Census of Population

Detailed information for May 2024 (test)




Every 5 years

Record number:


The census paints a portrait of Canada's population and the places where people live. It provides high-quality information for communities across the country and is used to plan services that support employment, education and health care.


Statistics Canada conducts the Census of Population to paint 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.

The Census of Population is a reliable basis for estimating the population of the provinces, the territories and municipal areas. The information collected is related to federal and provincial legislative measures and provides a basis for distributing 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.

Census data users include the federal government; provincial and territorial governments; municipal governments; First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders and organizations; libraries; educational institutions; researchers and academics; private industry; business associations; labour organizations; ethnic and cultural groups; private citizens; and public interest groups.

In May 2024, Statistics Canada will conduct a census test to evaluate new and modified questions, along with collection procedures and tools, in preparation for the 2026 Census of Population.

A sample of approximately 198,000 private dwellings and 400 collective dwellings has been selected to participate in this census test. Since accuracy depends on complete information, participation in the 2024 Census Test is required by law for each selected household, facility or establishment.

Reference period: May 14, 2024, unless otherwise specified

Collection period: Month of May, every five years


  • Commuting to work
  • Education, training and learning
  • Families, households and housing
  • Health
  • Immigration and ethnocultural diversity (formerly Ethnic diversity and immigration)
  • Income, pensions, spending and wealth
  • Indigenous peoples (formerly Aboriginal peoples)
  • Industries
  • Labour
  • Languages
  • Occupations
  • Population and demography
  • Population estimates and projections
  • Religion
  • Society and community

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The census enumerates the entire Canadian population, on a "usual residence" basis (de jure). The population enumerated consists of usual residents of Canada who are Canadian citizens (by birth or by naturalization), landed immigrants, and non-permanent residents and their families living with them in Canada. Non-permanent residents are people who hold a work or study permit or who claim refugee status.

Private dwellings
The majority of Canada's population resides in private dwellings. For residents of private dwellings, census data are collected primarily by having one adult member of the household respond on behalf of the entire household through self-enumeration using an online questionnaire.

Collective dwellings
A collective dwelling is a dwelling of a commercial, institutional or communal nature in which a person or a group of people resides or could reside. The collective dwelling must provide care or services or have common facilities shared by the occupants, such as a kitchen, dining room or bathroom. Examples include long-term care homes, residences for older adults, lodging or rooming houses, correctional facilities, group homes, hotels, motels, tourist establishments, hospitals, staff residences, military bases and work camps.

Generally speaking, the 2024 Census Test has the same target population as the census. However, the sample for the census test is limited to areas where Statistics Canada relies on Canada Post to deliver the census material, with few exceptions in three provinces (Nova Scotia, Quebec and Saskatchewan), where specific field activities are being tested. The field test aims to validate the behaviour of field staff and respondents with regard to new procedures, systems, tools and communication materials. All collective dwelling types are included in the sample of 400 collective dwellings.

The 2024 Census Test does not include people who live in the territories, people who live on First Nations reserves and settlements, Canadian citizens living in other countries, and full-time members of the Canadian Forces stationed outside Canada.

Instrument design

In preparation for each census cycle, Statistics Canada follows the Census Program's content determination process, which includes several stages of consultative engagement, as well as testing and evaluating data, to recommend questionnaire content for the next census.

Consulting with census data users and the Canadian public allows Statistics Canada to identify whether the questions asked in the census are relevant, how census data are used and how important the census is to Canadians. A formal consultation is set at the start of each census cycle. During that time, Statistics Canada invites data users, stakeholders and the general public to provide feedback on what information they use, for what purpose they use it and what (if any) data gaps Statistics Canada should consider addressing in the next census cycle.

Engagements were held from November 2022 to March 2023; nearly 3,000 Canadians shared their feedback. Content consultation was primarily conducted using an online questionnaire available to all Canadians. Through this, Statistics Canada heard from a variety of data users: federal departments; provincial and territorial ministries and organizations; municipal governments; First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals, leadership and organizations; non-governmental organizations; researchers and academics; businesses; and the general public. Additional discussions were held with key stakeholders, such as federal departments and other research and analysis organizations.

Factors considered when developing content, as detailed in the Census Program's content determination framework, include legislative requirements for information, program and policy needs, the burden on respondents of 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.

Following consultation, Statistics Canada qualitatively tested new and modified questions with the help of Statistics Canada's Questionnaire Design Resource Centre. These qualitative tests were conducted from spring to fall 2023. For the first time, the collective dwelling questionnaire was tested qualitatively with collective dwelling administrators.

The 2024 Census Test is one of the final stages of census testing. As a result of the consultation and the qualitative testing, Statistics Canada refined the new and modified questions. The 2024 Census Test will quantitatively test these questions to ensure data quality and the continued relevance of the census content.


The 2024 Census Test will have a sample consisting of approximately 198,000 private dwellings and 400 collective dwellings.

Some of the dwellings are split among a number of panels to measure the impact of various proposed changes to census content. Each panel will receive different questionnaire versions or will be contacted through different collection methods. This portion of the sample is selected in a way that ensures coverage of a variety of geographic areas and of multiple response modes (Internet and paper), while taking into account operational constraints. The remaining sample consists of dwellings in selected areas in three provinces where field collection procedures and systems are being tested.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2024-04-08 to 2024-06-28

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

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

The 2024 Census Test reference date is May 14, 2024.

Collection includes response by Internet, response by paper, field enumeration, telephone interview, the Census Help Line and non-response follow-up.

To enhance the data from this survey and to reduce response burden, Statistics Canada combines the information collected in the census with administrative data such as immigration records and personal income tax and benefit data. For the 2024 Census Test, Statistics Canada will combine the data with these administrative records or with data from other surveys or administrative sources to evaluate the quality and relevance of new or modified questions.

The 2024 Census Test will introduce a new participation method for some selected households. For the first time, a limited number of dwellings will receive a letter providing the option to either complete a census questionnaire or permit Statistics Canada to use administrative data already collected from other federal and provincial government departments to enumerate their household. Should households opt for the latter, they are not required to take any action (i.e., they do not need to fill out a questionnaire). In this case, Statistics Canada will use administrative records to obtain the necessary information, such as the number of usual residents at their dwelling, their age and their sex at birth or gender.

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

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