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In 1963, the International Statistical Institute (ISI) (Network B) held its 34th Session in Ottawa in what was the relatively new Carleton University campus. The ISI, founded in 1885, is a professional association of statisticians from all over the world and holds a World Statistics Congress (WSC) every two years. Not only is 2013 the International Year of Statistics, it also marks the 50th anniversary of the WSC held in Ottawa, which was in large part organized by Statistics Canada—then known as the Dominion Bureau of Statistics. This international event was important and greatly impacted the field of statistics in Canada.

 

Statistics in Canada in the 1960s

 

ISI

 

During the 1960s, statistical activities in Canada and in the National Capital Region had not reached the level that they have now. However, it was a time of development for statistics and the expanding Carleton University was a fitting site for the 1963 WSC. In 1961, Carleton University had awarded its first Ph.D to one of their students, a member of the ISI and a very promising young man, Ivan P. Fellegi. The Dominion Bureau of Statistics was very active in the field of National Accounts and in 1962, the Bureau created the National Accounts and Balance of Payments Division.
The 1963 WSC was chaired by Walter E. Duffett, who was the Federal Statistician (now known as Chief Statistician) at the time, and welcomed about 350 participants from 25 countries. Among the participants were about 20 employees from the Dominion Bureau of Statistics and several others from the different federal departments who also worked in the statistical field. The wide attendance of Canadian statisticians such as Vincent R. Berlinguette, Dr. Fellegi, Simon Goldberg, Herbert Marshall and Lorne Rowebottom likely contributed to the advocacy of statistics in the region and, at the very least, created a momentum—within less than a decade following the event, important statistical landmarks were set.

 

 ISI WSC in Canada 1963

 

The 34th International Statistical Institute Conference.
Source: The International Statistical Institute, 1885–1985 (Network B).

  • In 1963, recommendations following the Royal Commission on Government Organization (Glassco Commission) laid the path to add power to the Dominion Bureau of Statistics in its co‑ordination of statistical activities of other departments.
  • In 1968, the Statistical Society of Ottawa was created (as a chapter of the American Statistical Association).
  • In 1971, a new Statistics Act created Statistics Canada and provided greater independence.

 

The International Statistical Institute

 

The ISI is a vibrant institute that has grown over the years. In 1963, just over 350 people attended the WSC, while for the 2013 WSC in Hong Kong (Network B), more than 2,500 people attended. The ISI is composed of seven Associations, including the International Association of Survey Statisticians (Network B) founded in 1973 and the International Association for Official Statistics (Network B) founded in 1985. Over the years, Statistics Canada has been consistently involved with the ISI and its Associations, holding positions on their executive committees such as secretary, teacher, webmaster, program chair and president.

 

Statistics: Then and Now

 

 WSC 2013 Hong Kong

 

If we compare the world of statistics between then and now, some things have changed while some have not. Some of the things that have changed are in-person vs. Internet collection, punch cards vs. USB keys, and separate programs working in silos vs. management of integrated programs. Conversely, the importance of a census, expanding the use of administrative data, and the need for efficiencies remain current topics.
In terms of the statistical profession, in 1963 there was a need for structure and a need for local and international associations. Today, there are universally adopted Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics and codes of ethics to guide statisticians and professional associations at different levels for networking and exchanging information and ideas on statistical issues and practices.
Since the WSC 50 years ago, the field of statistics in general and Statistics Canada in particular have gained an important place in society and are part of the daily life of Canadians, either directly or indirectly. Statistics Canada is sure to find the next 50 years as promising for the further development and advocacy of statistics, beginning with the numerous activities of this year’s International Year of Statistics and gaining momentum with the 100th anniversary of the Dominion Bureau of Statistics / Statistics Canada in 2018.

 

Éric Rancourt

International Cooperation Division

Statistics Canada