On at least a couple of occasions over the last 15 years, the census has been a subject of debate in the House. In 1996, Deborah Grey moved a motion that sought to make “Canadian” a recognized ethnic origin—see here, here and here. In 2005, Bill S-18, which dealt with the release of census records, was debated and passed—see here and here. During debate on the latter, Conservative MP Scott Reid offered the following observation.
Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on the suggestion that the long form be made voluntary. One concern I would have if that were to be done would be that people would exclude themselves on a non-random basis, which means that the data collected, while still true of those who filled it out, might not actually be representative any more of the population as a whole.
People are selected right now on a random basis for the long form. Given the very large number of Canadians and given that these forms are intended primarily for the purposes of data that is aggregated into very large areas–provincial levels, whole metropolitan areas, or national data–I wonder if we could simply reduce the number of people who are required to fill out the long form.