Guide to the Census of Population, 2016
Chapter 6 – Online questionnaire


The use of the online questionnaire in the census has continued to increase since its introduction in 2001. In 2016, the census form was submitted online for 68.3% of private dwellings, which is an increase from 53.9% in 2011 and 18.3% for the 2006 Census.

Reduced costs and increased quality

Online questionnaires provide cost savings and data quality gains over the use of paper forms. Online forms have better response rates for individual questions and better quality data since there are edits that prompt a respondent when invalid data are entered or data are missing. The online census questionnaires also prefilled fields based on information provided by the respondent (e.g., the names of members of the household) which reduced the likelihood of one member's answers being recorded under another person. Automated skip patterns alleviated respondent burden by skipping questions that were not applicable. The online forms also had help information available for respondents who wanted additional information about a census question. The census long form had a stop and finish later feature, so that respondents could save the form and return later. A password was used to retrieve the saved questionnaire.

Mobile-friendly responsive design

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat required that the 2016 Census online forms use the Web Experience Toolkit (WET), which is used to build and maintain innovative websites that are mobile friendly. WET has the ability to adjust the layout of the web page according to the screen size of the mobile device. The online questionnaires were developed using WET to prepare for the increase of mobile users in Canada. In 2016, 79.6% of households used a personal computer, 12.9% used a tablet and 7.5% used a smartphone to submit the census questionnaire.


Statistics Canada takes the protection of confidential information provided online seriously. A secure login process and strong encryption are key elements in helping to prevent anyone from eavesdropping or tampering with census information.

To protect the security of personal information on the Internet, Statistics Canada incorporated the following safeguards:

Date modified: