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Canada's census switch under fire

OTTAWA, July 23 (UPI) -- A Canadian decision to stop using census forms and replace them with voluntary surveys has the country's statistics-gathering body in turmoil, observers say.

Experts worry the government's decision could damage the impeccable methodology and autonomy Statistics Canada, an independent data-gathering institution considered one of the world's best, is renowned for, Postmedia News reported Friday.

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StatsCan chief statistician Munir Sheikh found the Conservative government's move so untenable he ended a 30-year government career by resigning in protest on Wednesday, Postmedia said.

"StatsCan is thought of as one of the best," Kevin Milligan, an associate professor of economics at the University of British Columbia, said. "The institutional culture is one of independence. That is at the heart of why they've been so distressed by this turn of events, because they really felt that independence was threatened."

Opposition has been growing to the plan to turn Canada's mandatory long-form census into a voluntary survey, a move critics say will produce a skewed or useless national demographic record.

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