging people to corrupt the census data is a waste of time, and all it will do is harm our efforts to fight inequality.

Now, if you really want to fight deep integration with the U.S., there are lots of more productive things you can do.

Here are three examples:

1. Join citizens' advocacy groups that are working on this issue, and get involved with their campaigns. Groups like the Council of Canadians (and yes, I work for them, but I'm also lucky enough to have a day job at an organization that I really believe in).

2. Visit, and find out how you can work toward peace and disarmament. Ceasefire is currently providing much-needed criticism of the war in Afghanistan, and this is the group that led the successful campaign against ballistic missile defence.

3. Support the Secret Trial Five (who are being held in jail with no access to the charges against them), and fight draconian security measures like Security Certificates.

Conspiracy theories sap our movement of much-needed energy and credibility. Fill out your census form, pop it in the mail, and then roll up your sleeves and get down to the real work of creating social and political change.

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