Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It does seem a bit out of place being at this end of the table, so I am in awe of the rest of you today.
I'm honoured to speak to the committee today on Bill C-625, an act to amend the Statistics Act, regarding removal of imprisonment. I'd like to thank my own constituents for their support in bringing forward this bill and the members of all parties who voted unanimously in favour of bringing it to this committee.
The principles of this bill are simple, Mr. Chair. It addresses two very important issues. First, the bill seeks to eliminate the threat of jail time for Canadians who refuse to complete mandatory surveys, and second, it will ensure historians have access to related census records, where Canadians have given their permission, 92 years after the information is collected.
With these changes to the Statistics Act, we are again delivering on promises made. Our government committed to removing the penalty of jail time for anyone who refuses to complete any mandatory survey administered by Statistics Canada. The members of my constituency asked me to do the same. The bill delivers on this commitment by eliminating the threat of jail time under sections 31 and 32 of the act. It removes this threat for those who refuse to complete the mandatory surveys and for those who deny access to administrative records. It also proposes to eliminate the threat of jail time for failing to pay a fine under those two sections.
Canadians understand the importance of the census and other surveys in which they participate. I believe that people provide their information to Statistics Canada surveys because they know that it is by far the most reliable and accurate source of Canadian socio-economic information at the national, provincial, territorial, and community levels.
Jail time is a punishment that should be reserved for the most severe crimes. Canadians should not be threatened with jail time for not filling out a survey. We have an obligation to eliminate the penalty of jail time from this section of the act and replace it with a more reasonable penalty.
This brings me to the second part of the bill, which addresses the release of historical household survey records related to the census of population 92 years after its collection. This bill delivers on that commitment by adding a provision to the Statistics Act that allows access to these records. This change echoes the decision that was made in 2005 to amend the Statistics Act and allow for the release of census records after 92 years.
The adjustments in this bill will allow for the wealth of information collected through the 2011 national household survey to be released in the year of 2103 for the Canadians who have provided their consent. I'm sure we can all agree that it is important to leave a record of present-day Canada for future generations, and with this amendment to the Statistics Act, we're giving Canadians that choice.
I would encourage my colleagues to support this important piece of legislation.
I will answer any of your questions.