Munir Sheikh, Canada’s chief statistician, resigns to defend integrity of 2011 Census

Statscan 2011 census

A truly sad day in Canada when a principled public servant had to resign to try to defend the integrity of Canada’s 2011 census data that are so important to all current and future generations of Canadians.

Quoting Globe and Mail editorial “Federal statistical folly in full view” which I totally agree (emphasis added),

“In announcing his resignation, Mr. Sheikh spoke to “a technical statistical issue,” specifically “whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census.

With three words – “It can not” – Mr. Sheikh spoke volumes.

The resignation of an official of deputy-minister rank, as Mr. Sheikh was, on a matter of policy or principle, is extraordinary and rare. Deputies are, despite their non-partisan status, political actors; they must navigate the whims of the government of the day, advising it on how best to carry out its agenda, while upholding the interests of their department or agency, and the demands of good public policy.

In the Privy Council Office, Mr. Sheikh led cost-cutting exercises for the entire government; he is no shrinking violet in the face of a tough challenge. By resigning, he essentially stated that the government’s extreme, unreasonable demands on the census simply could not be reconciled with his other professional responsibilities.

- “Canada’s Chief Statistician Resigns Amid Row With Government Over Census“, Bloomberg

- “StatsCan chief quits over census furor“, TorStar (emphasis added)

Ivan Fellegi, who served as Canada’s chief statistician for 23 years, is now calling for Statistics Canada to be made an independent agency of Parliament to take it out of the direct influence of politicians.

He said the government’s apparent decision to impose the voluntary survey on the agency was “interfering” without even giving the experts a chance to do a trial run to see if it works.

He noted how a voluntary survey was tested in the United States — and the idea abandoned.

To go ahead and tell Statistics Canada to do something of a technical nature like this without letting us test it is, I think, political interference,” Fellegi said.

Just last March, Sheikh assured employees about the future of the long-form census, saying he had a funding strategy in place for next year’s census and into the future.”

- “StatsCan head quits over census dispute“, CBC News

- “Embattled StatsCan chief took on tough job“, very good background on Munir Sheikh from TorStar

Thank you Mr. Munir Sheikh, thank you for being principled, professional, and making the hard decision to resign in order to defend the 2011 Census.

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July 22 Update: Bloomberg is reporting “Harper May Reconsider Canada Census Changes After Chief Statistician Quits” but unfortunately the article didn’t use any creditable sources of Harper actually reconsidering, it is a big “may”.

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2 Responses to Munir Sheikh, Canada’s chief statistician, resigns to defend integrity of 2011 Census

  1. [...] – “Munir Sheikh, Canada’s chief statistician, resigns to defend integrity of 2011 Census“ [...]

  2. [...] Sheikh to speak at Tuesday’s Industry Committee CBC Inside Politics reports that the recently-resigned Chief Statistician Munir Sheikh will speak at Tuesday’s (July 27) Industry Committee, “… Industry Minister Tony [...]

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