Each census, many important considerations are weighed when establishing the content of the census questionnaires, with Cabinet having the ultimate say. There are many questions included in the Census of Population that are required to develop, support, and monitor laws and programs for the effective governance of the country. For instance, census data play a vital role in determining the amounts of federal-provincial/territorial transfers under the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. The number and boundaries of federal electoral districts are based on census population counts, and policy analysts and program officers draw on census results to implement and evaluate legislation and programs such as the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Old Age Security Program.
Detailed information on the socioeconomic characteristics of the Canadian population reported in the various census modules (such as language, ethnicity, education, labour, income, etc.) provide comprehensive data for small areas and are referenced by researchers and policy makers in the private sector and at all levels of government. Some major uses of census information include the following:
- local governments refer to census data to understand commute patterns, establish affordable housing programs and evaluate the economic and social well-being of their neighbourhoods
- managers examine census data at low levels of geographical detail for emergency planning and the provision of health and educational services
- the business community uses census data in market analysis nationally, regionally and locally
- historians and social scientists analyse census data to understand social change and document Canadian history.
Given the critical importance of the census to many data users, consultation is a necessary component of content determination because it informs Statistics Canada on continued and emerging data requirements.
Factors to consider before making changes to the census content
Preparing for a new census requires a careful evaluation of data needs. The decision to include new questions and modify or eliminate existing census content is not taken in isolation. The input and insight gained from consultation is an important part of the mix. Equally necessary is the consideration of a number of factors, such as support to legislation, program and policy needs, respondent burden, data quality, costs, historical comparability, privacy, operational considerations and alternative data sources.
A number of measures are taken to decrease respondent burden such as sampling, providing questionnaires and telephone assistance in a number of languages, alternating content such as religion as well as offering various modes of response (i.e., Internet, paper and telephone).
Statistics Canada is sensitive to respondent burden and as a result, the 2011 Census questionnaires must be comparable in length to those of the 2006 Census. Thus, adding new census questions could involve reducing other content.
The success of the census depends on the willingness of all Canadians to complete and return their census questionnaire.
The 2011 Census content consultation process yielded a large number of contributions from data users. More than 1,200 content-related comments were collected from in-person consultations and written submissions.
While the focus for this round of consultation was to gather input on the content of the 2011 Census, feedback was also solicited on other aspects of the census, including the dissemination strategy (104 comments), geography (162 comments), and collection and communications (64 comments) (see Appendix 2). The counts presented in this report reflect the number of comments received during in-person consultation and from written submissions, according to the guidelines outlined in the methodology chapter.
The following section highlights consultation results, by census topic.
Place of work and mode of transportation generated 233 comments. It was the topic most frequently commented upon during 2011 Census content consultations. Many participants supported more information on mode of transportation, vehicle occupancy and travel time.
Ethnocultural and religious characteristics generated 232 comments. Most who provided input on the religion question confirmed it should continue to be asked on the census. It was felt this information contributes to a better understanding of Canadian diversity. There was agreement that the ethnic origin examples should reflect today's society. It was also noted that the population group options (Question 19) caused confusion in some instances, as it was unclear how the answer categories were chosen.
Family characteristics generated 131 comments. A large number of participants expressed support for the introduction of response options related to same-sex married couples and blended families.
Housing and shelter costs generated 114 comments. Additional data on senior residences, subsidized housing and more detail on various emerging dwelling types were requested most often.
Education generated 104 comments. Many data users agreed with the inclusion of a response category related to a journeyman's or journeyperson's certificate. Some communicated concern about a possible overlap among the new 2006 Census questions.
Aboriginal peoples1 generated 80 comments. Many participants considered the proposed change in terminology from ‘North American Indian' to ‘First Nations.' Most agreed that the term ‘First Nations' should be used. (Note: Separate regional discussions on Aboriginal identification questions were held with more than 350 users of Aboriginal data in over 40 locations across Canada during the winter, spring and early summer of 2007. See Chapter 6 for a summary of the results.)
Unpaid work generated 72 comments. The majority of the observations received on unpaid work concentrated on the need for, and use of, household activities data or they deliberated whether the census was the most appropriate vehicle for collecting this information.
Demographic characteristics (includes age, sex, marital status, common-law status, mobility, fertility and sexual orientation) generated 61 comments. Reintroducing fertility on the census questionnaire was the top request related to this topic.
Labour market activity generated 51 comments. The ideas and suggestions covered an array of subjects, touching on temporary and contingent workers and employment tenure.
Income generated 46 comments. There was support for the option which enables respondents to give Statistics Canada permission to use information from their income tax files instead of answering the census income questions. It was suggested this option be extended to include other tax forms.
Language generated 34 comments. Some data users wanted the census to collect information on the language spoken most often in the public domain while other data users requested additional data on the preferred language of service. Feedback on the subject of preferred language of service indicates this information would be useful for government and financial service delivery areas.
Activity limitations generated 27 comments. Many of the submissions on this topic focused on issues of disabilities covered under activity limitations. For instance, it was indicated that breaking out the existing activity categories would be useful in order to have access to specific data on single and multiple limitations.
Citizenship and immigration generated 23 comments. A few participants proposed a question on immigrant class (refugee, skilled worker, etc.). Others were interested in the extent to which the census captures multiple citizenships.
Other generated 68 comments. This chapter groups comments not clearly associated to one of the topics above. For example, many participants recommended that the census enumerate secondary residences in order to capture data on the populations working or studying away from home or in shared custody arrangements. Improvements to the question which asks permission for the release of census information after 92 years were also put forth.
- This finding is an outcome of 2011 Census content consultations. A summary of the results from the regional discussions on Aboriginal identification questions held across the Canada in 2007 is presented following Chapter 6 on Aboriginal peoples.
- Date modified: