Statistics Canada was established to ensure that Canadians have access to a trusted source of official statistics on Canada to meet their highest priority needs.
The Agency's mandate derives primarily from the Statistics Act. The act requires that Statistics Canada collect, compile, analyze and publish statistical information on the economic, social and general conditions of the country and its people. It also requires that Statistics Canada conduct a Census of Population and a Census of Agriculture every fifth year, and that the Agency protect the confidentiality of the information with which it is entrusted.
Statistics Canada is mandated to coordinate and lead the national statistical system.
Access to trusted statistical information is an essential underpinning of democratic societies, both to support evidence-based decision making in the public and private sectors, and to inform debate on public policy issues.
In the Constitution Act of 1867, "census and statistics" was made a federal jurisdiction. Parliament has exercised its responsibility for the census and statistics, primarily through the Statistics Act. The act creates Statistics Canada as Canada's national statistical office, and establishes its mandate, powers and obligations. Under the Statistics Act, participation in surveys is compulsory for households and businesses, although the Agency can declare participation in a survey to be voluntary. This is done for most household surveys. Administrative records can also be obtained to aid the Agency's work. In tandem with these powers, Statistics Canada is charged with ensuring the confidentiality of information in its hands and with limiting the use of that information to statistical purposes.
Finally, to promote the efficiency of the national statistical system, Statistics Canada is mandated to collaborate with other government departments, as well as with provincial and territorial governments, to develop a well-integrated, coherent national system of statistics that minimizes duplication and reporting burden on households and businesses.
Statistics Canada also has a mandate, under the Corporations Returns Act, to collect and publish information on inter-corporate ownership in Canada, notably foreign ownership of Canadian enterprises. The particularity of the Corporation Returns Act is that it allows Statistics Canada to disclose information on the ownership of individual corporations, something that would be prohibited under the Statistics Act.
Numerous federal and provincial laws and regulations specifically require information from Statistics Canada for their implementation. Some key examples are the Canada Pension Plan Act (the Consumer Price Index); the Employment Insurance Act (small-area employment and unemployment estimates); the Federal–Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act (numerous economic and demographic measures); the Income Tax Act (the Consumer Price Index); the regulations to the Official Languages Act (census data on official languages); and the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act (the census).
Statistics Canada's Corporate Management Framework illustrates how the Agency fulfills its responsibilities. For details on this framework, and on the enablers that allow the strategic outcome to be achieved, please see Reports.