Guide to the Census of Population, 2021
Chapter 5 – Census of Population questionnaires

The majority of Canada’s population resides in private dwellings. For residents of private dwellings, census data are collected primarily by having one adult member of the household respond on behalf of the entire household through self-enumeration using an online questionnaire.

The census is the primary source of exhaustive demographic data in Canada. In 2021, the census questionnaire collected the following information:

Most census data were collected using either the short-form or long-form questionnaires. In 2021, a sample of 25% of Canadian households received a long-form questionnaire.

Short-form questionnaire (forms 2A, 3A and 2C)

Form 2A:
This is the short-form questionnaire that is used to enumerate all usual residents of all private dwellings.

Form 3A:
This is the short-form questionnaire for individuals (similar to Form 2A), which is used to enumerate one person. It is delivered to usual residents in private dwellings who wish to be enumerated separately from other members of the household (e.g., roommates, boarders). It is also used to enumerate residents in some collective dwellings such as lodging and rooming houses for example.

Form 2C:
This is the short-form questionnaire for people living abroad (similar to Form 2A), which is used to enumerate residents who are temporarily overseas at the time of the census. For 2021, this includes Canadian government employees (federal and provincial) and their families, and members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families.

Long-form questionnaire (forms 2A-L and 2A-R)

The long-form questionnaire complements the short-form questionnaire and is designed to provide more detailed information on people in Canada according to their demographic, social and economic characteristics.

Form 2A-L:
This is the most commonly used long-form questionnaire.

Form 2A-R:
This questionnaire is similar to Form 2A-L but is used in remote, northern and Indigenous communities only. It contains the questions from the long-form questionnaire with examples adapted for First Nations communities, Métis settlements, Inuit regions and other remote areas, as well as two additional questions on band housing. For 2021, there is a new question on band housing fees.

Forms used to enumerate usual residents of collective dwellings

A collective dwelling refers to a dwelling of a commercial, institutional or communal nature. Most of the population in Canada reside in private dwellings, but a small portion lives in facilities such as nursing or senior homes, jails, lodging or rooming houses, or even hotels or motels.

People may live in a collective dwelling either temporarily or permanently. For instance, guests of hotels and motels typically stay for a short time and are considered temporary residents, or they may be considered foreign residents if their main home is outside Canada. Guests or the hotel’s owners or managers could live there permanently as their main (or only) residence. Such persons are considered ‘usual residents’ at that address and need to be counted at that address for census purposes.

For the usual residents of institutional collective dwellings, census short‑form information was collected in 2021. For non‑institutional collective dwellings, administrators had to provide only the count of usual residents. (For more information on collective dwellings, see Chapter 7.)


Special efforts are made during each census cycle to enumerate all Canadians, including those who are less likely or able to complete a census questionnaire, and those who are difficult to contact. For the 2021 Census, some of the support mechanisms to help respondents included:

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