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2 Data collection

The 2011 Census contained 10 questions and was conducted in May 2011.Footnote1 The information previously collected by the long-form census questionnaire was collected as part of the new National Household Survey (NHS). The NHS questionnaire covered most of the same topics as the 2006 Census long form.

Between May and August 2011, Statistics Canada conducted the National Household Survey (NHS) for the first time. This voluntary, self-administered survey was introduced as a replacement for the Census Form 2B, more widely known as long census questionnaire. Roughly 4.5 million dwellings across Canada were selected for the NHS, representing about one-third of all private dwellings. The NHS covered all persons who usually live in Canada, in the provinces and the territories. It included persons who live on Indian reserves or settlements, permanent residents, non-permanent residents such as refugee claimants, holders of work or study permits, and members of their families living with them.

The survey excluded persons living in institutional collective dwellings such as hospitals, nursing homes and penitentiaries; Canadian citizens living in other countries; and full-time members of the Canadian Forces stationed outside Canada. Also excluded were persons living in non-institutional collective dwellings such as work camps, hotels and motels, and student residences. Therefore, Aboriginal people living outside Canada, in collective dwellings or institutions or who were homeless on Census Day were excluded from the survey.

For more information about the reference date and the census collection, refer to About the census.

2.1 General collection methods

Respondents living outside Indian reserves and settlements, Métis settlements and Inuit as well as remote communities had three response options:

  • An online questionnaire: Occupants of dwellings selected for the NHS could answer the NHS questionnaire online either immediately after finishing the online census questionnaire, or later using the secure access code provided on the NHS paper questionnaire or reminder letter.

  • A paper questionnaire: Occupants of most dwellings selected for the NHS who did not respond online to the census could complete a printed NHS questionnaire sent by mail or dropped off by a Statistics Canada enumerator in early June 2011.

  • An interview with a Statistics Canada enumerator: This method was used in non-response follow-up. It was also offered to respondents who wanted to complete their questionnaire by telephone by calling the survey's help line.

The sampling fraction varied with the questionnaire delivery mode. For the mail delivery mode, about 3 dwellings in 10 (29%) received an NHS questionnaire. For the enumerator delivery mode, the sampling fraction was 1 in 3 dwellings (33%). However, in cases where it was necessary to reach households in remote areas or on Indian reserves, where only the interview response mode was offered, all households (100%) were invited to participate in the NHS.

2.1.1 Early enumeration and collection on Indian reserves, Métis settlements and Inuit communities

In these areas, the 2011 Census and NHS enumerations were conducted at the same time. In some northern and remote areas of Canada, enumeration was conducted before Census Day, in February, March and April 2011, in order to reach respondents before they migrated to hunting and fishing camps for the summer, and because of seasonal climate variations, or other travel impediments. When enumeration took place before Census Day (May 10, 2011), the reference date used was the date on which the household was enumerated.

Overall for the NHS, approximately 5,000 crew leaders and assistants were hired to recruit, train and supervise around 30,000 census enumerators. Canvasser enumeration also took place on Indian reserves and settlements, and Métis settlements in southern areas of the country primarily from May 2 to July 29, 2011, but extended into early August in some areas. No non-response follow-up (NRFU) took place in areas of early enumeration and reserve enumeration, as completeness (for example, dwelling coverage) was verified during the enumeration process.

For enumeration on Indian reserves and settlements, certain procedures were followed to contact chief and council prior to collection and obtain permission to conduct the census and the National Household Survey. As much as possible, community members were hired to help with enumeration as crew leaders, enumerators, guides or translators.

2.2 Census and NHS response rates (collection)

The 2011 Census response rate was 97.1% at the Canada level but varied by province and territory. The highest rate was 97.7% in Prince Edward Island and the lowest rate was 91.4% for Nunavut. (Refer to 2011 Census of Population: Response Rates for the rates by provinces and territories.)

The NHS, being a voluntary survey, was not expected to achieve the same level of participation as the census. Unweighted response rates are calculated from final data, following the completion of data processing and data quality verification. The final status of a dwelling as respondent, non-respondent, or out of scope for the National Household Survey is done as part of data processing. The unweighted response rates are then calculated as the number of sampled private dwellings that returned a questionnaire divided by the number of sampled private dwellings classified as occupied by field staff. The unweighted response rate was 68.6% for the National Household Survey for Canada, all collection methods combined.

While this is similar to the response rate for other voluntary surveys conducted by Statistics Canada, it is lower than the 2011 Census response rate. The NHS response rates varied by province and territory; the highest unweighted rate was 83.9% in Northwest Territories and the lowest was 60.4% in Prince Edward Island.

Weighted response rates are based on final design weights of the NHS. Dwellings that responded to the NHS prior to a fixed date in collection have their initial design weight based on the sampling fraction in their area. After this fixed date, in order to limit the non-response bias as much as possible with the available resources, the NHS focused collection operations on a subsample of remaining non respondents. Within this subsample, the design weights were increased to reflect this change. The weighted response rates were then calculated as the weighted number of sampled private dwellings that returned a questionnaire divided by the weighted number of sampled private dwellings classified as occupied by field staff. The weighted response rate was 77.2% for the National Household Survey for Canada, all collection methods combined.

NHS national and provincial/territorial weighted and unweighted response rates, as well as those for census subdivisions (e.g., municipalities, Indian reserves, settlements and Inuit communities) are available on the Statistics Canada website: National Household Survey: Final response rates.

2.3 Questionnaires and instruction guides

The National Household Survey used different forms and questionnaires to collect data from Canadians.

The N1 questionnaire focused on a variety of topics including Aboriginal ancestry, Aboriginal identity, First Nation/Indian band membership and Registered or Treaty Indian status. It was used to enumerate selected private dwellings in mail-back areas.

The N2 questionnaire, the Northern and Reserves Questionnaire, is similar to questionnaire N1. The N2 questionnaire was used to enumerate Indian reserves and settlements, Métis settlements, and Inuit and remote communities. In 2011, there were some areas where there were non-Aboriginal households on leased Aboriginal land and these did not receive the N2 questionnaire. The questions asked on the N2 questionnaire are the same as on the N1 questionnaire, but the examples provided for write-in responses include more Aboriginal groups listed in the ethnic origin/ancestry question, and industries or occupations more commonly found in the North. Examples for the education questions are also geared to the Aboriginal population living in these areas. As well, in the N2 questionnaire, persons living on Indian reserves or settlements were instructed to skip questions 10, 11 and 12 on citizenship, landed immigrant status, and year of immigration, respectively. Refer to NHS questionnaires and guides for more information on the questionnaires and guides.

2.3.1 Questionnaire languages

Translations of the census and NHS questions were available in a number of Aboriginal and immigrant languages, as well as English and French, so that respondents could read the questions in their own language. The 2011 Census and NHS questionnaires were translated into the following eleven Aboriginal languages:

  • Plains Cree
  • Swampy Cree
  • Cree (Quebec)
  • Dene (Dogrib)
  • Inuktitut (Labrador)
  • Inuktitut (Nunavik)
  • Inuktitut (Nunavut)
  • Montagnais
  • Naskapi
  • Ojibway
  • Oji-Cree
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