Dictionary, Census of Population, 2016
Ethnic origin

Release date: May 3, 2017


'Ethnic origin' refers to the ethnic or cultural origins of the person's ancestors. An ancestor is usually more distant than a grandparent.

Statistical unit(s)



Ethnic origin: Single or multiple response indicator

Reported in

2016 (25% sample); 2011Note 1 (30% sample); 2006, 2001, 1996, 1991, 1986 and 1981 (20% sample). For availability prior to 1981, please refer to Appendix 2.0.

Reported for

Population in private households

Question number(s)

Direct variable: Question 17


Respondents were asked to specify as many origins as applicable in Question 17: ethnic origin. Four lines were provided for write-in responses and up to six ethnic origins were retained. Refer to Appendix 5.1 for the 2016 Census of Population classification for ethnic origin.


Additional instructions were provided to respondents in the 2016 Census of Population long-form Guide:

This question refers to the ethnic or cultural origin or origins of a person's ancestors. Other than Aboriginal persons, most people can trace their origins to their ancestors who first came to this continent. Ancestry should not be confused with citizenship or nationality.

For all persons, report the specific ethnic or cultural group or groups to which their ancestors belonged, not the language they spoke.

For persons of East Indian or South Asian origins, report a specific origin or origins. Do not report "Indian". For example, report "East Indian from India", "East Indian from Guyana", or indicate the specific group, such as "Punjabi" or "Tamil".

For persons with Aboriginal ancestors, report a specific origin or origins. For example, report "Cree", "Mi'kmaq", "Ojibway", "Métis", or "North American Indian". Do not report "Indian".


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