Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

2011 Census Teacher's Kit - Teacher's Guide

PDF Version

Teacher's Guide


This guide contains useful information for both teachers and students. The first few pages contain information specific to the teacher. The guide also includes background information on the Census of Population, a census vocabulary and Quick census facts. For detailed information on the Census of Agriculture, please see Activity 5.

Teacher-ready activities have been divided into three suggested grade levels: elementary, intermediate, and senior. Some activities have classroom extensions to enrich students' comprehension.

Overall objectives

  • Encourage teachers and students to complete the census questionnaire; ensure that they pass on this message to friends and families.
  • Create awareness and understanding about the importance of the census and the information it will provide.
  • Increase awareness among teachers and students about census information as a valuable tool for student and teacher research projects.

When should I use the Teacher's Kit?

The best time to conduct these activities is in early May 2011. This will coincide with Statistics Canada's national, provincial and local census awareness campaigns, and with the census information that will arrive at households across Canada.


In addition to the enrichment exercises in each activity, here are some additional ideas:

  • Quick census facts can be reproduced and sent home with students to help spread the census message.
  • Motivate students to actively participate in the census by having them generate community awareness projects. Ask them for their ideas on what they can do to make area residents aware of the upcoming census.
  • A variety of school communications vehicles could be used to generate awareness among the student body: announcements on the public address system, posters in gymnasiums and school buses, messages on the school's cable TV or radio station, displays on classroom bulletin boards, census stories in the school newspaper, and announcements on the school's website.

Take a look at the 1911 Census of Canada (elementary level)

Students can examine a few pages from the 1911 Census of Canada. (Print downloadable pages available at Students could be led in a class discussion about the type of information found and what that information may tell them about the people who are listed. For example, students can take a look at the size of families, the age of parents when they had their first child, the occupations that people had, the number and ages of children who were working or going to school, the number of people who could read and write, etc.

Research the changes in population in your community (intermediate/senior levels)

Students can research a street in their community using the 1911 Census of Canada and compare it with what they would find on the same street today. If the community did not exist in 1911, students can select a nearby community that is listed in the 1911 Census. (Students can print the relevant pages from

By examining the data contained in the census pages, students can create a snapshot of the way life was in 1911. What were the characteristics of the people who lived in the students' chosen area? How are the people listed similar to the people who live there today? How do they differ? (Students can compare a wide range of interesting factors, such as the number of households, the number and ages of the people who live there, their occupations and employers, where they were born, the language they spoke, etc.)

Research family history (senior level)

Working in groups, students can research various ancestors of members of the class. Only ancestors who were living in Canada in 1911 should be chosen. Each group should select several names to search, as some names may not be found in the census records. Those without ancestors living in Canada in 1911 can “adopt” a classmate's ancestor to research.

To search the 1911 Census of Canada, available online at, students will need to know where in Canada (town, city, etc.) an ancestor was living in 1911. Once students have located an ancestor, they will be able to check the census record to find such interesting information as: other family members and their ages, occupations, employers, religion, place of birth, whether they could read and write, etc.

Each group could compile this information in a brief report for a family history. Students may wish to find additional information by checking other genealogical sources such as ship passenger lists, military records, immigration records, cemetery records, etc. A good place to continue the search is the Canadian Genealogy Centre (

The Census of Canada

The Census of Population

Statistics Canada takes a Census of Population every five years. The last census was in May 2006; the next one will be in May 2011. The 2011 Census will ask  people questions about their age, sex, marital status, relationship to others in the household and language.

Census history

Census taking is not a new idea. During the third and fourth centuries B.C., the Babylonians, Chinese, and Egyptians enumerated their populations to collect taxes and to fight foreign wars. The Romans were avid census takers and regularly held censuses to learn about areas in their far-reaching empire.

In contrast to early censuses, later censuses became more than just a way to levy taxes or to muster men for fighting. They were seen as an inquiry into the social and economic state of the nation.

The first modern census

Intendant Jean Talon is generally regarded as the first in the world to put a modern census into practice. Sent by Louis XIV to administer the colony of New France, Talon recognized the importance of having reliable information on which to organize the colony and further its development. This first census in 1666 enumerated 3,215 inhabitants and collected information on age, sex, marital status, locality, and occupation. A supplementary inquiry in 1667 asked about the area of land under cultivation and the number of cattle and sheep.

No fewer than 36 censuses were conducted during the French regime. Each one brought new questions on topics such as the production of various crops, the number of public buildings, churches, grist mills and sawmills, and the number of firearms and swords.

The first census under the British regime was taken in 1765 and contained much the same information as the censuses in the latter part of the French regime. As time progressed, new topics appeared such as race, ethnicity, religion, and place of birth.

During the 1800s, separate censuses were held at various times in the Atlantic colonies, Upper and Lower Canada, and in Manitoba. In 1867, the British North America Act (now called the Constitution Act) brought about Confederation and called for a Census of Canada to be taken every 10 years, starting in 1871. Census results would be used to determine the number of members in the House of Commons.

A mid-decade agricultural census was first held in Manitoba in 1896.

When the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were created in 1905, the increasingly rapid settlement of the west made the quinquennial census a constitutional requirement. A new Census and Statistics Act called for additional censuses of population and agriculture to be taken in the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta in 1906 and every 10 years after that until the population of each of the three provinces reached 1.25 million. These censuses continued until 1956, when Canada began taking national censuses of population and agriculture every five years.

A census every five years

In 1956, the Dominion Bureau of Statistics began taking national censuses every five years to provide up-to-date information on the nation's rapidly changing population. The mid-decade census was made mandatory in the Statistics Act of 1971.

How is the census taken?

During May 2011, every household in Canada will be asked to complete a census questionnaire – either online or on paper. Over 13.4 million households are expected to take part.

Questionnaire: In 2011, Statistics Canada will be encouraging households to complete the census questionnaire online. Benefits of completing a questionnaire online include improved data quality, time savings for respondents and less paper. Paper questionnaires will still be available for those respondents who prefer to fill out the census form by hand.

In addition, the 2011 Census will again include a question asking respondents to consent to have their census information released after 92 years. This information is valuable to historical researchers, genealogists, academics and journalists.

Every household in Canada is required to complete a census questionnaire. The questionnaire asks basic questions such as age, sex, marital status, relationship to others in the household and language.

Methodology: In 80% of the country, Statistics Canada will contact people by mail. Most of these households will receive a letter requesting they fill their census forms using the online option, while the remaining will receive the paper questionnaire itself.

In rural and less populated parts of the country, households will receive a visit from an interviewer who will deliver a census questionnaire. These forms will contain a secure access code that respondents can use if they want to complete the questionnaire online.

Since there are fewer people living in northern and remote areas, and on Indian reserves, all respondents living in these areas will complete a census questionnaire with the help of an interviewer.

What questions are asked?

The information collected must be clearly in the public interest needed at the small geographic level (for example a community or neighbourhood) and not obtainable from other sources. The questions are approved by Order in Council and published in the Canada Gazette.

The questions remain the same from census to census. In this way, trends can be tracked over the years, such as the growth or decline in the population in various areas of the country.

Who uses census data?

Census data are used by governments, businesses and industries, social organizations and countless other agencies. For instance:

Census data are essential for calculating the population estimates used to allocate transfer payments from the federal government to the provinces and territories, and from the provinces to the municipalities. In 2009-2010, provinces and territories received over $60 billion from the federal government through major transfers, direct targeted support and trust funds.

Governments of all levels use census data to develop policies on economic and social programs. Municipalities use census data to assess the need for community programs and services, such as transportation, police and youth services.

The health care industry uses census data to forecast health care needs and costs, and select sites for hospitals, seniors' homes, and clinics.

Social service agencies use census data to assess many social needs such as daycare.

The education sector uses census data to plan post-secondary and adult education programs. School boards use population figures by age group to project school enrolments.

The media use census data as background for articles.

More than a civic responsibility?

It is vital that decision makers have accurate information when making policies that will shape our country's future. For this reason, answering census questions is more than a civic responsibility – it is required by the Statistics Act. This law states the legal obligation of every household to participate in the census. By the same law, Statistics Canada must protect the confidentiality of the personal information provided by respondents.

Privacy and confidentiality

Under the Statistics Act, all personal census information must be kept confidential. Only Statistics Canada employees who have a need to examine individual forms have access to completed questionnaires. No one outside of Statistics Canada can have access to personal census information.

Resources for census material

Census information can be obtained free of charge in many libraries. Academic and large city libraries have a full range of Statistics Canada products in a variety of media while others carry a selection of publications.

On the Statistics Canada website ( by clicking on Census in the top right hand corner, then 2006 Community Profiles, you can type in your city or town to find specific information about your community and area.

You can download an Activity Sheet containing a Word Find Puzzle and a 2011 Census Quiz, as well as this Teacher's Kit from the census website at The Teacher's Kit includes this Teacher's Guide and eight activities.

Additional educational material is available free of charge on the Statistics Canada website at Enter “Learning resources” in the online search tool.

Online translations of the census question are available in several languages on the census website ( The full list of languages can be accessed on the census website.

Census vocabulary

“census” comes from the Latin word censere – to appraise. The Canadian census takes place once every five years. The information it collects, from every person in Canada, provides data on topics that are important to the country. Census data are used to make many decisions at all levels of government and private business. The next census takes place in May 2011.
census metropolitan area (CMA)
area consisting of one or more neighbouring municipalities situated around a major urban core. A census metropolitan area must have a total population of at least 100,000 of which 50,000 or more live in the urban core. Winnipeg, Manitoba is a CMA.
Census of Population
an enumeration of every household and person in Canada once every five years. All households will receive a census questionnaire which contains ten questions on basic topics such as age, sex, marital status, 92 year consent and language.
census reference day
the day for which the information is provided. For the 2011 Census, the reference day is May 10, 2011. Respondents may fill out a questionnaire before or after the reference day, but they should provide information as it relates to their household on May 10, 2011.
census tract (CT)
an area that is small and relatively stable. Census tracts usually have a population of 2,500 to 8,000. They are located in large urban centres that must have an urban core population of 50,000 or more.
refers to the legal citizenship status of the respondent. Persons who are citizens of more than one country were instructed to provide the name of the other country(ies).
a grouping
complete count
the census goal – to obtain information from everyone who is a resident of Canada, as well as Canadians working abroad for the federal and provincial governments, Canadian embassies, Canadian Armed Forces, and their families.
the Statistics Act requires that all personal census information be kept confidential. Data are released only after responses have been combined in a database to produce statistics.
facts from which conclusions can be drawn.
as in cultural diversity, multicultural, different cultures in Canada (see multicultural).
a set of living quarters in which a person or a group of persons resides or could reside.
the process of counting or naming one by one; to list. In most parts of Canada, enumeration takes place by having people complete the questionnaire themselves (online or on paper). In remote areas, enumeration takes place by personal interview.
federal electoral district (FED)
an area represented by a Member of Parliament (MP) elected to the House of Commons. The number of seats in the House of Commons is based on the population counts from each decennial census. Population counts from the 2001 Census (a decennial census) increased the number of federal electoral districts from 301 to 308. The federal electoral district boundaries used for the 2011 Census are based on the 2003 Representation Order. The next decennial census is 2011. After the population count is released for the 2011 Census, the Chief Electoral Officer will determine if the number of federal electoral districts should be increased and in turn the number of seats in the House of Commons.
grid map
a system of survey lines running parallel to lines of latitude and longitude, used for the division of an area into counties, lots, etc.
refers to a person or a group of persons (other than foreign residents) who occupy the same dwelling and do not have a usual place of residence elsewhere in Canada. It may consist of: a family group (census family); two or more families sharing a dwelling; a group of unrelated persons; or one person living alone.
House of Commons
the elected House of Parliament. Each member of the House of Commons is elected from one of Canada's federal electoral districts (FEDs or ridings).
a person who has moved to a new country.
immigrant population
people who are, or have been, landed immigrants in Canada. A landed immigrant is a person who has been granted the right to live in Canada permanently by immigration authorities. Some immigrants have resided in Canada for a number of years, while others have arrived recently.
the movement of people into a country. Most immigrants are born outside Canada, but a small number were born in Canada.
the act of entering a foreign country as a permanent resident.
immigration source areas
immigrants to Canada were born in many countries all over the world. Statistics Canada has arranged these countries by six source areas: 1 – North America (excluding Canada), 2 – Central and South America and the Caribbean, 3 – Europe, 4 – Africa, 5 – Asia and the Middle East, and 6 – Oceania.
the person who is responsible for contacting people about the census. Census interviewers follow-up when people have not returned a questionnaire. Some interviewers also physically deliver census questionnaires and others conduct personal interviews in remote areas or villages, where regular enumeration is difficult.
landed immigrant
landed immigrants are people who have been granted the right to live in Canada permanently by immigration authorities.
mother tongue
the first language learned at home in childhood and still understood by the individual at the time of the census.
having a number of distinct cultures existing side by side in the same country.
naturalized citizen
is a person who has been issued a Canadian Citizenship Certificate. This includes persons born in the United Kingdom or other Commonwealth countries who have immigrated to Canada and who have become Canadian citizens.
period of immigration
refers to a person who is a landed immigrant by the period of time in which he or she first obtained landed immigrant status. A landed immigrant is a person who has been granted the right to live in Canada by immigration authorities
place of birth
for people born in Canada, place of birth refers to the province or territory of birth. For people born outside of Canada, place of birth refers to the country in which they were born.
the total number of people living in a given area. Population density refers to the number of persons per square kilometre.
a document containing a series of questions. It is used to ensure that information is collected in a standardized manner and is usually designed so that the answers can be tabulated quickly.
rural areas
includes all territory lying outside urban areas. Taken together, urban and rural areas cover all of Canada.
a group of buildings or community and the people living there.
stacked column
a column in a bar graph. The column is broken into proportional segments to total 100%.
numerical facts about people, the weather, business conditions, etc.; the science of collecting and classifying such facts in order to show their significance.
a study made by gathering information in the form of statistics. Although the census is often referred to as Canada's largest survey, the terms census and survey really mean different things. In a census, information is gathered from the entire population. In a survey, information is gathered from a smaller sample within the population.
undercount (noun)
the estimated number of people who were not counted in the census.
urban area
a geographical area with a minimum population concentration of 1,000 persons and a population density of at least 400 people per square kilometre, based on the previous census population counts (2006). All territory outside urban areas is classified as rural. Together, urban and rural areas cover all of Canada.

Quick census facts

What is a census?

The census provides a statistical picture of a country and its people. Almost every country in the world carries out a census on a regular basis.
The Canadian census collects information, in five year intervals, on every man, woman and child living in Canada.

A Census of Agriculture is taken at the same time as the Census of Population. The Census of Agriculture collects information on every agricultural operation in Canada.

When will the next census be held?

May 2011.

Why take a census?

The census collects important information that is used for decision making.

Who will be 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 is the information collected?

In 2011, Statistics Canada will be encouraging households to fill in their questionnaires online. There are many benefits to completing a questionnaire online such as improved data quality, time savings for respondents and less paper waste. Paper questionnaires will still be available to respondents who prefer to fill out their census form by hand.

Census Help Line

The Census Help Line (CHL) is available to help answer questions from respondents. The CHL provides assistance in English, French, and in several other languages. The CHL begins operating on May 2nd, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., at this toll-free number: 1-877-777-2011.
TTY users call: 1-866-753-7083.


All households will receive a census questionnaire. One person completes the census form for everyone in the household. The census questionnaire contains ten questions on topics such as age, sex, marital status and language.

Legal requirements and confidentiality

According to the Statistics Act:

  • a census must be conducted every five years.
  • every household in Canada must participate in the census.

Users of census data

All levels of government, private sector, social service sectors and media use census data to make informed decisions that affect the lives of everyone in Canada. This could include anything from calculating transfer payments to the provinces to determining the number of police officers in your community.

Send us your comments

Please send us your comments and suggestions regarding this kit.
To be added to the mailing list or to receive a kit, please contact:

Statistics Canada
Census Communications
100 Tunney's Pasture Driveway, 10th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0T6
Fax:  613-951-0930
Toll-free fax: 1-877-256-2370

To download the 2011 Census Teacher's Kit from the census website, visit

Report a problem on this page

Is something not working? Is there information outdated? Can't find what you're looking for?

Please contact us and let us know how we can help you.

Privacy notice

Date modified: