By BERNIE BELLAN
On Wednesday, May 8, Statistics Canada released results from what it labeled the 2011 “National Household Survey”.
The NHS, which was intended to provide Canadians with statistical information, was controversial from the time that the federal Conservative government announced that it was abandoning the “long form” census, which has been in use in prior census years.
The Conservatives contended that the long form census was an invasion of privacy. As a result, while 2.5 million Canadian households did fill out the NHS, that number represented only 68% of the total number of households that had been given the survey.
In 2006, by way of contrast, 94% of households that were given the long form census to complete filled out the forms.
While there has already been considerable criticism of the Harper government’s decision to abandon the long form census, the results of the NHS may prove to be a real headache for our own Jewish Federation.
For years now we have been told by the Federation that Winnipeg’s Jewish population has been growing substantially as a result of two factors: Immigration to Winnipeg and the return to our city of former Winnipeggers.
The figures produced by the NHS, however, would seem to contradict the assertion that Winnipeg’s Jewish population is growing. In fact, if the figures are to be believed, Winnipeg’s Jewish population has been steadily continuing to shrink, a trend that began in 1961 and has continued unabated, if the latest figures are to be believed.
Here are figures from the NHS: Number of people in Winnipeg who identify as Jews by religion - 10,735. (The 2001 census had that figure at 12,045.)
Number of people in Winnipeg who identify as Jews by ethnic origin - 12,000. (There were also 325 Israelis.) In 2006 the figure was 13,175, while in 2001 the figure was 14,440 (with an additional 85 Israelis).
However, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg would seem to have a great deal of difficulty accepting the latest figures produced by the NHS. In an article written by Myron Love last year, Love noted that, largely as a result of the “GrowWinnipeg” initiative launched by the Federation, “more than 1,600 Jewish families” had moved “to this city from Israel, eastern Europe, the United States and South America, boosting Winnipeg’s Jewish population to more than 16,500.”
As a result of the huge discrepancy in the figures produced by the NHS for Wi n n i p e g ’ s Jewish population, as opposed to the figure that the Federation has been using, I asked the Federation for a comment. The Federation issued the following response: “A spokesperson for the Jewish Federation questioned the reliability of the NHS figures. He said that in the next few weeks we hope to have a better sense of whether the data for our community will be useable.”
One possibility that might go part way to explaining the enormous gap in the figures produced by the NHS and what the Jewish Federation believes to be the case is that because of the voluntary nature of the NHS, many immigrant families chose to ignore the survey.
Still - a difference of over 4,000? Thanks to Prime Minister Harper, a reliable statistical methodology was abandoned in favour of a “voluntary” census. We’ve had “voodoo economics.” before. Now we have “voodoo statistics.”