Fort McMurray residents rest at a community centre in Anzac, Alberta. (Photo: Topher Seguin/Reuters)About 2,400 buildings, mostly homes, were lost. Officials have said it is likely to be two weeks before a schedule is released for evacuees to return to their homes. "There's no news yet on when people would be reintegrating the municipality and I'm pretty sure that the first priority would not be to complete the census at that time, " said Hamel. "It's to get life back in order and resume things as normally as you can." Hamel said the census always starts by counting dwellings and enumerating occupants. He says it might be possible to "take a snapshot" of what Fort McMurray looked like before the fire and use a number of approaches to potentially produce a population count. The agency has to consider the possibility that census workers won't be able to go back to the city this summer, he said.
The census is meant to provide a statistical portrait of the country every five years. Information is used in planning schools, public transportation, senior housing and police and fire services. A population count also is vital because it can influence transfer payments going to a province from the federal government. Not being able to return to Fort McMurray could mean Statistics Canada won't be able to get details for the long-form census such as education or workforce information. "For that part, we're not sure yet. This is one of the challenges, for sure," said Hamel. "Producing a count and having a basic demographic profile is most likely feasible. Producing the more detailed picture is something that we have to keep looking into ... if we're not able to go back in the community."
"This is obviously not the time to go and do a census over there."
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