Inside Statistics Canada’s efforts to improve diversity data

Good account. Some of the data on breakdowns between different Black groups can be found and analysed through of mix of ethnic ancestry, place of birth and generation status (approach used I believe in the StatsCan overview of the Canadian Black community.

The issue is less with respect to basic demographic and socioeconomic data and more with respect to specialized data sets that can identify, highlight and quantify inequities in areas such as health, education, policing etc:

When the Liberals announced the Centre for Gender, Diversity, and Inclusion Statistics in 2018, the government said it would have a “particular” focus on Black Canadians, recognizing a gap in data collection that academics and organizers say is so large it renders promises to address anti-racism “meaningless.”

For the centre to effectively offer information on Canada’s diverse Black population, understand how it’s doing and create policy to address inequality, both it and Statistics Canada need much more funding than the Liberals have allocated, according to one of its academic advisors on Statistics Canada’s Expert Working Group on Black Communities in Canada, and on immigration and ethnocultural statistics.

For months now, as COVID-19 swept across Canada, advocates and researchers have been calling for race-based data on the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities. In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests across the world and Canada, advocates have redoubled that call.

With its “very poor” disaggregated data Canada can’t properly address systemic experiences around racism, including disparities of income and health, said Malinda Smith, a University of Alberta professor.

“You can’t address them without good data. It doesn’t get measured, it doesn’t get done,” she said. “My view is any politician, policy maker, university president making a statement about a commitment to address anti-racism and yet are not collecting data, are not consulting the Black population, I think those commitments, those statements become meaningless.”

Over the last week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) spoke of systemic racism in Canada, promising to change “the systems that do not do right by too many Indigenous people and racialized Canadians.”

In the 2018 budget, the Liberals announced $6.7-million over five years to launch the centre. That funding is applied to both the centre and across various units at the agency to fulfill the mandate, said Statistics Canada spokesperson Peter Frayne by email. It has 10 people whose salaries are at least 50-per-cent funded by the centre, but who also have other duties, he said. In 2019, the Liberals’ anti-racism strategy set aside another $4.2-million, he added, so it could expand data collection in four areas: the general social survey, potential changes to the uniform crime reporting survey, supporting a new advisory committee on ethnocultural and immigration statistics, and added analysis of existing data to include racialized communities.

That funding is “peanuts,” said Prof. Smith who said these gestures give the ”appearance of addressing the problem.”

For the Nova Scotia-based Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute, it can be difficult to get important details about Black Nova Scotians, said its executive director Sylvia Parris-Drummond.

It’s evident Black Canadians face systemic racism across the board, she said, given they are disproportionately low income, have poorer health outcomes, and lower wages. Black people represent 8.6 per cent of the federal prison population, despite accounting for 3.5 per cent of Canada’s population.

“We know all those things exist, we would know them more deeply if we could get the disaggregation of data more strongly done,” she said, and the gap necessarily means policy making is coming from “a less informed place.”

Centre’s work on Black Canadians ‘key,’ says centre specialist

Since 2018, the centre and Statistics Canada have undertaken “major work” on the Black community, said Jean-Pierre Corbeil, the centre’s assistant director and chief specialist.

“Clearly the work on Black Canadians is key,” he said in an interview with The Hill Times about the centre’s work over the past two years, including four projects focused on the population.

After the 2018 budget announcement, Statistics Canada struck an ethnocultural advisory committee, which met that summer and into the fall. During Black History month in February 2019, it published an infographic demonstrating the growing diversity in Canada’s Black population and a 20-page overview of how it had changed over the decades. It showed that Canada’s Black population doubled in size between 1996 and 2016.

It was important to showcase the diversity of Black population, Mr. Corbeil said, and it was the first of its kind at that level of detail and “very well received.” In the early 2000s, the agency offered a few portraits of ethnocultural groups, but not to that level.

Using census data, he said it presented statistics in an accessible way, including portraits of differences between provinces, like Nova Scotia, where the Black community is for the most part third generation, compared to recent immigrants in Toronto and Montreal.

It also showed that cities like Edmonton and Calgary have more than 50,000 Black residents, noted Ms. Smith, which is consistent with the fact that the Prairies have a fast-growing Black population in Canada. Lethbridge, Alta., and Moncton, N. B., were two of the fastest growing populations.

“Diversity has escaped much attention and analysis,Prof. Smith said, adding it may be surprising for people to know that before 1981, more than 80 per cent of the Black population immigrated from the Caribbean, but since 2001, it’s shifted to more than 62 per cent from Africa.

“There’s a tendency to treat it as a homogenous group,” she said, and Canada’s lack of data has helped make that so.

In February 2020, the centre released another report called “Canada’s Black population education, labour, and resilience.” In this study, the centre integrated the 2006 census with the 2016 census for the same person, making it possible to look at education attainment and the educational characteristics of Black youth in Canada and look at labour market integration 10 years later.

It showed that Canada’s Black population is younger than average, and though more Black youth aged 15-25 (94 per cent) reported wanting to get a university degree, only 60 per cent thought it would happen, compared to 79 per cent of the rest of that age range in Canada.

Labour force ‘pilot’ survey to include visible minorities

In July, the labour force survey will include a question about visible minority status for the first time. These mandatory monthly surveys have a 56,000-household sample, so there will still be limitations in the technical analysis, but Mr. Corbeil said it’ll be a first for tracking employment.

Mr. Frayne said the pilot to expand the survey makes up part of Statistics Canada’s response to the data needs stemming from the pandemic. The agency has “enhanced crowdsourcing survey instruments to enable reporting for key vulnerable populations,” including immigrants, Indigenous people, and visible minority groups.

“Statistics Canada recognizes that the social, economic and labour market impacts of COVID-19 have not been equally felt by all Canadians,” he said, adding the agency is also developing techniques to add information by race and visible minority status to previously released data.

Also, in the coming months, the centre plans to release a comprehensive report on changes to the socioeconomic situation of Canada’s Black population, from 2001 to 2016, Mr. Corbeil said, noting there’s a “very, very big appetite” for this analysis.

And, through Canada’s anti-racism strategy, announced in 2019, the centre received an additional $3-million to expand the sample size for the next social identity cycle of the General Social Survey—a smaller, annual themed survey. The survey typically has about 25,000 respondents, while the 2020 survey will be expanded to 80,000 respondents and will allow StatsCan to track perception of discrimination and belonging.

Mr. Frayne added by email that an advisory committee on immigration and ethnocultural statistics has been formed and met once, with another meeting this week.  There is also work underway to improve information on hate crimes by linking police data to courts data, he said.

Canada is long overdue in developing better data on its Black and broader visible minority populations, said Prof. Smith, far behind the United States and United Kingdom. In Britain, researchers can break down racialized students attending post-secondary institutions, but Canada is unable to do that.

“Frankly, we need a Royal Commission on visible minorities in order to examine more systematically and thoroughly the different experiences of the nine groups within that category,” she said, saying it remains shocking to her that the Black population is considered one category despite remarkably different immigration routes and experiences. There are more than 170 different places of birth for the Black immigrants in Canada.

Over the next three years, the centre is also planning to release new indicators, consulting with the agency’s expert advisory committee on ethnocultural and immigration statistics to develop a conceptual framework on ethnocultural diversity and inclusion to better track relevant “inclusion” indicators over time.

“This is a great opportunity to identify data gaps,” Mr. Corbeil said, and when some surveys do not have a large enough sample, it’s an opportunity “to send the message” if more information is needed. Asked if the centre had enough resources, including staffing and funding, he said following the 2018 budget it was “clearly” a key initiative from the government to assign resources to address gaps.

“This is where the emphasis right now is put, trying to get the funding to have the oversampling and all the efforts to integrate the information with different data sources,” he said.

Source: Inside Statistics Canada’s efforts to improve diversity data

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: