Questions and answers about the census

What is the census?

The census is the primary source of reliable demographic data for specific groups such as lone-parent families, seniors and language groups. The census information is used in making decisions—for your neighbourhood, your community, your province, and the country as a whole.

How do we conduct the census?

Early in May, yellow census packages were delivered to every dwelling in Canada. These packages provided the information needed to complete the census online or on paper.

Why is the census important to Canada?

Governments, businesses, associations and community organizations use census information to plan services that benefit everyone who lives in Canada. These services include schools, daycare, police services and fire protection.

Census results are used to make decisions that affect our neighbourhoods, province or territory, and the entire country.

Do people have to participate in the census?

All residents of Canada are legally required to complete the census questionnaire, according to the Statistics Act.

Statistics Canada is bound by law to protect the confidentiality of the information respondents provide in the census. Only Statistics Canada employees have access to census questionnaires.

Who is included in the census?

Every household in Canada is included, as well as Canadians and their families who are working abroad for the federal and provincial governments, Canadian embassies or the Canadian Armed Forces.

How are the census questions determined?

Before each census, Statistics Canada undertakes a user consultation and testing program to determine the census questions.

Statistics Canada takes into account emerging social and economic issues when recommending the content of the census questionnaire. The questions are approved by Cabinet by an Order in Council and then published in the Canada Gazette.

How does Statistics Canada protect my confidentiality, security, and privacy during the census?

Census data are stored on Statistics Canada systems that are isolated from any other network. External connections such as telephone dial-in services are not available to Statistics Canada's systems where confidential data are stored.

Statistics Canada has controlled access to its premises so that only persons with the appropriate security clearance and who have taken the oath of secrecy may enter facilities housing confidential data.

Any private-sector employees who may require entrance to these premises are escorted at all times by a Statistics Canada employee.

Statistics Canada employees follow specific instructions and procedures to ensure that confidentiality is maintained. All employees are sworn to secrecy when they are hired.

The Statistics Act states that employees are liable to fines of up to $1,000 and/or jail terms of up to six months if they reveal personal information.