General Social Survey - Victimization (GSS)

Detailed information for 1999 (Cycle 13)




Every 5 years

Record number:


The two primary objectives of the General Social Survey (GSS) are: to gather data on social trends in order to monitor changes in the living conditions and well being of Canadians over time; and to provide information on specific social policy issues of current or emerging interest.

This survey collects information on the nature and extent of criminal victimization in Canada.

Data release - November 2, 2000


The two primary objectives of the General Social Survey (GSS) are: to gather data on social trends in order to monitor changes in the living conditions and well being of Canadians over time; and to provide information on specific social policy issues of current or emerging interest.

This survey collects information on the nature and extent of criminal victimization in Canada.

Statistical activity

This record is part of the General Social Survey (GSS) program. The GSS, originating in 1985, conducts telephone surveys. Each survey contains a core topic, focus or exploratory questions and a standard set of socio-demographic questions used for classification. More recent cycles have also included some qualitative questions, which explore opinions and perceptions.

Until 1998, the target sample of respondents was approximately 10,000 persons. This was increased in 1999 to 25,000. With a sample of respondents of 25,000, results are available at both the national and provincial levels and possibly for some special population groups such as disabled persons and seniors.


  • Crime and justice
  • Society and community
  • Victims and victimization

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The target population is non-institutionalized persons 15 years of age or older, living in the ten provinces.

The samples for most GSS cycles are selected using random digit dialing telephone methods and the interviews are conducted by telephone. Thus persons in households without telephones cannot be interviewed. However, persons living in such households represent less than 2% of the target population. Interviews are not conducted by cellular telephone so persons with only cellular telephone service are also excluded; again, this group makes up a very small proportion of the population, less than 3%.

Instrument design

The questionnaire was designed based on qualitative testing (focus groups), a pilot test and interviewer debriefing.


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

Data for Cycle 13 of the GSS were collected monthly from February 1999 to December 1999 inclusively. With the exception of extra Newfoundland units purchased late in the year by an external client, the sample was more or less evenly distributed over the 11 months to counterbalance as much as possible the seasonal variation in the information gathered. All of the sample was selected using the Elimination of Non-Working Banks technique. A description of this method is provided in Section 4.3 of "The 1999 General Social Survey - Cycle 13, Victimization: Public Use Microdata File Documentation and User Guide" (below). The target population is discussed in Section 4.1 and the stratification used in the survey design is outlined in Section 4.2.

In order to carry out sampling, each of the ten provinces was divided into strata, i.e. geographic areas.

Many of the Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) were each considered separate strata. This was the case for St. John's, Halifax, Saint John, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria. CMAs not on this list are located in Quebec and Ontario. Two more strata were formed by grouping the remaining CMAs in each of these two provinces. Finally, the non-CMA areas of each of the ten provinces were also grouped to form ten more strata. This resulted in 27 strata in all.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: February 1999 to December 1999

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

Cycle 13 of the GSS is the third cycle to collect information on the nature and extent of criminal victimization in Canada. The two previous cycles included questions on unintentional injuries, i.e. accidents. Since the National Health Population Survey collects information on accidents, these questions have been dropped from Cycle 13. Focus content for Cycle 13 addresses two areas of emerging interest. For the 1999 GSS on victimization, the Interdepartmental Working Group on Family Violence has sponsored modules on spousal and senior abuse and the department of the Solicitor General Canada has funded questions measuring public perception toward alternatives to imprisonment.

Computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) was used to collect data for the GSS, using Random Digit Dialing methods. Respondents were interviewed in the official language of their choice. Interviews by proxy were not allowed. Data collection began in February 1999 and continued through to December 1999. The sample was evenly distributed over the 11 months, except for the Newfoundland units purchased during the latter part of the year by an external client.

All interviewing took place using centralized telephone facilities in four of Statistics Canada's regional offices, with calls being made from approximately 09:00 until 21:00, Monday to Saturday inclusive. The four regional offices were: Halifax, Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Interviewers were trained by Statistics Canada staff in telephone interviewing techniques using CATI, survey concepts and procedures. Because of the sensitive nature of the focus content, interviewers were also provided with personal preparedness training by a psychologist. The majority of interviewers had previous experience interviewing for the GSS.

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

Error detection

Using CATI, responses to survey questions were entered directly into computers as the interview progressed. The CATI data capture program allowed a valid range of codes for each question and built-in edits, and automatically followed the flow of the questionnaire. The information output by the CATI system was transmitted electronically to Ottawa.

Several questions allowing write-in responses had this information coded into either new unique categories, or to a listed category if the write-in information duplicated a listed category. Where possible (e.g., occupation, industry, language, education, country of birth, religion), the coding followed the standard classification systems as used in the Census of Population.


All survey records were subjected to computer edits throughout the course of the interview. The CATI system principally edited flow of the questionnaire and identified out of range values. As a result, such problems could be immediately resolved with the respondent. If the interviewer was unable to correctly resolve the detected errors, it was possible for the interviewer to bypass the edit and forward the data to head office for resolution. All interviewer comments were reviewed and taken into account in head office editing.

Head office edits performed the same checks as the CATI system as well as more detailed edits. Due to the nature of the survey, imputation was not appropriate for most items. Records with missing or incorrect information were, in a small number of cases, corrected or obtained deterministically from other information on the questionnaire. For example, a total of 150 incident reports out of a total of 10,087 were corrected deterministically based on the information provided in Section B of the questionnaire.


When a probability sample is used, as was the case for the GSS, the principle behind estimation is that each person selected in the sample represents (in addition to himself/herself) several other persons not in the sample. For example, in a simple random sample of 2% of the population, each person in the sample represents 50 persons in the population. The number of persons represented by a given person in the sample is usually known as the weight or weighting factor of the sampled person.

There are two microdata files from which GSS Cycle 13 estimates can be made. The Main File contains questionnaire responses and associated information from 25,876 respondents. Characteristics on this file concern the person as opposed to information about any individual victimization incidents which he or she may have experienced.

Four weighting factors were placed on the Main File.

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.

In order to prevent any data disclosure, confidentiality analysis is done using the Statistics Canada Generalized Disclosure Control System (G-Confid). G-Confid is used for primary suppression (direct disclosure) as well as for secondary suppression (residual disclosure). Direct disclosure occurs when the value in a tabulation cell is composed of or dominated by few enterprises while residual disclosure occurs when confidential information can be derived indirectly by piecing together information from different sources or data series.


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