A new chapter in the census scandal
There can be little doubt at this point that by cancelling the long-form census, the Conservative government destroyed our best source for the evidence it claims should guide policy decisions: opposition from across the political spectrum cried foul, but perhaps the clearest sign is that the government acted against the advice of Canada’s chief statistician, Munir Sheikh, who then resigned in protest.
Now, heading into a much-diminished 2011 census, Sheikh’s replacement, former communications and operations assistant chief Wayne Smith, has announced that the federal government wants Statistics Canada to explore alternatives to the short form. Should we be worried?
What do you get when you cross a polar bear with a grizzly?
If it was clear to David and Bella Kuptana what had happened to their hunting cabin on Victoria Island in the Arctic Archipelago last spring, it’s because there was a bear-shaped hole in the wall. Tracing the frozen coastline on snow machines, they found five more cabins in a similar state of ruin; behind one that appeared untouched, they spotted the rogue, making a break for the open plain.
David, who took down his first polar bear when he was nine years old and has killed as many as three a year since then, felled the animal with his first shot, and immediately knew something was wrong. Its head was unusually wide, and its paws were brown. Except for all that matted white fur, it looked more like a grizzly.
This isn’t an article exactly, but I did some research for Doug Saunders’ Globe column the other week. The original piece is here, and it is reposted with some of my graphs here.
I suspect you already know why I think scrapping the long-form census is a terrible idea. Good data is good for society. Done right, statistical research keeps us all honest, forcing us to interact with the world as it actually is, rather than imagining ourselves as part of a reality that is personally or politically convenient. Survey research is plagued with selection bias, and the only institution with the power to gather high-quality data for social science is Statistics Canada. The government’s purported privacy concerns with the long form are justified by a set of preposterous (and ideologically motivated) myths.
But if I’ve been reluctant to argue this at length, it’s because StatsCan has never done much to earn my goodwill. As a journalist interested in statistics, I have come to expect frustration and disappointment when dealing with StatsCan. That’s why I hope that we can take this opportunity to talk about how it could be better—rather than fighting blindly for the status quo.
The most serious problem with Canada’s data authority is access to data, or more accurately, the lack thereof. And all of the restrictions on access, going back many years, have been justified by some extremely strange concerns around privacy. Sound familiar?
The rezoning application for a proposed condo development at Church and Gloucester is on hold until after the municipal election, but that hasn’t slowed discussion around the project. Major players in the Village aren’t exactly lining up to support Church 18 Holdings, the developers whose 25-storey tower would replace a cluster of heritage and rental buildings.
The newly minted Gloucester Residents’ Association will hold a public meeting at The 519 on July 29 at 8pm. Organizers say that Lisa McCann, one of the owners, has promised to attend.
In the meantime, a planned meeting between the developers and the board of the Church Wellesley Village BIA has been rescheduled, and according to manager David Wootton, the BIA has not yet taken a position on the development, or indeed decided whether it will take a position at all.
Modern-day Canadian sororities are trying to break the stereotypes associated with Greek life. But are sororities empowering, feminist organizations, or destructive, conformist cults?
It’s a September evening, and a small classroom at the University of Toronto holds about 30 young women. They might be more conventionally attractive, a bit better dressed than average, but mostly they look like any group of undergrads. A lone guy settles in to wait for the lecture to start. After an awkward minute, someone tells him that he is in the wrong room. After all, this is an information meeting about sororities.
Many students don’t even know that sororities exist in Canada. With this meeting, and dozens like it across the country every fall, sorority sisters set out to change that. They are after more than visibility.
The theme for this fall’s recruitment at the University of Toronto is “break the stereotype.” No one at the meeting needs that stereotype spelled out. Some classmates think these women are dumb, sexually promiscuous and only interested in partying. Others will say that sorority girls are spoiled brats who have to buy their friends.
“Break the stereotype” is well in line with the National Panhellenic Conference’s public relations strategy. This umbrella group for 26 sororities and women’s fraternities — the terms are used interchangeably — is based in Indianapolis, but sets policy for chapters in Canada. The formal recruitment process at U of T is run by NPC rules, and the Conference is in the midst of an energetic, if not entirely successful, public relations offensive, designed to convince students, parents and university administrators that sororities can be a positive force on campus, not just a magnet for underage drinking.
“The village in downtown Toronto was once a thriving community however it is in need of some new energy and investment.”
That’s how architects at RAW design are describing a proposed Church St condo that one local resident called a “25-storey black death star.” A Thursday evening meeting at The 519 attracted about 100 people, many of whom live in the 35 low-rise residential units that could be torn down and replaced by a mixed-use high-rise development running from Dundonald to Gloucester along Church, on land owned by a company called Church 18 Holdings Inc. Some of the tenants that could be displaced have lived in their units for upwards of 20 years.
Developers have been meeting with city staff and refining their plans since at least February 2009, though residents were not notified that anything was in the works until a few weeks ago. The current proposal is for a 25-storey tower, including a seven-storey podium.