The Guardian reports this morning that the deaths by stoning of the (mainly) women in Iran’s prisons are being quietly change to death by hanging. The article, goes on to remind us of the appalling state of justice in that Republic. The cases include that of a fifteen year old child bride, accused of her elderly husband of adultery, condemned not only to die by stoning but also to live for three years under that sentence because she was not yet eighteen. What a mockery.

Meanwhile Sakineh herself is tortured into reading a “confession” on television. Her lawyer is now in Norway, having been arrested in Turkey and offered safe haven in that country of EU officials intervened in Turkey. He of course can and is speaking to the press.

Please keep up the pressure on Iran. Sign the petition at

Ottawa Notebook – The Globe and Mail.

The census, still in the news. Earlier this week Tony Clement complained that he felt all alone in the census fight, with so many groups against him. Apparently he thinks he is the only one with revealed truth on this issue.

Then, the government, throwing a bone to Quebec, moves questions on language to the short form, because they couldn’t be assured of accurate data in a voluntary long form! Now do these people actually ever listen to themselves?


I spent an entire morning this week talking to Sean, at Microsoft for Word for Mac about a  strange problem with my manuscript. All the quotation marks were reversed. Sean couldn’t solve the problem for me and finally, I did a manual review and changed them all. As to the service from that department, it was great. Two phone calls back, the first to give me an update on the progress, and two days later to tell me that despite their best efforts there didn’t seem to be a solution.

Now comes the slogging part of writing — reviewing the galley proofs.

Sunday Roundup2


My latest book went to the publisher some time ago. Two errors, both mine, merged to give both the editor and me headaches. First, I had sent the wrong version, unedited and unrevised. During May and June I had worked on the manuscript and then carefully saved it — to a usb drive. I didn’t remember that and sent the most recent one on the computer. The next mistake was in using Word. I didn’t know that there was a small button in the reviewing toolbar that I had to click in order to accept all my edits and create a final version. The editor received a file full of corrections, strike-throughs, and sidebar comments.  Once the Microsoft tech told me what to do — success. The publisher, Arline Chase of Write Words Inc. and  Cambridge Books, has been great about it and I have sent along the revised  version to the editor.

Tech Support

I needed support from both Apple and Microsoft to solve the problem, and both technicians were great. The wait time was brief and the information clear. It was Saturday evening, so not too much traffic at support, I imagine.

Another outfit that has an efficient website and great service is Rail Europe. I used them to book our tickets from Madrid to Seville in the fall. From booking to the UPS driver at my door took three days, including a border crossing!


Sakineh still waits in that prison in Iran, while they review her sentence for a murder she says she didn’t commit and of which she was acquitted. Through an intermediary she says that the international pressure is embarrassing Iran. I hope that this country, once such a pearl, can be saved, with Sakineh, from the madmen at the top. Please continue to embarrass them and sign the petition. Website follows.

The census, still.

This week, Sylvia Ostry, former chief of Stats Can and an internationally known economist is quoted in Michael Valpy’s article at the Globe and Mail, as saying it is “shocking” and “ridiculous” that Ottawa should have abandoned the long form census. She was receiving an award for public policy at the Couchiching Conference.

Why the government is staying with this sorry decision is difficult to understand, unless it is Harper’s ego in play again. Hubris best describes it I think.


I went to a summer theatre this week, to see a play, out of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, by way of Hitchcock’s film, filtered through an English music hall. The actors were excellent, but I didn’t enjoy seeing Buchan’s work turned into burlesque.

I hadn’t read the book for many years, so I reread it this week. It’s a cracking good yarn, with lots of adventure in the Scottish highlands of a century ago. John Buchan was also Lord Tweedsmuir and served as Canada’s fifteenth Governor-General from 1935-1940.

One thing I noticed, as I have in Christie, Naigo Marsh, Dorothy Sayers and other writers from England of that period is the pervasive and off-hand anti-semitism. Buchan, though, confines it to a character who is soon murdered, and whose attitude towards Jews is called “strange”.

Historical Census

Understanding the Nineteenth-Century Census: historical background to the census.

The article above gives an interesting history of the development of the census in Britain, late by European standards. Even at the beginning, there were concerns that the other sources of information such as church records left out segments of the population not involved with the organized Christian religions, who would be counted in church records. Here of course the concern is that many groups, including those living in poverty, or newly immigrant will not be included.

The wealth of information available in the more than 200 years of census-taking has allowed historical studies, not otherwise possible. I fail to understand why any government wouldn’t want an an accurate census, to compare with prior years. Without it, they will be making decisions based on facts not in evidence, much, I suppose, like the unreported crimes that so alarm Mr. Day.

Mr. Day claims that there is an alarming increase in unreported crime, which he says is evidence for the need for more prisons. How he is going to put the perpetrators of these unreported crimes, who will not be charged, or brought to court, in prison, he has not explained. I notice he used census data as the source for his statistic on unreported crime.

More on the Census

Canada’s stat crunchers join census fight – The Globe and Mail.

One week until the new census goes to press. One can see the strategy the government is employing. It is clear they – being he, Harper – thinks that if they hold on, beat the drumbeat of the jail time problem, until it is too late to change the census, it will all just go away, become yesterday’s news.

The problem is that often works for them. Who will remember that the rights of the citizens of Toronto and elsewhere were trampled during the G20 fiasco?

Who will remember that Harper refused to include abortion in his women’s health initiative?

I think it’s important to remember these events. The pattern of authoritarian behaviour worsens over time as governments become more entrenched. Without an accurate census and without the comparison to before, the government will be able to tell us what it wishes, with no facts to confuse us.

The census is about fact. It should be saved. Why on earth don’t they just remove the jail time penalty and leave it as mandatory, with a fine for refusing?

Kandahar airbase was attacked today.  What about that leaked information on the war? How much truth is there in in what we have been told? Or is it more government manipulation?

Sunday Roundup

BBC News – Brazil offers asylum to Iran woman sentenced to stoning.

The BBC is reporting that Brazil has offered asylum to Sakineh, but there has been no response at this time from Iran. And that’s it. On July 21st, the governemnet of Iran announced that a decision on her sentencing would be made in 40 days. In the meantime, her lawyer is missing; his wife and brother-in-law are held without charge; her sons are muzzled. All we can do is keep talking and posting, and writing about her and all the others who languish in those ghastly prisons.

Nothing new on the census front, except for the nearly universal condemnation of the government’s decision. Even the Canadian Catholic Bishops are upset.  One article calls it disconnecting the past from the future, which is what this action does. We simply won’t know how to compare what is with what was, and no way of knowing if we’re improving, or failing. In 10 years, when the census rolls around again, with perhaps, fate willing, another government in power, it may be made mandatory again. So the gap, instead of 10 years will be 20, and in those 20 years what mistakes will have been made as decisions are taken on erroneous or at the very least non-comparable data, or worse on a politician’s “philosophy”.

Our trip to Spain is coming closer. This weekend, I was able to book our train tickets from Madrid to Seville, on the AVE, Spain’s version of the TVG in France. Spain is working to connect the major cities by this very rapid transit. Madrid to Seville is a 550 km drive and takes about 6 hours by car. The train takes 2 1/2hrs and includes lunch!  I booked through RailEurope which is painless. The tickets should arrive this week. I think I’ll have to wait until we’re in Seville to get the bus tickets for Ronda.

The Census

It has been an unusual week. The conflict over the census, which cost a good man his job and lost the services of that same career civil servant to the government, has spread to interprovincial affairs, with most of the provinces weighing in on the side of keeping the long form the way it is, minus the threatened jail time. Today Jack Layton wants to sit down with the PM and work out a compromise. John Ibbitson in the Globe talks about Tony Clement “defending a false fact”. All along I thought there were no false facts, just facts and non-facts.

The Conservative government has been unable to say “we made a mistake” for all these long years they have been in government. Since they imported Guy Giorno, a former Mike Harris staffer, the attitude of the government seems to me to have become more hard-nosed, and certainly more small-c conservative. I suppose he’s on Harper’s wavelength or Harper on his. Things didn’t go well with Harris originally and I sure don’t like the retread.

The news from Iran is bleak. No word on Sakineh and now her lawyer has disappeared, his wife and brother-in-law held without legal representation. Add your voice, sign the petition.

Long-form census · Uses of Census Long-form data – Question Justification.

Harper’s census push months in the making – The Globe and Mail.

The controversy re the long form census continues. The link from datalibra details the various uses for the information in the long form. Kempton, in his blog laments the waste of all the previous censuses. The next point in the graph will be missing, he says.

The Globe and Mail reporter Michael Valpy interviews Harper’s thesis advisor, and he suggests the decision is ideologically driven by a “libertarian philosophy.”

Jane Tabor in the Ottawa Citizen says if you want libertarians, look to the seniors and they are angry over the decision and have no trouble with the privacy issue. The link to her column follows:

A CARP conducted poll show the Tories slipping an amazing 10 points among their members, who are among the usually stalwart Tory voters.

I recall that my mother, who lived to almost 85, had trouble with the census in any form, not because of the questions, or the government having the information, but because it was a neighbour acting as census taker. She objected to someone in the community knowing her business. That doesn’t seem to be an issue for CARP members.

In medicine, samples have to be representative of the population being studied. If too many drop out, the study is invalid. I think we need the mandatory count so we can be sure of our information, and decisions based on it. Facts, not philosophy.

Canadian Census–2

This article in the Globe and Mail this am attempts to define the importance of the census to everyone. What interests me is that the Prime Minister, who controls just about everything that goes on in the government, didn’t either know this – and he’s an economist by education – or is so ideologically driven that it doesn’t matter to him. The census has been in place officially in the areas formerly under British control on a recurring basis since 1841. The US does their census on the 10’s and is even older. A census is  not a survey or a poll. It’s a counting procedure and is vital to almost everyone who has to make a decision based on fact not imagination.

Or perhaps that’s the problem, all those uncomfortable facts.

Census Lost

Statistics Canada chief falls on sword over census – The Globe and Mail.

The headline above suggests the the Chief Statistician resigned because he did something wrong. At least that is my understanding of the phrase “fall on your sword”. In fact he resigned because Minister Clement, and of course Prime Minister Harper in that tightly controlled cabinet, placed him in an untenable position. Clement said that he, Mr. Sheikh supported the government position because he had given them the options. Today Mr. Sheikh said that the suggested voluntary long form cannot replace the mandatory short. He said this in the fewest possible words. “It cannot.” Then he resigned.

I’m no longer sure what this core support group is that the Tories are pandering to. The opposition to this move in the census is drawn from the widest cross-section of citizenry that I can recall, including: powerful business groups; provinces; social, education and welfare planners; and ordinary citizens like me, who think we need to have an OBJECTIVE measure of how we’re  doing as a country. The census tells us who we are, what the health issues are and where they are, what are the educational needs, how much money is being made and who’s making it and how. In short it gives us the facts, without the government spin. If you want to be told only what the government wants you to hear, whatever its political stripe, then you won’t care about this change. If, like me, you want to know what is happening to our country, then object. Write to your MP; write to the paper; consider  with care your vote in the next election.

The Canadian Census

Topic : Canada Census –

The Star this morning has a list of recent articles within its pages on the subject of the 2011 census. Many of the arguments in favour of retaining the long-form census in its present form, with the mandatory aspect, come from the folks who depend on its information to design everything from the next red hot gadget to policies governing higher education and hospitals. Young people planning a career can search for information about job prospects and health care managers on the population trends within their area. Do they need more nursery bassinets  or nursing homes?
What about power needs? The Conservatives say the state has no business asking you how many bedrooms are in your house? Do you know a better way to judge the size of a house, and its likely power requirements?

I’ve been an amateur genealogist for some years now. Long enough to have endured the privacy commissioner’s decision, now retracted, to disallow all future access to census data for genealogical purposes. It was to have begun with the 1911 census but both that and the 1916 are available online. At least, the information from the short form is.

At this time genealogy is a popular pastime. Television programs such as Who Do You Think You Are and Ancestors in the Attic have loyal followings. Future genealogists however will find their past locked away in the vaults, even if their ancestors, us, filled out the forms.

Trivial you say? Perhaps. The need for information in all government departments, in industry, in social and educational planning is not. I think it is important that we understand the make-up of our country. In short, how we are doing? The census, in place in all countries in the sphere of the British Empire since 1841, has been the source of reliable information. Why is the government so intent on fixing what isn’t broken?

Oh, and don’t tell us people have complained. Not according to StatsCan, or the privacy commissioner. We know that’s a conservative  American problem, not ours. As usual, Tories pandering to their base support and their heroes across the border.

Facts are so troublesome. No wonder the Tories don’t want us to have access to them. We might understand just how incompetent and ideologically driven they are.

Will I fill out my long form if I get one? Yes indeed. Not because I think the government has chosen the right path, but because I want future information to be as accurate as possible in the circumstances. And that will introduce my bias into their data.