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Injunction could delay voluntary census Add to ...

A French-Canadian group has launched a legal attack on multiple fronts against the federal government's move to scrap the mandatory long-form census.

The group has not only asked Federal Court to void the Harper government's new policy, but also wants an injunction that would keep the new type of census from being distributed this year.

It is also asking the court to fast-track its case so that it can be heard by mid-October, before the government distributes the 2011 census.

The Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada tabled its papers in Federal Court on July 26. The Canadian Press obtained copies of those documents on Wednesday.

The federation argues that Ottawa's move violates not only the Official Languages Act, but also the Constitution's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It says that without reliable data about the francophone presence in Canada, the quality of government services in French could suffer.

The group's president, Marie-France Kenny, said Wednesday the organization doesn't want to resign itself to a fait accompli.

"We don't want the government to tell us, 'It's too late, it's already printed.' We don't want the court to say, 'Look, the census has already happened,"' Ms. Kenny said.

"We're saying, 'Hurry up before there are more costs.' The goal isn't to incur costs for the government or the taxpayers."

Critics of the move note that it will cost the government more money to produce an inferior census.

Tory defenders call the mandatory form - which carried the threat of legal punishment - a violation of privacy.

Some also argue that, with a watered-down census, it will become harder for the federal government to design social programs.

The FCSA says the last-minute legal offensive was necessary and came after letters went unanswered to Industry Minister Tony Clement and Heritage Minister James Moore.

The last letter the group sent went directly to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"We didn't have a choice. We had 30 days (to file a motion)," Ms. Kenny said.

"We tried everything, everything we could, short of kidnapping people, to meet them."

Meanwhile, Ontario's Citizenship and Immigration Minister is taking Ottawa to task for hurting the province's ability to provide support to immigrants.

"Your government's decision to eliminate the long-form census will eliminate both our governments' abilities to gain valuable and reliable information to new Canadians," Eric Hoskins wrote to Mr. Clement in a sharply-worded letter. "As a result, it will impede our ability to plan, develop and deliver relevant and effective programs and services to our newcomer communities, and will result in poorer outcomes."

Dr. Hoskins noted that in the last long-form census, "at least ten questions provided critical insights into new Canadians," which helped target employment-related policies such as occupation-specific bridge training programs.

The province's complaints were echoed in a letter to Mr. Clement from Josie Di Zio, the president of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, which said that the OCASI uses census data "to inform public policy, to program plan and to develop services geared to the successful settlement and integration of immigrants and refugees."

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