Census of Population

Detailed information for 2021

Status:

Active

Frequency:

Every 5 years

Record number:

3901

The Census of Population is mandated by law in the Constitution Act (1867) and the Statistics Act (1985) to determine the population of Canada and its' provinces and territories, every five years. The Census of Population is the primary source of socioeconomic data for specific population groups (e.g. First Nations people, Métis and Inuit, immigrants, language groups) and for detailed or small geographies.

Population counts from the census have essential purposes, such as to realign the boundaries of federal electoral districts and to calculate transfer payments between levels of government. The data are needed by both the public and private sectors to support decision-making, like planning community services (e.g., schools and emergency services) or determining consumer and market demand in all parts of the country.

Data release - TBD

Description

Statistics Canada conducts the Census of Population in order 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.

A sample of approximately 25% of Canadian households receive a long-form questionnaire. All other households 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. These counts are essential for maintaining Canada's equitable representation, as they are used to set electoral boundaries; estimate the demand for services in minority official languages; and calculate federal, provincial and territorial 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. The information provided by the census for these geographic areas and population groups is also used by the private sector as well as data users in their decision-making process.

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

Reference period: May 11th, 2021, unless otherwise specified.

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

Subjects

  • Aboriginal peoples
  • Commuting to work
  • Education, training and learning
  • Ethnic diversity and immigration
  • Families, households and housing
  • Income, pensions, spending and wealth
  • 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 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' population concept 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.

Long-form
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

Statistics Canada takes a number of key steps to ensure that each census produces relevant information for Canadians and decision makers.

Preparing for each census requires several stages of consultation, testing and test data evaluation before recommended questionnaire content for the upcoming census can be proposed to the Cabinet of Canada for approval. These steps include:
- a content consultation with stakeholders, census data users and the general public
- qualitative testing of proposed modifications and additions to the content
- quantitative testing to evaluate content and respondent behaviour on a larger scale
- an evaluation of the test results guided by a content determination framework.

Upon Cabinet approval of the census questions, the Governor in Council reviews the questions, and an order in council prescribes the questions to be asked under section 19 or 20 of the Statistics Act. Within 30 days of the signing of the order in council, the content of the census is published in the Canada Gazette.

Statistics Canada conducted extensive consultations from fall 2017 to spring 2018 using an online questionnaire and face-to-face discussions with stakeholders. More than 2,800 respondents participated in the online consultation. This unprecedented number demonstrates a high level of interest in helping to shape an important source of demographic and social information for decision making and analysis.

In addition to the online consultation, Statistics Canada met with respondents from 14 federal departments and other interested organizations in person. To understand the needs of Indigenous organizations and communities, more than 60 in-person discussions were held in 30 Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities across Canada with more than 400 contributors.

Based on the findings from consultations and discussions, Statistics Canada modified the questions asked in the census for testing purposes. In 2018, various versions were tested qualitatively through cognitive, one-on-one interviews which were conducted by Statistics Canada's Questionnaire Design Resource Centre. These interviews were conducted across Canada in both official languages.

Based on the results of qualitative testing, the census questionnaires were further revised and tested quantitatively during the 2019 Census Test. The 2019 Census Test evaluated changes to the wording and flow of some of the questions, as well as the potential addition of new questions.

After statistically analyzing the results of the 2019 Census Test and considering costs, operational factors and safeguards against quality loss, Statistics Canada made recommendations to the government, which determined the final content of the 2021 Census questionnaire.

Sampling

For the short-form:
This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.
Demographic information is 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 2021 Census of Population dwelling list.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2021-05-03 to 2021-07-29 for most collection operations (with some exceptions in April for Collective Dwellings enumeration)

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

The census reference date is May 11, 2021.

Collection includes response by Internet, paper questionnaire, the Census Help Line, and failed-edit and non-response follow-up.

Statistics Canada uses a wave methodology throughout the collection period to remind the majority of Canadians to complete their census questionnaires.

The first wave takes place during the first week of collection when an invitation letter is sent out to most dwellings across the country. This first letter provides instructions on how to complete the questionnaire online with a secure access code, the date by which the questionnaire should be completed, as well as the census website address and toll-free Census Help Line number for support.

During the second week of collection, a reminder is sent to households that have not yet completed their questionnaire. This letter also provides instructions on how to complete the questionnaire, as well as the census website address and toll-free Census Help Line number for support.

By the third week of collection, households that have not yet completed a questionnaire will receive a final notice informing them that a Statistics Canada representative will be visiting their household or contacting them by phone to complete the questionnaire.

Statistics Canada subsequently conducts follow-up activities with non-responding households to complete their questionnaires, either door to door or by phone.

The 2021 Census of Population questionnaires (short and long-forms) are similar to those used in the 2016 Census, with some revised and new content (see 'Instrument Design').

As was done for the 2016 Census, Statistics Canada will inform 2021 Census respondents that their earnings and income information will be retrieved from personal income tax and benefits files provided by the Canadian Revenue Agency. This use of administrative data provides better-quality, detailed information for small communities and populations and reduces program costs and response burden on Canadians. The census income and earnings data are used to develop and monitor the use and impact of income support programs.

In 2021, for the first time, immigrant status and year of immigration will be obtained from administrative files provided by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). These data provide vital information to help understand the living conditions and socioeconomic outcomes of immigrants and their children in Canada. As in 2016, Statistics Canada will collect admission category and applicant type information from administrative files provided by IRCC.

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

Error detection

This methodology does not apply.

Imputation

This methodology does not apply.

Estimation

This methodology does not apply.

Quality evaluation

This methodology does not apply.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects that 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.

Data accuracy

The metadata will be provided upon release.

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