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Kendall Worth: Census deadline causes anxiety among some people living in poverty

Photo Robert Devet

Dear Minister François-Philippe Champagne,

Whereas you are the minister in charge I know you are aware that a letter was sent by Statistics Canada to all Canadians dated May 3rd 2021 wanting people to go online and fill out the census questionnaire. 

Everyone was told to have these questionnaires filled out by May 11th, 2021. This tight deadline is causing anxiety among the community of people living in poverty that I advocate for. 

We all understand the importance of filling this out. However, as I am sure you already know, here in Nova Scotia we are in lockdown again because of COVID 19. 

The people I advocate for through my journalism depend on resources such as the library to use the Internet. Many of us cannot afford to have internet access (or phones) at home. 

Also, especially those of us who have learning disabilities and/or mental health issues depend on professional help from people who also accompany us during our Annual Reviews for income assistance at the department Of Community Services.

Some of the people who are part of my community  are currently saying “We do not want to fill out this Census questionnaire without support.” 

What is really scaring the community of people I advocate for is that they are being told by people who do not know their situations from a hole in the ground that filing the forms out is the law. 

Anyway, I wanted to bring this issue to your attention and ask in this open letter if an extension can be granted to this May 11th deadline.

Kendall Worth is an award-winning anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.

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  1. The letter is dated May 3, which means they assume everyone has Internet access AND is not busy or distracted with other things going on in their lives, and can get this done in a mere week. They rely on Canada Post to deliver these things so they must know that even if you call that toll-free number to request a paper form, it will never arrive in your mailbox by May 11, never mind that you have to mail it, which means leaving your home to walk to the nearest mailbox. The form will never arrive at Stats Canada by May 11 and there is nothing in the letter reassuring those who have to do this that they will not get in trouble for it arriving late. And what about people who are away or in hospital, or any number of circumstances that would make it impossible to fill out in such a short period of time. Are they insane?! Seriously?! They couldn’t have sent these letters out a month ago?! And they have the nerve to threaten us with legal action if we don’t do it by May 11! It’s like those who don’t speak English, have cognitive issues, etc., don’t even exist. Utterly ridiculous!

    As for getting to a mailbox, those with mobility issues can’t do that. And we are in a lockdown due to a serious outbreak of Covid variants so asking someone to come to our home to pick up the envelope and do this for us is a tricky thing, never mind that a lot of people in poverty with mobility issues live in total isolation. I’m a wheelchair user, and pandemic or not, I have no one to call upon to mail a letter for me.

    What I find most offensive about the letter is the use of the word, “prefer”, as in, if you prefer a paper form. Shows how clueless our government is about poverty in this country. It should be worded, “if you don’t have Internet…” For those who can’t afford it, not having Internet is not a preference, it’s a fact. Also for those in rural areas where there is a problem with availability and reliability of Internet service.

    The whole thing is INFURIATING! And insulting.

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