Census of Population

Detailed information for 2011




Every 5 years

Record number:


The census is designed to provide information about the demographic and social characteristics of the people living in Canada and the housing/dwelling units they occupy.

Data release - February 8, 2012 (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 on one specific day. The census is designed to provide information about people in Canada by their demographic and social characteristics.

The Census of Population is the basis for the population estimates for the provinces, territories and municipalities. The information collected supports federal and provincial legislation. The population estimates from the decennial census are used to determine the distribution of federal transfer payments to the provinces and territories. The census also provides information about the characteristics of the population for small geographic areas to support planning, administration, policy development and evaluation activities of governments at all levels, as well as data users in the private sector.

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

Statistical activity

The term 'Census Program' is used to refer in a general way to the Census of Population (record number 3901) and, if applicable, any accompanying survey conducted at the time of the census. The Census Program consists of two parts: a short questionnaire (census) with a basic set of questions distributed to 100% of households, or a long questionnaire (National Household Survey - record number 5178) distributed to a 33% sample of households.


  • Families, households and housing
  • Languages
  • Population and demography
  • Population estimates and projections

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.

Instrument design

Prior to each Census of the 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.

Leading up to the census, Statistics Canada held content consultations on the census questionnaire, 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. Consultations for the 2011 Census content began in April 2007 and planning of the 2011 Census operations began in 2008.

Before each census, Statistics Canada tests the questionnaire content, processing and collection systems.

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. The Order and the schedule of questions were first published in the Canada Gazette on June 26, 2010. An updated schedule of questions for the 2011 Census of Population was published in the Canada Gazette, Part 1, on August 21, 2010.


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

Data are collected for all units of the target population, therefore, no sampling is done.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2011-05-02 to 2011-07-29

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

The census reference date was May 10, 2011.

Collection includes response by Internet, paper, the Census Help Line, and edit and non response follow-up. The 2011 Census questionnaire consists of the same eight questions that appeared on the 2006 Census short-form questionnaire along with two additional language questions - one on the knowledge of official languages and the other on home language(s). The information previously collected by the long-form census questionnaire will be collected by the voluntary National Household Survey (NHS), record number 5178.

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


This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.

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 does not apply to this survey.


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