Statistics Canada should use interpreters in Nunavut
In recent months I have several times had interviewers from Statistics Canada knock on my door asking me to participate in a survey of some sort.
I’m always happy to do so, as I believe that governments need accurate data on which to base decisions and that it’s a citizen’s duty to participate. I’m less happy, however, with the fact that six years after the creation of Nunavut, StatCan is still flying in interviewers from the South and not providing them with interpreters. For almost all StatCan surveys in Nunavut (the Aboriginal Children’s Survey being a rare exception), there is no local employment, and no ability to communicate with unilingual Inuktitut speakers.
This morning I asked one of their interviewers why, if StatCan is unwilling or unable to hire Nunavummiut for their regular survey program, they don’t hire a bilingual Inuk to accompany him.
His response was that the surveys are supposed to be confidential (although this survey wasn’t on a particularly sensitive topic), and if there was an interpreter along, then peoples’ responses would no longer be private. How ridiculous — StatCan is deliberately, on “principle,” refusing to allow Nunavummiut to complete most household surveys in Inuktitut! Surveys that go uncompleted for this reason are coded “22” — “unable to complete because occupant doesn’t speak an official language.”
Of all the federal departments and agencies operating in Nunavut today, Statistics Canada has to be the most persistently colonial in its approach. Can you imagine the uproar that would result if they handled data collection in Quebec in a similar fashion?
Maybe it’s time for a bit of uproar here… The opinions and living conditions of unilingual Inuktitut speakers are as important as anyone else’s, and it is wrong to exclude them from the “national” data that Statistics Canada collects.