Investigating social justice issues

Contributed by Yves Saint-Pierre, with feedback from Dave Wagner, University of New Brunswick.

What are your personal principles with respect to social justice, equity and human rights?

Explore your questions in these areas by using data analysis.

The first step in developing a data investigation is to define an issue that is personally meaningful and significant.

Because of the nature of Statistics Canada's work, we have a wealth of data available to look at social issues. Below are some topic areas and links to specific data sources that you might use.

Note that the data sources are of different types, suitable for different levels of learning. Please see Types of data for characteristics of the data sources.

This page will grow with the addition of new sources from time to time. We invite you to submit ideas for other Statistics Canada data sets or comments to

Teachers: please see Teaching suggestions for ideas on how to use this resource in the classroom.


Crime and Justice
Subject Resource Suggestions
Admissions to correctional services, adults, by sex or aboriginal identity. CANSIM table 251-0001.
See also a release in The Daily.
Compare the percent of sentenced admissions of women and of Aboriginal persons with their proportion in the population. Are these results probable?
Admissions to correctional services, youth, by sex and aboriginal identity. CANSIM table 251-0012 Compare what proportion people of youth of different groups are admitted (compared to their proportion of the population). Which group is more likely to be detained prior to having had a trial? Is this different for men and women? Why do you think there are differences? (For many series, data by sex is only available until 2004/2005.)
Homicide victims and persons accused of homicide, by age group and sex CANSIM table 253-0003 Does the proportion of men among the perpetrators of homicide resemble the proportion of men among the victims of homicide?


Education, Training and Learning
Subject Resource Suggestions
Relationship between income and literacy... International Adult Literacy Survey Explore the relationship between literacy and income. Do you think literacy levels "cause" levels of income or vice versa?
Literacy and earnings of immigrants versus Canadian born. Tables for males and females from the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey. See also full report. Investigate the mathematical relationship between literacy scores and earnings (income from work)? Compare immigrants and the Canadian-born. Is the relationship the same for mean and median earnings? For annual and weekly earnings? For men and women? If not, why?
Literacy and income The joint distribution of income and literacy What is the probability that someone in the first (lowest) quintile of literacy will be in the first (lowest) income quintile? In the fifth (highest) income quintile? Can you explain?


Subject Resource Suggestions
Timber assets, harvesting and outcomes CANSIM table 153-0030 If present harvesting methods continue, when will we run out of timber assets? Compare provinces according to the change in their stock of timber since 1961. Fit a model (linear, quadratic, etc.) to the data and extrapolate it by 50 or 100 years. Experiment! What does the future hold? Why is this important?
Greenhouse gas emissions, by sector and by industry CANSIM table 153-0034 Compare emissions of rail and truck transportation, of different kinds of mining, of the business sector versus the household sector, etc. Compare their evolution over time. What does this say about the choices made by our society?


Families, households and housing
Subject Resource Suggestions
Food distribution June 9th, 2009 Daily release.

See also the related publication and CANSIM table 002-0019.
Contrast this with table 105-2004. (food security and hunger in Canada)
"In 2007, an estimated 38% of solid food available for retail sale was wasted, the equivalent of 183 kilograms per person." Which type of food is more likely to be wasted? Can you think of why? Offer solutions? What possibilities would arise if this food were not wasted? Compare with the number of Canadians reporting hunger.


Subject Resource Suggestions
Access to health care Summary table Population with a regular medical doctor Is basic health care a social right? What percentage of the population has a regular doctor (i.e. family doctor). What factors might explain the difference between provinces?
Suicide and other causes of death, by region and by sex CANSIM tables 102-0552 (by province) and 102-0551 (by age group) Suicide does not hit everywhere the same. What regions and what age group, and which of men and women are most affected? What could be the underlying factors?
Health outcomes & access to health care (immigrants) CANSIM table 105-0113 How do immigrants fare compared to people born in Canada? How do recent immigrants fare compared to those who immigrated longer ago? Why do you think that is? (For some series, data is available only for Canada and the larger provinces.)
Health outcomes & access to health care (linguistic minorities) CANSIM table 105-0111 How do people of different linguistic communities fare in terms of access to health care and health outcomes?
Health outcomes & access to health care (Urban-rural) CANSIM table 105-0294 Compare urban and rural areas according to the percentage of people who have contact with medical doctors, who received certain types of tests. Are some types of conditions (asthma, diabetes, arthritis) more prevalent in urban or rural areas?


Income, pensions, spending and wealth
Subject Resource Suggestions
Distribution of earnings, by sex, constant dollars CANSIM table 202-0101 How is the distribution of earnings different for men and women? How has that changed?
Upper income limits and income shares of total income quintiles, by economic family type CANSIM tables 202-0405 (before-tax) and 202-0604 (after-tax) What share of income do the top 20% of the population get (when ranked according to income)? Has that share increased or decreased over time? Compare before-tax and after-tax income. What is the impact of the tax system?
Inequality of market, total and after-tax income, by economic family type CANSIM table 202-0705 The Gini coefficient measures the relative degree of inequality with 0 being perfect equality and 1 being perfect inequality. Is it the same for all types of income? Does it change over time? Which province shows the greatest difference between market-income and after-tax income inequality?
Major wage settlements CANSIM tables 278-0007 (by industry) and 278-0008 (by region)
(see Consumer Price Index table 326-0020)
Wage increases are often compared to the inflation rate (derived from year-over-year changes in the Consumer Price Index). Do all groups/regions fare the same with regards to inflation?
Average weekly earnings CANSIM table 281-0028 Compare earnings in different industries and different regions. What factors do you think explain the different wages? Who is more likely to work in the goods producing industries vs the services producing industries?
Wages by occupation, sex and age group CANSIM table 282-0070
(see table 282-0009 for numbers by occupation, by sex)
Are wages of men and women comparable for similar occupations? Compare the wages of male-dominated occupations with those of female-dominated occupations. Isolate the effect of one factor by eliminating as many sources of variation as possible. For example compare only people of the same age group who work full-time in the same occupation.
Wealth distribution, family net worth Summary table and assets and debts by quintile see also the overview of results How is wealth distributed in Canada? The first table shows quantitative differences while the second table shows the kind of assets that compose wealth by quintile. Which of income or wealth is more concentrated? (see above for income by quintile) Why?
Earnings by detailed occupation (720), by sex, by province, for full-year full time workers and others. Topic-based tabulation (click on View) Compare earnings of men and women for detailed occupations (720 classes of occupations!) and two types of work regimen (full-year full-time and other). Can you explain all the differences?
Earnings, by immigrant status and period of immigration, age, schooling and sex, detailed geography Topic-based tabulation (click on View) Compare earnings of men and women for different age groups and levels of schooling, type of work (full-year full-time and other) for all cities of more than 10,000 people. Isolate the impact of many factors (age, schooling, type of work). Do differences remain?


Information and communications technology
Subject Resource Suggestions
Internet use, by location of access, household type, urban or rural distribution CANSIM table 358-0123 Is there a digital divide between rural and urban areas? If yes, what shape does it take?
Internet use by location of access and income quartile CANSIM table 358-0126 Do all income categories have equal access to the Internet?


Subject Resource Suggestions
Employment by occupation and sex CANSIM table 282-0009
(see table 282-0070 and related suggestions under Income...)
What is the percentage of women in occupations of senior management? In health care? In natural and applied sciences? Look at various classes of occupations. What are the reasons why some occupations are dominated by people of one gender or another? Compare this with average wages by occupation.
Employment and unemployment by educational attainment, sex and age group CANSIM table 282-0004 How do people of different educational attainment fare on the labour market? For a given educational attainment, do all age groups achieve the same results?
Employment Insurance Employment insurance statistics in a set of maps. Analyse the percentage change in number of people receiving Employment Insurance regular benefits in a recent twelve-month period, by Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) and Census Agglomerations (CAs)