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2006 Census collection

The 2006 Census of Canada (Census of Population and Census of Agriculture) took place on Tuesday, May 16, 2006.

Enumerating the population of Canada

Almost every country in the world regularly gathers important information on the social and economic conditions of persons living in its different regions. Every five years Statistics Canada conducts a census to provide a statistical portrait of Canada and its people.

Statistics Canada is the federal agency which is responsible under the Statistics Act for conducting the Census of Canada. By law each household must provide the information requested in the census, and by the same law Statistics Canada must protect the confidentiality of the personal information provided by respondents.

The census gathers information on the socio-economic characteristics of the population. When converted into statistics, the information gathered provides a measure of the growth in the country's population and economy and sheds light on social and cultural trends.

The census enumerates everyone living in Canada. Included are Canadian citizens, both native-born and naturalized, landed immigrants and non-permanent residents and members of their families living with them in Canada. Non-permanent residents are persons who hold a work or study permit, or who claim refugee status.

The census also counts Canadian citizens and landed immigrants who are temporarily outside Canada on Census Day. Examples are persons aboard merchant ships or vessels of the Canadian government, federal or provincial employees and their families, and members of the Canadian Forces and their families.

Census data are used to produce population estimates. These estimates are used to calculate transfer payments from the federal government to the provinces and territories, and from the provincial/territorial governments to municipalities. Even a small error in the estimates could lead to the misallocation of billions of dollars.

Delivery of questionnaires

In 2006, about 98% of households were enumerated using self-enumeration. Starting May 2nd, Canada Post delivered a census questionnaire to about 70% of households, with the remaining 30% receiving 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 pre-paid yellow envelope by May 16th, Census Day.

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

Statistics Canada census enumerators

Approximately 1,800 crew leaders were hired to recruit, train and supervise around 20,000 census enumerators. Census enumerators were hired for approximately six weeks, from May to mid — June. Field operation supervisors, local area managers and census area managers were hired under the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA). Crew leaders and census enumerators are hired under the Statistics Act.

Census staffing procedures are applied uniformly throughout Canada. Before being considered for a census position, candidates must pass the selection test, personal interview and security checks in accordance with the Security Policy of the Government of Canada.

The census questionnaire

Most households (80%) received the short census questionnaire, which contained eight questions on basic topics such as relationship to Person 1, age, sex, marital status, and mother tongue. One in five households (20 %) received the long questionnaire, which contained the eight questions from the short form plus 53 additional questions on topics such as education, ethnicity, mobility, income and employment.

The census online questionnaire

For the first time, the 2006 Census offered all households in Canada the option of completing their census questionnaire online. This easy, secure and convenient option could be used anywhere, anytime, and was available in English and French.

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 do their questionnaire online. This security feature made it secure, simple and quick for everyone to complete their census questionnaire online.

Official languages

Eighty percent of all households received a questionnaire package containing both an English and a French short form. The remaining 20% of households received a questionnaire package with either one unilingual long-form questionnaire or both language versions of the long-form questionnaire.

The criteria for language designations for long form recipients were as follows:

  • Census subdivisions where the first official language spoken and mother tongue data from the 2001 Census indicate that at least 5% of the population used the other official language from that of the majority received a bilingual questionnaire package.
  • New Brunswick received bilingual long form packages.
  • Ottawa-Gatineau received bilingual long form packages.
  • Other areas where the census subdivision did not meet the 5% standard, but where there was significant use of the minority language also received bilingual long form packages.

Households requiring a questionnaire in the other official language could either contact the Census Help Line or complete the questionnaire online in the language of their choice.

How to complete the questionnaire

An adult completes the questionnaire for all members of the household. This person is called Person 1.

Person 1 enters the names of all persons who usually live in the household, along with their relationship to Person 1. This includes all children, co-tenants, roomers, children who live elsewhere when in school, children under joint custody who live in the dwelling most of the time, and persons who usually live in the dwelling but have been living in an institution such as a hospital, residence for senior citizens or prison for less than six months.

The census included persons alive at midnight between May 15 and 16, 2006. For example, a child born on May 16th was not counted.

Special enumerations

The enumeration of Canada's population extends beyond rural and urban households. This section provides information on enumerating people whose residence on Census Day is not their regular dwelling.

Enumeration of students

Students attending school out of town but who return home when school is not in session were to be included on their parents' questionnaire, as part of the regular household. Because a school residence is considered a collective dwelling and each resident of a collective dwelling must complete a census questionnaire, students living in residences were to complete the first two pages of the census form, seal it in the envelope provided, and return it by May 16th to the location in the residence which was noted on the outside of the envelope. Students working out of town on Census Day should have been included in their regular household. If they were staying in a hotel or motel because of their job, at a camp or YMCA-YWCA, they were to complete the first two pages of the census questionnaire which they received at that location.

Collective dwellings that do not provide care or assistance services

Inns, hotels, motels, campgrounds, YMCA/YWCAs and military bases are examples of non-institutional collective units. Persons living in these units are self-enumerated in the same way as households. However, persons staying temporarily in such a unit on Census Day were not enumerated there, but rather at their usual place of residence.

Collective dwellings that provide care or assistance services

Residents at institutions such as detention facilities, hospitals, residences for senior citizens, orphanages or prisons are enumerated using the institution's administrative records. To be enumerated, residents must have lived at the facility for at least six months. Otherwise, the resident is counted at their regular place of residence.

Seniors who reside in institutions or residences' with distinct, separate living quarters that do not blend with units such as those for chronic care, and who are able to complete the census questionnaire, receive their own census form to complete.

Homeless people

Prior to Census Day, Statistics Canada developed lists of shelters to identify homeless shelters as distinct from other types of collective dwellings.

In shelters and similar facilities, the eight short form questions were completed using administrative records, where possible. These are the same questions that were answered by every Canadian. In all cases, age and sex was noted.

The census in remote areas

In remote areas of the Arctic north, the census is conducted in February and March to enumerate inhabitants before they migrate to hunting and fishing camps for the summer. In these areas, the census is conducted by personal interview using a special questionnaire. Translations of the census questions are available in a number of dialects, as well as English and French, so that respondents can read the questions in their own language.

Canadians abroad

At Canadian embassies, heads of missions are asked to assist in enumerating all Canadians in the service of the Government of Canada outside the country. They appoint an enumeration coordinator who sees to the enumeration of employees in each department, along with their families.

Military and civilian personnel stationed outside Canada and their families, as well as persons on board vessels of the Canadian Forces, the Canadian Coast Guard, the merchant marine and other ships, are all enumerated in the same way.

Travelling in Canada

People normally living in Canada who were travelling on Census Day were still required to complete and return a census form. If there was someone still at home in the household, this person included the traveler(s) on their questionnaire and returned it to Statistics Canada. Those who were travelling on Census Day and lived alone completed their household's questionnaire before they left or as soon as they returned home.

Those who planned to be away for an extended period of time during the census period, either in Canada or outside of the country, were encouraged to contact the Census Help Line and complete their form over the phone.

The Census of Agriculture

Step D of the census questionnaire is used to determine which households should participate in the Census of Agriculture, which is carried out at the same time as the Census of Population. Agricultural operators are those who have sold or intend to sell agricultural products in the next 12 months. Such households receive an additional questionnaire for the Census of Agriculture. In 2001, there were some 247,000 farm operations in Canada.

The Census of Agriculture collects a wide range of data on the agriculture industry, such as number and type of agricultural operations, farm-operator characteristics, business-operating arrangements, land-management practices, crop areas, numbers of livestock and poultry, farm-business capital, operating expenses and receipts, and farm machinery and equipment.

The Census Help Line

At census time, Statistics Canada operated a Census Help Line to assist respondents in completing their census questionnaire.

Respondents were asked to call the Census Help Line if they:

  • had a question about filling in their census form or wanted some information about the census
  • had trouble filling in their census form
  • needed a new census form because the original was lost or damaged
  • needed a questionnaire in the other official language
  • needed an extra questionnaire because there were more people in their household than there was space for on the questionnaire
  • did not receive a questionnaire by Tuesday, May 16th
  • wanted to know if there was a Census Help Centre in their area
  • needed a new Internet Access Code to answer their questionnaire online.

Respondents could also contact this service to obtain a copy of the census questions in non-official languages. To assist people whose first language was neither English nor French, the census questions were translated into 62 other languages, including 18 Aboriginal languages. Census questions were also available in alternative forms including Braille, audiocassette and large print.

How do we protect your privacy?

By law, Statistics Canada must protect the confidentiality of the personal information contained in census questionnaires.

Census personnel must take an oath of secrecy; any breach of this oath is punishable under the Statistics Act by a fine of up to $1,000 or a prison term of up to six months, or both.

As well, only employees whose work requires it actually see the completed census forms.

Names, addresses and telephone numbers are not entered into the census database used for dissemination of the information. Census data are stored on an internal isolated network that cannot be connected to any outside link or accessed by any person or organization outside of Statistics Canada.

Did you know that...

  • To save paper, additional instructions and information accompanying the 2006 Census long questionnaire was reduced to a six-page bilingual insert. This saved approximately 215,460 kilograms of paper.