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4. Census data collection

4.1 General

4.2 Frames

4.3 Collection methods

4.1 General

The data collection stage of the 2006 Census ensured that each of the 13.5 million dwellings in Canada received a census questionnaire. The census aims to enumerate the entire population of Canada, which consists of Canadian citizens (by birth and by naturalization), landed immigrants, and non-permanent residents together with family members living with them. Non-permanent residents are persons living in Canada who have a work or study permit covering the Census Day, or who are claiming refugee status, and family members living with them.

The census also counted Canadian citizens and landed immigrants who were temporarily outside the country on Census Day. This included federal and provincial government employees working outside Canada, Canadian embassy staff posted to other countries, members of the Canadian Forces stationed abroad and all Canadian crew members of merchant vessels.

The Census of Canada uses different forms and questionnaires to collect data. The basic short questionnaire is called the 2A. It is distributed to four in five private dwellings. The 2B is a longer questionnaire that collects the same information as the 2A as well as additional information on a variety of topics. The 2B questionnaire is distributed to one in five private dwellings. Each household that receives a 2A or 2B census questionnaire is asked to enumerate and provide information on all household members who fall into the census target population.

A Form 2C is mainly used to enumerate people posted outside Canada, including Canadian government employees (federal and provincial) and their families, and members of the Canadian Forces and their families. The 2C contains the same questions as the 2B with the exception of housing questions. A Form 2D contains the same questions as the 2B but is used to enumerate northern areas and most Indian reserves, Indian settlements, Indian government districts and 'terres réservées.' In canvasser areas, it is also used to enumerate usual residents of Hutterite colonies.

A Form 3 is an individual census questionnaire used to enumerate persons in collective dwellings. Each person in the collective dwelling completes a separate Form 3. It can also be used to enumerate usual residents in a private household who prefer to be enumerated on their own census questionnaire rather than be included on a 2A or 2B questionnaire. Form 3A is the short version of the questionnaire, and Form 3B is the long version.

4.2 Frames

To ensure the best possible coverage, the country was divided into small geographic areas called collection units (CU). In the 2006 Census, there were approximately 50,000 CUs. A small number of CUs were designated as canvasser areas where a census enumerator completed a Form 2D for each dwelling. The remaining CUs were assigned a questionnaire delivery method of either mail-out (MO) or list/leave (L/L). The MO method was used for all large and medium-sized cities. Smaller municipalities with a population under about 25,000 were designated L/L along with the remaining rural areas.

A dwelling list frame was used for the MO areas. The list provided the means of identifying and contacting every dwelling in the dwelling universe as of May 16, 2006. The number of dwellings and their addresses were taken from the Address Register (AR), a list of dwellings maintained by Statistics Canada which covers most of the country. Various administrative data are used to update the AR such as telephone billing files and the GST New Housing Rebate File.

The quality and coverage of the dwelling frame in MO areas was enhanced by block canvassing, which took place about eight months prior to Census Day. This was a process whereby field staff surveyed MO areas to update AR dwellings lists to ensure the accuracy of the addresses and dwelling classifications, and ensure that dwellings were correctly coded to the block they belong to. Block canvassing not only identified dwellings that were in existence at the time, but also attempted to identify new planned dwellings and dwellings under construction that were likely to exist by Census Day. There was also a late block canvass operation three to four months prior to Census Day to recanvass high-growth areas.

The frame for the L/L and canvasser areas contains a list of all potential dwellings in these areas. In L/L and canvasser areas enumerators constructed lists of dwellings in a control register known as a Visitation Record. As they did this, questionnaires were dropped off (L/L) or interviews were conducted (canvasser). The AR was also a coverage improvement tool in some L/L areas.

4.3 Collection methods

About 98% of households were enumerated using self-enumeration. For the 70% of dwellings located in MO areas, Canada Post delivered a census questionnaire starting May 2. In the L/L areas covering 28% of the dwellings, the households received their questionnaire from a census enumerator. Householders were asked to complete the questionnaire for themselves and for members of their household and return it either online or in the postage-paid yellow envelope by May 16, Census Day.

About 2% of households were enumerated using the canvasser method. An enumerator visited a household and completed a questionnaire for the household by a personal interview. This method was normally used in remote and northern areas of the country and on most Indian reserves. It was also used in large urban downtown areas where many residents are transient.

For the first time, the 2006 Census offered all households in Canada the option of completing their questionnaire online. Each paper questionnaire had a unique Internet access code printed on the front along with the 2006 Census website address ( Respondents needed this access code to complete their questionnaire online. If a questionnaire was completed and returned online, the information was directly submitted into the Data Processing Centre system and was verified for completeness. Approximately 18% of households responded via the Internet. Some households were enumerated through the Census Help Line (CHL), a free, nationwide, multilingual service that was available to all respondents. The CHL collected census information through a computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) system.

During the non-response and follow-up stage of collection (NRFU), households from which a questionnaire had not been received within an acceptable time frame were contacted individually by enumerators (EN) in order to collect their information.

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