Sioux Lookout mayor urging anyone who has not yet completed Census 2021 to do so and help their community
Tim Brody - Editor
Census Day was May 11 for the 2021 Census, however, according to Robert Stephenson, Regional Assistant Director with Statistics Canada, any households that have not taken part still have an opportunity to do so.
“Census Day is May 11, which is our reference date. The letter is sent to every household and we ask people to complete it by May 11, so that we can have a pretty good understanding of where we stand in terms of responses. After May 11 what happens is if we don’t have a response from a dwelling, the dwelling then rolls into kind of this non-response list and then we would take that non-response list and we would follow up with those dwellings and that will take place throughout May, June and a little bit into July, so we’ve got a little bit of buffer,” Stephenson said.
Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance is urging anyone who has not yet completed the census to do so as soon as possible.
He said accurate census data is vital to the municipality; however he said Sioux Lookout’s population is not accurately captured in the census due to the uniqueness of the community.
For example, he said Sioux Lookout hosts many high school students from northern Indigenous communities within the municipality who attend Pelican Falls First Nations High School and Sioux North High School much of the year.
“Those students, let’s put COVID aside, it’s an unusual year, the students are living here for more than the majority of the year attending school, so it would be nice if Sioux Lookout could count them as residents. That’s one example. There are many others, whoever’s visiting our town or living here. I know there are some northern people, and I understand that their home is in their home community in the north, so they’re not going to put their name on a census address here, but they may be living here for one or two years or longer for various reasons,” Lawrance said, adding, “I think we’re caught in between the two worlds and we miss out because for every head that’s not counted, it means dollars not in municipal hands. There are various funds that are based on a per capita population basis and you want to have every head counted in your community, so that’s the real concern.”
Lawrance said, in his opinion, “I think the census is probably designed, as many things are, for where most people live – cities. The administration of it and the design of the census and the questions on it will not take into account the uniqueness of small towns and especially small towns like Sioux Lookout. That’s my gut feel and I think that we miss out on the census count.”
The 2016 census showed Sioux Lookout to have a population of 5,272, while the 2011 census showed Sioux Lookout’s population to be 5,037.
Lawrance estimates, pre-COVID, a more accurate representation of Sioux Lookout’s population would be 6500.
“The last 30 years, I think the municipality has done nothing but grow, and, in fact, 20 years ago in one of the censuses I think, they had us as shrinking. In my observation, we have never been shrinking population-wise. I know that housing is always in short supply, but housing doesn’t disappear. When it does disappear, it’s replaced with more intense housing. Either single family housing is built… but typically in the urban core when an old single family house is demolished it has been replaced with a duplex, three-plex, four-plex, seven-plex. It is replaced with something much more intense. In addition, we’ve had large, multi-unit buildings added in the community as well. So the population is not shrinking. It’s growing, but the census doesn’t reflect that as fully as it should,” he said.
“We want to know where our community is in terms of age, in terms of demographic makeup, then you can plan for needs and you can advocate for needs based on real data, which I don’t think we have enough of for Sioux Lookout,” he explained.
“People are coming here for employment and maybe it’s young people, and they’re doubling up, tripling up, quadrupling up in apartments, so the density of occupation. Or people who own houses, there’s many people renting out a room or two. Are those people being counted in the census accurately enough? I don’t know, but they’re definitely living here. They’re part of the community,”
Another concern Lawrance brought up is that not everyone is online. “Are they being counted? How does that work?”
Stephenson shared, “We’ve got multiple different ways to complete it. The most ideal, economical way for us to complete it would be to go online. People will have a unique 16-digit code once they log in online on www.census.gc.ca, they can plug in their code, which will pull up the questionnaire that’s unique to their residence and they can complete it online. If that doesn’t work, people can call in to complete the questionnaire through our census helpline – that number is 1-855-340-2021 and they can complete it with one of our agents. And then we also have the paper questionnaires that are available. This would really be that last resort choice, just from an environmental perspective, and people can request those questionnaires at that same phone number.”
Asked how people obtain the 16-digit code, he explained, “People would have received either a letter in the mail. Most of those letters would have landed on May 3, there was an agreement with Canada Post to have letters landing around that time. So 90 per cent of the population in Ontario would get that code through the mail. The other 10 per cent of the population where we wouldn’t really have a solid address registered through Canada Post, what we do is a door drop by our census staff.”
Asked how this would work in remote, First Nation communities, Stephenson shared, “What we do with the First Nations communities and our reserves is we try to hire locally as much as possible. So, ideally, we have staff that are local to that community and we would ship all of the equipment, all of the letters that need to be door dropped, to those folks that live in that community and they would do the work on our behalf.”
Being past Census Day, if people still have not received a code, Stephenson said, “People can always call into that 1-855-340-2021… if they haven’t received a letter, if nothings shown up at their door. Give that number a call. An agent will help them out.”
Additional Census information can be found at https://census.gc.ca/index-eng.htm?HPA=1.
Lawrance said the census data can be appealed. “The reward would have to outweigh the cost. You’d have to say, alright, if we were going to invest $25,000 in doing a population count, can we get that back, plus more, in terms of per capita funding. When we’re trying to attract whether it’s big box retail, or franchise type restaurants to town, they look at towns based on population count. So having an accurate population that truly reflects the numbers here helps us attract other businesses,” Lawrance concluded.