Census of Population

Detailed information for 2016




Every 5 years

Record number:


The census provides a detailed statistical portrait of Canada and its people by their demographic, social and economic characteristics. This information is important for communities and is vital for planning services such as child care, schooling, family services, and skills training for employment.

Data release - Scheduled for February 8, 2017 (Population and dwelling counts). This is the first in a series of releases.


Statistics Canada conducts the Census of Population in order to develop a statistical portrait of Canada and Canadians on one specific day. The census is designed to provide information about people and housing units in Canada by their demographic, social and economic characteristics.

Statistics Canada has reinstated the mandatory long-form census in time for the 2016 Census of Population. As such, a sample of 25% of Canadian households will receive a long-form questionnaire. All other households will receive a short-form questionnaire.

The Census of Population is a reliable basis for the estimation of the population of the provinces, territories and municipal areas. The information collected is related to federal and provincial legislative measures and provides a basis for the distribution of federal transfer payments. The census also provides information about the characteristics of the population and its housing within small geographic areas and for small population groups to support planning, administration, policy development and evaluation activities of governments at all levels, as well as data users in the private sector.

Clients: Federal government, provincial and territorial governments, municipal governments; libraries; educational institutions; researchers and academics; private industry; business associations labour organisations; ethnic and cultural groups; private citizens; public interest groups are among the users of census data.

Reference period: May 10th, 2016, unless otherwise specified

Collection period: Month of May, every (5) five years


  • Aboriginal peoples
  • Education, training and learning
  • Ethnic diversity and immigration
  • Families, households and housing
  • Income, pensions, spending and wealth
  • Labour
  • Languages
  • Population and demography
  • Population estimates and projections
  • Society and community

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The census enumerates the entire Canadian population, which consists of Canadian citizens (by birth and by naturalization), landed immigrants and non-permanent residents and their families living with them in Canada. Non-permanent residents are persons who hold a work or student permit, or who claim refugee status.

The census also counts Canadian citizens and landed immigrants who are temporarily outside the country on Census Day. This includes federal and provincial government employees working outside Canada, Canadian embassy staff posted to other countries, members of the Canadian Forces stationed abroad, all Canadian crew members of merchant vessels and their families. Because people outside the country are enumerated, the Census of Canada is considered a modified de jure census.

Foreign residents such as representatives of a foreign government assigned to an embassy, high commission or other diplomatic mission in Canada, and residents of another country who are visiting Canada temporarily are not covered by the census.

The census long-form includes the same target population as the short-form census, with the exception of Canadian citizens living temporarily in other countries; full-time members of the Canadian Forces stationed outside Canada; persons living in institutional collective dwellings such as hospitals, nursing homes and penitentiaries; and persons living in non-institutional collective dwellings such as work camps, hotels and motels, and student residences.

Instrument design

Prior to each Census of Population, Statistics Canada undertakes a three to four-year process to review content by consulting with users of data, testing, and developing the questionnaire to ensure the content reflects changes in Canadian society. Factors considered in developing content include legislative requirements for information, program and policy needs, the burden on the respondent in answering the questions, privacy concerns, input from consultations and testing, data quality, costs and operational considerations, historical comparability, and the availability of alternate data sources.

Statistics Canada held content consultations on the census questionnaires, which included receiving submissions, meeting and having conference calls with various data users, such as federal government departments and agencies, provincial and territorial government departments, local governments, the general public, libraries, academia, special interest groups, the private sector and licensed distributors of census data. Statistics Canada launched the 2016 Census Strategy Project in December 2010 and consultations for the 2016 Census content began in September 2012.

Statistics Canada quantitatively and qualitatively tests the questionnaire content. The qualitiative testing was conducted with the help of Statistics Canada's Questionnaire Design Resource Center (QDRC), using questionnaires that were based on the 2011 Census questions. The questionnaires were tested with QDRC in June 2013, September 2013, and January 2014. Furthermore the questionnaires were quantitatively tested in May 2014 and a field procedures test was conducted with the questionnaires in October 2014.

In accordance with the Statistics Act, the questions for the Census of Population were prescribed by the Governor in Council through an Order in Council signed January 29, 2016. Questions following Question 10 of the questionnaire constitute the 2016 Census of Population long-form and will be asked pursuant to section 22 of the Statistics Act, and prescribed by the Chief Statistician acting under the direction of the Minister. The Order in Council and the schedule of questions were published in the Canada Gazette on February 6, 2016.


This is a sample survey with a cross-sectional design.

For the short-form:

This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.

Questions on age, sex, marital status, mother tongue and relationship to Person 1 are collected from 100% of the population. Data are collected for all units (dwellings) of the target population, therefore no sampling is done.

For the long-form:

This is a sample survey with a cross-sectional design.

For the census long-form, a random sample of 1 in 4 private dwellings in Canada is selected systematically. The sample size was determined to ensure the dissemination of reliable estimates for small areas and small populations. The long-form sample is selected from the 2016 Census of Population dwelling list.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2016-02-01 to 2016-07-29

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents and extracted from administrative files.

The census reference date is May 10, 2016.

Collection includes response by Internet, paper, the Census Help Line, and failed-edit and non-response follow-up. The 2016 Census of Population questionnaires (short and long-forms) are similar to those used in the 2011 Census short-form and the 2011 National Household Survey questionnaire, with the exception of the income questions that will be collected through administrative data, and the omission of the religion question (asked every 10 years).
Statistics Canada will also obtain income information from personal income tax and benefits records.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s).

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology type does not apply to this survey.


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