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Frequently asked questions

General information

Why do we need to take a census?

The census provides information that is used by governments, businesses, researchers and individual Canadians to shed light on issues of concern to all of us — employment, education, training, transportation, housing, immigration, income support, and many others.

Who is included in the census?

The census includes every man, woman and child living in Canada on Census Day, as well as Canadians who are abroad, either on a military base, attached to a diplomatic mission, at sea or in port aboard Canadian-registered merchant vessels. Persons in Canada including those holding a temporary resident permit, study permit or work permit, and their dependents, are also part of the census.

Why is the census important?

The census provides a statistical portrait of our country and its people. A vast majority of all countries regularly carry out a census to collect important information about the social and economic situation of the people living in its various regions.

In Canada, the census is the only reliable source of detailed data for small groups (such as lone-parent families, ethnic groups, industrial and occupational categories and immigrants) and for areas as small as a city neighbourhood or as large as the country itself. Because the Canadian census is collected every five years and the questions are similar, it is possible to compare changes that have occurred in the make-up of Canada's population over time.

The census is more than a population count: it provides all levels of government, business, industry, media, academia and independent organizations with social, economic and demographic information that is essential for making decisions regarding the many services each provides to the public.

  • Businesses and governments use census data extensively when developing plans and policies.
  • Each person counts in monetary terms when calculating the transfer of federal money to various programs in the provinces and territories.
  • Many provincial and regional governments use population counts to make grants to local and municipal governments.
  • School boards and communities use census data indicating the number of children in certain age groups when planning new schools.
  • Government departments such as Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and Social Development Canada (SDC) must know the age trends of the population to plan for pensions, health care, housing, employment programs and child tax credits.
  • Life insurance companies base their premium tables on census age data.
  • New manufacturing, store and office locations are largely based on population distribution in different localities.
  • Community infrastructure depends on census information for population growth and movement when planning for roads, waterworks, public transit and fire protection.
  • Farmers and farm organizations depend on the census to track changes in agriculture.
  • Town planners use census information on households and families to estimate current and future housing needs, hospitals and day-care centres.
  • Manufacturers of household and farm equipment are guided by census data in deciding what products to manufacture and where to sell them.


Isn't this information already available from other government records?

The census is the only source of detailed, small-area statistics. In developing the content for the census, all questions are carefully designed to meet important information requirements that cannot be satisfied from any other source, including other government departments or records.

Why do you need all this personal information?

The census collects detailed economic, cultural and social information on everyone living in Canada. This information is used by all levels of government, academics, businesses and others to make many important decisions affecting our daily life. Such as where we need schools; homes for senior citizens; fire, police and emergency services; roads or bus routes; and new types of social services.

Why do pensioners and retired people have to answer income questions?

These questions cover all types of income whether from employment income, or investments, pensions and interest. This information, from pensioners and retirees, is as important as that of other groups in determining the economic well-being of Canadians.

If a person does not want to list their income information on the questionnaire, question 51 asks permission for Statistics Canada to access tax information directly from the Canada Revenue Agency. This will only be done if a “yes” answer is provided to question 51.

What are question 8 in the short form and question 53 in the long form?

Question 8 in the short form and question 53 in the long form are the same question. This question gives Canadians the ability to decide whether they want their personal census information publicly released for historical and genealogical research after 92 years. This change is in keeping with the privacy principle that everyone has the right to decide how their personal information will be used.

For those who give explicit permission, Statistics Canada will transfer their information to Library and Archives Canada in 2098, which, in turn, will make it publicly available. For those who do not give permission, their personal information will not be transferred.


How do I know that the information I provide on my questionnaire will be kept confidential?

The Statistics Act requires that all Statistics Canada employees who see individual information are sworn to secrecy. Penalties for employees who breach the Act include both fines and imprisonment. Strict security measures are enforced throughout the collection process to protect your information. No other person or organization is permitted to see the answers on census questionnaires.

Why do you need persons' names as well as an address and telephone number on the questionnaire?

We need names and addresses to make sure that we don't miss anyone in the census and that no one is counted more than once.

We need telephone numbers to contact households quickly and easily if we find questions that were overlooked on the questionnaire.

Names, street addresses and telephone numbers are not included when the data from the questionnaire are tabulated and disseminated.

What happens to my questionnaire after I complete it?

Completed questionnaires are mailed back to a centralized office where they are scanned and verified for completeness by a computer. If there is missing information, you will be contacted by phone to resolve the issue. Information provided using the online questionnaire is entered directly into the census database.

Who has access to my questionnaire?

Absolutely no one except authorized census staff has access to individual questionnaires. Only employees who have a need to examine individual census forms have access to completed questionnaires. The Statistics Act contains penalties in the form of a fine, jail term or both if an employee releases personal census information.

Will the enumerator see my personal information?

In normal circumstances, no; the enumerator will only drop off the census questionnaire. You may complete and return your questionnaire online, by mail in the envelope provided, or over the phone by calling the Census Help Line. The enumerator will only visit your home again if your questionnaire is not returned to Statistics Canada.

Is my information protected if I answer my questionnaire online?

Yes. Statistics Canada takes the protection of confidential information provided online very seriously. To protect the security of your information online, the following safeguards have been incorporated:

  • Encryption - the scrambling of data into a code that is unreadable to anyone who does not have the key to decipher the information. The multiple encryption technologies used by Statistics Canada offer one of the highest levels of encryption security available anywhere. These encryption methods include:
    • bi-directional encryption technologies that ensure end-to-end security of data passing between your PC and our Web server
    • encryption methods based on Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and on a public-key infrastructure (PKI)
  • Once your information arrived at Statistics Canada, it was electronically isolated using firewalls and independent verification, and is inaccessible by any outside link, personnel or organization.

Does Statistics Canada sell confidential census data?

No. Under the Statistics Act information about individuals and businesses must be protected and kept confidential. Identifiable or personal information is never sold or otherwise made available to anyone outside Statistics Canada.

How does Statistics Canada ensure that confidentiality is maintained in published data?

Statistics Canada is bound by law to protect the identity of individuals in all published data. As a result, the Agency has established careful procedures to ensure that confidentiality is protected. For example, no information is published for areas with populations below a certain size. In the case of income, no information is published for areas with populations below 250. Census information available to the public cannot be related to any individual, any family or any single household.

Can personally identifiable information be accessed?

Statistics Canada does not release the personal information it collects from respondents. Under the Statistics Act, information that would identify individuals or families must be kept confidential.

How can someone access survey information?

Data from surveys are available through the media, the public library depository program and Statistics Canada's toll-free order line at 1-800-267-6677. When an organization requests custom information through special tabulations, Statistics Canada charges for this service. No information that could identify an individual or organization can be accessed or released.

The 2006 Census and contractors

How is Statistics Canada protecting the confidentiality of census data?

A number of very important measures are taken by Statistics Canada to protect the confidentiality of census data.

  • Only Statistics Canada staff handle completed questionnaires and process confidential data. All questionnaires and data are processed in Statistics Canada facilities, located in Canada.
  • The systems and networks used to collect and process confidential data are not connected to any external networks, and are physically isolated from the outside.
  • No contract staff is ever in possession of confidential data, and it is physically impossible for any outside contractor to obtain possession of census data or to transmit them outside the Agency.
  • Everyone working on the census is sworn in under the Statistics Act, and subject to the provisions and penalties of the Statistics Act (including imprisonment of up to six months) if they breach confidentiality. 

Does Statistics Canada have a contract with Lockheed Martin?

Yes. Following an open, competitive and stringent bidding process, Lockheed Martin Canada along with IBM Canada and Transcontinental Printing Canada were required to provide hardware, software and printing services to Statistics Canada for the 2006 Census.  At no point did any contractor collect, handle, or possess confidential census responses.

Is contracting new to the census?

No. Statistics Canada has relied on the private sector to provide equipment, printing and other services in conducting previous censuses, while always protecting data confidentiality. 

What experience do contractors have in developing and providing census hardware and software?

Contractors have provided similar services to censuses in the United States and the United Kingdom in 2000 and 2001. They will also be providing similar services to the Census Bureau in the United States for their next census in 2010. Statistics Canada is making use of their investments in technology to conduct the 2006 Census in a cost-effective manner.

Is Lockheed Martin conducting the 2006 Canadian census?

No. Statistics Canada is in full control of all aspects of the census. All questionnaires and data are exclusively handled by Statistics Canada employees. At no point does any contractor handle or possess confidential census responses.

How safe are census data from the Patriot Act?

Completely. The information collected from Canadians will be, at all times, under the exclusive care and full control of Statistics Canada employees. At no time do contractors have access to or possess confidential census responses. Thus, even if a request were made to any contractor to hand over or transmit census data, it would be physically impossible for them to comply.