Administrative data – Frequently Asked Questions

What are administrative data?

Administrative data are information that is collected by other government agencies and private sector companies for their own purposes, which is then used by Statistics Canada to efficiently accomplish its mandated objectives. Statistics Canada treats all data that can identify a person, a business or an organization with strict confidentiality.

What does Statistics Canada do with this information?

Statistics Canada uses administrative data in its statistical programs to complement or replace survey data, or to make its statistical operations more efficient. These data enable Statistics Canada to fill information needs about the Canadian society, economy and environment, reduce response burden and costs imposed by surveys, and improve data quality and timeliness. All data obtained by Statistics Canada are used solely for statistical purposes.

How does Statistics Canada protect the confidentiality of the information it obtains from other organizations about Canadians and Canadian businesses?

At Statistics Canada, the confidentiality of data is governed by three acts—the Statistics Act, the Access to Information Act, and the Privacy Act —and departmental policies and directives on the collection, protection and use of administrative data. These acts, policies and directives provide important assurances to Canadians that Statistics Canada will protect the confidentiality of the information that it obtains from all data providers.

As well, Statistics Canada employees are sworn to secrecy, and subject to fines and/or imprisonment, should they reveal confidential information.

Is the use of administrative data something new at Statistics Canada?

No. Statistics Canada has been receiving vital statistics data from the provinces and territories since 1921 and import and export data about businesses since 1938. Today, over 800 administrative files help support the agency's statistical programs.

Why is Statistics Canada asking for more administrative data now?

As part of its mandate, Statistics Canada has always worked towards achieving greater efficiency in data collection to reduce both duplication and the response burden placed on Canadians. In fact, Statistics Canada has been using administrative data for almost a century. Currently, 40% of Statistics Canada's programs are based in whole or in part on data available from administrative sources.

More recently, federal departments have made a concerted effort to reduce the burden that the government places on the resources of small and medium-sized businesses.

What are the benefits of using administrative data?

Using administrative data saves time and money—yours and ours.  It reduces the amount of time you spend responding to surveys, while ensuring that Statistics Canada surveys and programs remain accurate, relevant and efficient. Over time, an increased use of administrative data would mean that you would not have to supply the same information repeatedly. This is especially helpful to us in gathering data pertaining to populations or topics that may be difficult or costly to obtain by survey.

Are government agencies and private businesses required to provide Statistics Canada with this information?

Yes. Under the Statistics Act, Statistics Canada has broad powers to collect and compile a wide range of economic and social statistics. Section 13 of the Act grants the agency the authority to access "documents or records that are maintained in any department or in any municipal office, corporation, business or organization, from which information sought in respect of the objects of this Act can be obtained." Statistics Canada is able to provide accurate and timely statistical information thanks to the ongoing cooperation of the citizens of Canada, its businesses, governments and institutions.

Does Statistics Canada disclose administrative data to other government agencies or businesses?

Statistics Canada only enters into agreements to disclose administrative data to other government agencies or businesses for research and statistical purposes. The data are provided under strict conditions, agreed upon by the organization providing the data to Statistics Canada and the Chief Statistician. Whenever this is done, the organizations receiving the data are bound by the same security and confidentiality rules as Statistics Canada.

What legislation governs the sharing of administrative data by organizations with Statistics Canada?

The Statistics Act, Access to Information Act, Privacy Act, and legislation pertaining to data providers, govern the sharing of administrative data with Statistics Canada.

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