Guide to the Census of Population, 2021
Chapter 3 – Communications

Key activities

The Census Communications Team provided communications activities that were targeted, agile, creative and cost-effective, while maintaining a positive, non-partisan, corporate image of Statistics Canada.

For the 2021 Census, census communications materials focused on:

Communications activities for the 2021 Census of Population took place leading up to and throughout the entire collection process: building awareness of when and how to complete the census; informing Canadians about the benefits of completing the 2021 Census questionnaire; and encouraging them to complete their questionnaire online.

For each census cycle, the agency assesses its communication activities to ensure that it is using the best tools available to engage with Canadians. The lessons learned from this assessment are then applied to the next census cycle.

Communicating with the public and key stakeholders is an ongoing priority for the agency. For the census, the agency uses specific tools to promote awareness and understanding of the census.

The main activities of the 2021 Census Communications Program included advertising, outreach, public and media relations, social media, respondent relations, and census website management.

Census website

The census website is used to provide a centralized platform for respondents to complete their questionnaires online and for the agency to communicate important information about the census, including information on data privacy and security.

Social media

Statistics Canada continued to leverage its official social media accounts to increase access to its high-quality statistical information. Social media (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, blogs) was used to foster engagement, cooperation and information-sharing with the public during all phases of the census, including recruitment and collection.

Respondent relations

The Respondent Relations Team was responsible for answering public, corporate and ministerial enquiries related to the 2021 Census. During collection for the 2021 Census, the team received nearly 70,000 requests, the majority of which were submitted through the online form available on the agency and census websites. In addition to responding to written requests received by mail and email, Respondent Relations also supported internal stakeholders—Infostats, regional outreach teams, field operations, social media, media relations, the Office of the Chief Statistician and the Census Help Line—with their census-related questions and operational needs. Additionally, Respondent Relations assisted respondents by sending secure access codes, submitting requests for paper questionnaires and updating respondent status, on behalf of the Census Help Line.

Media relations

Media relations maintained and monitored media coverage across the country during the census collection period (May to July 2021). Traditional and new media were used to report on key aspects and operational milestones of the census.

A media strategy was implemented to:

Traditional and new media coverage helped promote the census among Canadians. Furthermore, statistical announcements and other releases were scheduled to keep the media and general public informed of census activities. A media relations team responded to media inquiries throughout the census as well.


Advertising activities were conducted to promote census jobs and encourage census completion across the country. Recruitment advertising focused on creating awareness of census jobs on a national scale and promoting census positions in hard-to-recruit areas. The collection advertising campaign was designed to inform Canadians of the importance, relevance and security of the information collected during the 2021 Census. Television, radio, print and out‑of‑home advertising, as well as digital and social media were used before and during census collection to encourage households to complete their questionnaire, with a focus on online response. Targeted messages and visuals were also used to encourage specific, harder-to-enumerate groups to complete their census questionnaire.

Outreach, public relations and events

Outreach activities engaged key stakeholders at the community level and supported partnerships to promote census job opportunities and reach populations that were harder to enumerate.

Public relations activities involved engagement with federal departments and agencies. All departments and agencies were asked to include census banners on their websites, follow Statistics Canada on social media and send internal messages to their employees. Selected resources and programs of federal partners were leveraged for both recruitment and collection awareness. Partners who have physical offices in Canada were provided with print or digital communications products to display to the public and reference materials for their staff. Statistics Canada distributed census messages through program platforms run by other departments and provided other departments with digital materials for showcasing at any events they attended. Events primarily included virtual meetings, presentations and roundtables, given the unique circumstances surrounding 2020-2021, in terms of COVID-19.

Strategy for Indigenous and northern communities

To improve engagement levels among Indigenous communities, Statistics Canada developed strategic plans, used internal and external partnerships, and created customized support materials. The purpose of this strategy was to increase awareness among Indigenous peoples about job opportunities within their communities; increase the number of Indigenous applicants for census jobs; support the collection of data in First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities; and provide support materials that encouraged participation while respecting cultural diversity.

Statistics Canada recognizes the importance of building and maintaining strong relationships with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. A key part of this effort is the Indigenous Liaison Program. The Indigenous Liaison Advisors work to build partnerships with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities and organizations based on respect and trust. The program was founded in the 1980s and, today, has evolved to be a national program with 11 advisors located across Canada.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Statistics Canada hired an additional 15 Indigenous Liaison Advisors for an Indigenous Engagement Task Force to bolster engagement efforts with Indigenous and northern communities for the 2021 Census.


The Teacher’s Kit and Adult Education Kit were used in schools and adult literacy programs to promote and increase awareness of the census.

The Community Supporter Toolkit was used by community-based organizations, associations and municipalities across Canada to increase awareness of census job opportunities and the benefits of completing the census questionnaire.

The Small Business Hub was used by entrepreneurs and small business owners to understand how online census data products can help them make informed business decisions.

The Community Snapshot Toolkit was used to build community portraits using census data. The portraits tell the story of a particular geographic area in Canada through a statistical lens by providing a customized infographic for a given community.

The Influencer’s Kit comprised products and resources that various types of influencers can use to spread the word about the benefits and positive impacts of the census to online communities across Canada.

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