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In the Dark: The Globe and Mail Looks into Canada’s Data Deficit

January 26, 2019

The Globe and Mail kicked off a series of articles this past weekend (January 26) on Canada’s data deficit. Written by Eric Andrew-Gee and Tavia Grant, the articles look at gaps in data available in Canada to inform decision making.

In the dark: The cost of Canada’s data deficit
When it comes to basic data about its own citizens – from divorce rates to driving patterns to labour trends – Canada simply doesn’t have the answers. If information is power, this country has a big problem.

What went wrong at Statscan? A history of secrecy, small-time thinking and statistics
Parts of Canada’s data history have gone missing. Others are hidden from public view by layers of bureaucracy. Here’s how we ended up here

Flying blind: Why does Canada know so little about itself?
Last year, Globe journalists set out to understand the gaps in information about how Canadians live. This is what we found – and we’re just getting started.

In the information age, Canada is falling behind
On everything from public health to housing, the economy and education, the country does not have the data it needs to make smart decisions. We are tracking the gaps and their effect on your everyday life

Readers also have the opportunity to identify data gaps that affect Canadians.

Articles added on January 27:

Experts urge Ottawa to fix Canada’s data deficit
Canada could fix gaps in public data by improving co-ordination between provinces, copying ideas from other countries and reforming key pieces of legislation that stifle access to information, according to academics, former Statistics Canada workers and international experts.

Data is knowledge, and Canadians deserve to know themselves
By Wayne Smith, former chief statistician of Statistics Canada 
In Statistics Canada today, the cart is leading the horse with new funding going toward the implementation and administration of policy decisions already taken, whether or not they are supported by the evidence.

Articles added on January 28:

Divorce and marriage data crucial for understanding Canada’s public health, researchers argue
A chorus of researchers is calling for Statistics Canada to reinstate its annual publication of marriage and divorce rates, arguing numbers on the country’s marital health are vital for understanding housing, child care and public health.

Closing our data gap will be good for our health
If you don’t know the numbers, or if the numbers are not comparable, you can’t implement sound public policies. With the era of Big Data looming large, Canada’s health care data gap risks becoming a deadly chasm.

Articles added on January 29:

To truly take our blindfolds off, Canadians need better polling
By Marina Adshade, UBC Vancouver School of Economics / SFU School of Public Policy
Along with inaccessible data from Statscan, we suffer from a lack of good, rigorous polls on social issues

Articles added on January 31:

Statistics Canada is better than you might think. But it can still do better
By Munir A. Sheikh, research professor at Carleton University and a former chief statistician of Canada
There are certainly ways to improve Statistics Canada. But if collecting data is all about getting the whole picture, we can’t lose sight of what we’re already doing well.

Articles added on February 5:

Globe editorial: Hey Canada, mind the data gap
As a society, we have consented to a wild west of corporate data collection, designed to sell us stuff, while our leaders are failing to collect and share information needed to make government work better. That calls for a look in the mirror – a crystal-clear mirror that actually reflects us back to ourselves.

Articles added on February 6:

How Canada’s racial data gaps can be hazardous to your health
Canada lags far behind other countries in tracking how ethnicity affects the labour market, the justice system and health care. What are policy-makers missing?

‘Visible minority’: Is it time for Canada to scrap the term?
Today, many say the term is outdated (after massive shifts in the composition of Canada’s population), generalizing and may hurt some of the very people it was supposed to help by masking diverging outcomes.

Articles added on February 7:

The deterioration of data is robbing marginalized communities of their voice
Time and again, marginalized communities have had to rely on an irregular flow of data to validate our stories and lived experiences – forced to marshal math in support of our stories that broader Canadian society too often dismisses as hysterics.

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