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Catalogue no. 97-562-GWE2006003
The population group question in the census is used to produce two main variables: the Population group variable and the Visible minority population variable.
Population group refers to the population group to which the respondent belongs. The 2006 Census Population group variable includes data on groups such as White, Chinese, South Asian, Black, etc., generally mirroring the response categories used in the population group question on the census questionnaire. (More information on these response categories is included in the sections of this document entitled Questions and Classifications).
The population group question in the census is also used to derive counts for the visible minority population, the primary purpose of the census question.
Visible minority population refers to the visible minority group to which the respondent belongs. The Employment Equity Act defines visible minorities as 'persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.' Categories in the visible minority population variable include Chinese, South Asian, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Southeast Asian, Arab, West Asian, Korean, Japanese, Visible minority, n.i.e. ('n.i.e.' means 'not included elsewhere'), Multiple visible minority, and Not a visible minority.
Information on the visible minority population is required under federal employment equity legislation for programs which promote equal opportunity for everyone. Federal employment equity programs are the responsibility of Human Resources and Social Development Canada and other government departments; however, the census provides benchmark data on each of the designated groups. The census is considered to be the best vehicle to collect such data as it can provide reliable estimates for relatively small geographical areas.
Data on Canada's visible minority population are used by governments, businesses, community groups, health care providers, researchers and a variety of organizations throughout the country to ensure equal opportunity for everyone. Data on the visible minority population can be used by employers to compare the characteristics of their workforce with the characteristics of the population who live in the same area.
2006 Census data on population group and visible minority population were obtained from Question 19 on the 2006 Census Form 2B questionnaire, which was used to enumerate a 20% sample of all private households in Canada. For persons living in private households on Indian reserves, Indian settlements and in remote areas, data were collected using the 2006 Census Form 2D questionnaire.
Response categories in the population group question included 11 mark-in circles and one write-in space. Respondents were asked 'Is this person:' and were instructed to mark more than one of the following response categories, or to specify another group, if applicable:
A note on the census questionnaire informed respondents that this information is collected to support programs which promote equal opportunity for everyone to share in the social, cultural and economic life of Canada. In addition, the 2006 Census Guide provided the following instructions:
Population group should not be confused with citizenship or nationality.
For persons who belong to more than one population group, mark all the circles that apply. Do not report 'bi-racial' or 'mixed' in the box provided.
The mark-in response categories listed in the 2006 Census population group question, with the exception of 'White,' were based on the visible minority groups identified by the Employment Equity Technical Reference Papers, published by Employment and Immigration Canada in 1987, and used for federal employment equity programs. The visible minority groups identified by these papers included: Chinese, South Asian, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Southeast Asian, Arab, West Asian, Japanese, Korean and other visible minority groups, such as Pacific Islanders. Data on other visible minority groups, including Pacific Islanders, are collected in the 'Other – Specify' area of the 2006 Census population group question. After 'White,' population groups were listed on the 2006 Census questionnaire in order of the frequency (largest number) of visible minority counts derived from the 2001 Census.
Three of the population groups included on the 2006 Census questionnaire were followed by examples in parentheses. Examples were provided for only a few of the population groups to serve as guidelines and to help respondents who may be more familiar with one term instead of another (e.g., East Indian instead of South Asian, Vietnamese instead of Southeast Asian, Iranian instead of West Asian).
Persons who reported 'Yes' to Question 18 (Aboriginal peoples) were not asked the population group question. Aboriginal peoples are included in a separate response category called 'Aboriginal self-reporting' in the 2006 Census Population group variable. They are included in the 'Not a visible minority' category in the Visible minority population variable, along with persons reporting other selected groups such as 'White.'
The 1996 Census was the first time a question on population group was asked on the census questionnaire. For information on the comparability of data from the population group question over time, refer to the section of this document entitled Historical comparability.
As indicated above, the Visible minority population variable provides data on the visible minority population as defined for federal employment equity purposes, whereas the Population group variable does not. Tables accessible from the Data section of this document show the population group and visible minority classifications created in 2006 Census standard and specialized data products.
The Population group variable provides data which closely match the responses provided by respondents on the census questionnaire. The Population group variable includes single response categories counting respondents who provided one population group, specifically: White, Chinese, South Asian, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Southeast Asian, Arab, West Asian, Korean, Japanese and Visible minority, n.i.e. As well, it includes multiple response categories counting respondents who provided two or more population groups, specifically, the latter 11 groups in combination with White (for example, 'White and Chinese'), plus a category for Multiple visible minority. The final category in the variable, 'Aboriginal self-reporting' includes respondents who reported 'Yes' to the Aboriginal identity question (Question 18). Even though these respondents were not required to answer the Population group question (Question 19), their information was included in the Population group variable so that it would reflect the entire Canadian population.
In contrast to the Population group variable, the 2006 Census Visible minority population variable includes data for 13 derived groups: Chinese, South Asian, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Southeast Asian, Arab, West Asian, Korean, Japanese, Visible minority, n.i.e., Multiple visible minority and Not a visible minority ('Not a visible minority' includes respondents who reported 'Yes' to the Aboriginal identity question as well as respondents who were not considered to be members of a visible minority group). There is also a subtotal provided for the 'Total visible minority population,' which aggregates counts for the first 12 groups.
In both the Population group and Visible minority variables, the category 'Visible minority, n.i.e.' includes respondents who reported a write-in response such as 'Guyanese,' 'West Indian,' 'Kurd,' 'Tibetan,' 'Polynesian,' 'Pacific Islander,' etc. The category 'Multiple visible minority' includes respondents who reported more than one visible minority group e.g., by checking two or more mark-in circles, such as 'Black' and 'South Asian.'
While in the Population group variable data are included for multiple responses such as 'White and South Asian' and 'White and Black,' these multiple responses are counted differently in the Visible minority population variable because of the need to derive the variable in accordance with employment equity requirements. In the Visible minority population variable, persons who reported 'Chinese,' 'South Asian,' 'Black,' 'Filipino,' 'Southeast Asian,' 'Japanese,' or 'Korean' in combination with 'White' or a write-in response are included in the visible minority count for the specific visible minority group reported. For example, respondents who checked 'Black' and 'White' are included in the 'Black' count. Respondents who checked 'Black' and wrote-in 'French' or 'Malaysian' are also included in the 'Black' count.
In contrast, in accordance with employment equity definitions, persons who reported 'Latin American' and 'White,' 'Arab' and 'White,' or 'West Asian' and 'White' have been excluded from the visible minority population. Likewise, persons who reported 'Latin American,' 'Arab' or 'West Asian' and who provided a European write-in response such as 'French' have been excluded from the visible minority population as well. These persons are included in the 'Not a visible minority' category. However, persons who reported 'Latin American,' 'Arab' or 'West Asian' and a non-European write-in response are included in the visible minority population. For example, respondents who checked 'Latin American' and wrote in 'Peruvian' are included in the 'Latin American' count. Respondents who reported 'Arab' and wrote in 'Lebanese' are included in the 'Arab' count. Respondents who reported 'West Asian' and wrote in 'Afghan' were included in the 'West Asian' count.
For information on changes in the groups included in the Population group variable and the Visible minority population variable, and on the way in which the Visible minority population variable has been derived over time, please refer to the section of this document entitled Historical comparability to be released later.
Counts of the visible minority population in Canada were first produced using 1981 Census data. Data on the visible minority population in 1981, 1986 and 1991 were derived primarily from responses to the ethnic origin question, in conjunction with responses from the place of birth and mother tongue questions.
Since the 1996 Census, the population group question has been used to measure the visible minority population more directly. Because of the differences in the method of collecting data, caution should be used in comparing visible minority data from 1981 to 1991 to those collected from 1996 onwards.
For the 2006 Census, there were only minor changes to the population group question. First, as a result of having higher counts from the 2001 Census, the mark-in circle for 'Korean' was placed above 'Japanese' on the questionnaire. Second, based on the frequency of write-in responses from the 2001 Census, the order of the examples was changed for the Southeast Asian and West Asian categories, and the example of 'Indonesian' for the Southeast Asian category was replaced with 'Malaysian.' Finally, the 'Other – Specify' write-in space was comprised of 11 segmented boxes, rather than consisting of just one unsegmented line. Nevertheless, although only 11 segmented boxes were indicated on the questionnaire, up to 80 characters were allowed on the database for the write-in space. Cases where 80 characters could be received included questionnaires that came from the internet or computer-assisted telephone interviews and questionnaires which required manual key entry because a respondent did not stay within the 11 segmented boxes.
Write-in responses of 'Mixed' and 'Bi-racial' were processed differently in 2006, affecting data comparability with 2001 counts. In 2001, persons with these write-in responses who did not also have a mark-in box response were included in the category 'Visible minority, n.i.e.' In 2006, there was a much greater effort to recode these write-in responses to multiple mark-in groups. As a result of this change in processing, counts for specific visible minority groups increased, as did the count for the category 'Multiple visible minority.' In contrast, the count for the category 'Visible minority, n.i.e.' decreased.
Information from the census undergoes data quality verification to ensure that published data are of the highest quality possible. For the population group question, this assessment was based on a review of response rates, imputation rates, and a comparison of 2006 counts to those obtained in previous censuses. The overall quality of the population group and visible minority variables for the 2006 Census is high.
The 2006 non-response rate was 1.5% compared to 1.9% in 2001. With the exception of Nunavut, provincial/territorial rates ranged from 1.4% (Alberta and Ontario) to 2.0% (Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northwest Territories). The non-response rate in Nunavut was 7.5%.
Imputation refers to the process where data quality is improved by verifying the logical consistency of responses and replacing any inconsistent or missing responses with acceptable values. Two types of imputation were applied to population group data, namely deterministic imputation and donor imputation. Deterministic imputation is the process by which a unique value is assigned to a missing or invalid response through either relationships among personal characteristics, or, in the case of children with no responses to the population group question, by using the population group(s) of their parent(s) to fill in the missing data. Donor imputation is performed by identifying individuals in the same geographical area that have similar, but complete and consistent characteristics, and then copying the values of randomly selected individuals to fill in the missing or erroneous data among the 'failed edit' individuals.
In 2006, the total imputation rate from both deterministic imputation and donor imputation was 2.9%. Deterministic imputation was used much more than donor imputation – over three-quarters of imputed records were imputed deterministically.