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Overview of the Census of Population
Chapter 6 – Online questionnaire


In early May 2011, households, which were not enumerated using the canvasser enumeration method, received either a letter or a census questionnaire package. Each letter or paper questionnaire had a unique secure access code (SAC) printed on the front along with the 2011 Census website address ( Respondents were able to use the unique code to access their questionnaire online throughout the collection period.

In 2006, approximately one in five (18.5%) households used the online application, which was available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in English and in French. The Internet response rate for the 2011 Census was 54.4%.

Reduced costs and increased quality

Online census enumeration helps provide long-term cost savings, quality gains, and reduces respondent burden.

For the 2006 Census, an estimated 20% Internet return rate created improvements resulting in an approximate cost savings equal to the cost of developing and supporting the application. A higher take-up rate for the 2011 Census reduced the infrastructure required to handle paper questionnaires (scanners, physical space, logistics, shipping), resulting in expectations for reduced costs.

Technical factors, such as online edits that prompt respondents when they have left questions blank or entered conflicting information or an unusual value, made the questionnaire easier to complete. Any errors could quickly be identified and corrected, thereby improving the accuracy of the information. Automated skip patterns were programmed to guide respondents past questions that were not applicable.

Questions were personalized with respondents' names to reduce the likelihood of one person's responses being recorded in another's response area. In addition, help information was available for each question and provided details to assist respondents quickly without having to leave the application.

Security and the online application

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:

  • Strong bi-directional encryption technologies based on Secure Socket Layer (SSL v3.0) ensure end to-end security of data passing between respondents' computers and our web server.

  • Data submitted to our web servers are encrypted before being stored and remain encrypted until they are transferred to the high security internal network.

  • Census data are processed and stored on a high security internal network that will not permit access to any outside link and cannot be accessed by any person or organization outside of Statistics Canada.

  • Powerful firewalls, intrusion detection and stringent access control procedures limit access to back-end systems and databases. Census employees who have proper authorization and who have affirmed an oath of secrecy can access census data but only from secure Statistics Canada locations.
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