The Canadian government is asking citizens to declare their sexual orientation in a national survey, reports the Ottawa Citizen. The survey builds on the last census, which for the first time asked how many common-law couples were of the same sex.
"This is a touchy subject that could raise fears in individuals about their private lives," acknowledged Pierre Turcotte, Statistics Canada's chief of social reporting. But the agency wants to know numbers because of human rights laws, he said. Although discrimination based on sexual orientation is justification for launching a complaint in Canada, there is no data regarding sexual orientation as there is for other discriminatory grounds, such as gender, race, and religion.
Statistics Canada has conducted several preliminary tests in which people indicated that they would be willing to state their sexual orientation, but only if the question was asked for a good reason, said Turcotte.
The agency selected its Canadian Community Health Study--a telephone survey of 130,000 Canadians conducted every two years--because the information is provided to community health centers to better understand their clientele. The study began earlier this month and will continue until the end of the year. The health survey is considered less intrusive than the census, in which one member of a household reports for everyone.
The question that Statistics Canada is asking is: "Do you consider yourself to be heterosexual, homosexual--that is lesbian or gay--or bisexual?"
Gay rights activist John Fisher predicted that Statistics Canada's numbers will be conservative because many Canadians will not tell the government that they are gay.
"If it's a teenager living at home with his or her parents who has not yet disclosed their sexual orientation to their family, it is unlikely they're going to disclose it to a government statistician," said Fisher, executive director of Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere.