Guide to the Census of Population, 2021
Chapter 6 – Online questionnaire

The use of online questionnaires for the census has continued to increase since its introduction in 2006.Note 1 In 2021, the census form was submitted online by 84.1% of private dwellings, compared to 68.3% in 2016. This increase is partially due to online questionnaires being used for the first time in 2021 for private dwellings in canvasser and reserve areas.

Online versus paper questionnaires

In 2016, only forms 2A and 2A-L were available online. For the 2021 Census, the 2A, 2A-L, 2A-R and Collective Dwellings questionnaires were available online.

The content of the online questionnaire was nearly identical to that of the paper questionnaire, but the online questionnaires had additional features that improved data quality and reduced response burden. The online census questionnaire prefilled fields using information provided by the respondent (e.g., names of household members). This reduced the likelihood of one member’s answers being recorded for another person. Automated skip patterns alleviated response burden by skipping questions that were not applicable (more skips were added for 2021). The long-form questionnaire also had a stop and finish later feature that allowed respondents to save their questionnaire and return to complete it later. A password was used to retrieve the saved questionnaire.

Online questionnaires also have better response rates for individual questions and higher data quality, because respondents are prompted when invalid data are entered or if data are missing. The online forms also provided help information for respondents who wanted additional information on a census question.

Completing the census questionnaire online was an easy, secure and convenient option that could be used anywhere, at any time. Statistics Canada applied the latest technologies to ensure that the agency’s strict security and confidentiality requirements were met. Furthermore, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, responding online was the best way to stay safe while fulfilling one’s census obligation.

Mobile-friendly responsive design

The online census questionnaire was tested to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines used by the Government of Canada. This ensured that the questionnaire was accessible to respondents, including those using mobile devices and assistive technologies. In 2021, 70.5% of households used a personal computer, 7.2% used a tablet and 22.3% used a smartphone to respond to the census questionnaire.


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 on or tampering with census information.

To protect the security of personal information on the Internet, Statistics Canada incorporated the following safeguards:

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