Overall, the objective of Statistics Canada's statistical programs is to provide Canadians with access to timely, relevant and quality statistical information on Canada's changing economy and society for informed debate, research and decision making on social and economic issues. As explained in section 1.3 above, Statistics Canada collects personal information pursuant to its mandate as defined in the Statistics Act. All such information is collected for the statistical purposes of the Agency. Associated with the authority to collect information, the Statistics Act also requires that the information be kept confidential and not disseminated in a manner that could identify an individual. Statistics Canada has a rigorous process for determining the information collected for any individual program, as well as strict procedures for maintaining the confidentiality of the information.
Section 22 of the Statistics Act details the nature of information that Statistics Canada may cover in its statistical programs:
"22. Without limiting the duties of Statistics Canada [...] or affecting any of its powers or duties in respect of any specific statistics [...], the Chief Statistician shall [...] collect, compile, analyse, abstract and publish statistics in relation to all or any of the following matters in Canada:
- (a) population;
- (b) agriculture;
- (c) health and welfare;
- (d) law enforcement, the administration of justice and corrections;
- (e) government and business finance;
- (f) immigration and emigration;
- (g) education;
- (h) labour and employment;
- (i) commerce with other countries;
- (j) prices and the cost of living;
- (k) forestry, fishing and trapping;
- (l) mines, quarries and wells;
- (m) manufacturing;
- (n) construction;
- (o) transportation, storage and communication;
- (p) electric power, gas and water utilities;
- (q) wholesale and retail trade;
- (r) finance, insurance and real estate;
- (s) public administration;
- (t) community, business and personal services; and
- (u) any other matters prescribed by the Minister or by the Governor in Council."
As described in its Program Activity Architecture (PAA), Statistics Canada has six high-level programs. More detail is available in the PAA report, but a summary of the six programs is included here.
Program 1: Economic and Environmental Statistics
The Economic and Environmental Statistics program's purpose is to create a trusted, relevant and comprehensive source of information on the entire spectrum of Canada's economy in order to: inform public debate on economic issues; support economic policy development, implementation and evaluation; and guide business decision making. It is the primary source of information for developing the country's fiscal and monetary policies and for studying the economic evolution of Canadian industries and regions. Outputs include monthly and annual measures of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Consumer Price Index (CPI), current indicators of retail and wholesale trade, Canada's merchandise export and import statistics, estimates of agricultural income and expenditures, transportation statistics and statistics relevant for the analysis of relationships between human activity and the environment in Canada.
Most of the information collected and used within Program 1 relates to individual businesses, so there is little personal information. However, information is collected on unincorporated businesses which is considered personal information. As well, personal information on contacts with each business are maintained to facilitate collection of information.
Program 2: Socio-economic Statistics
The Socio-economic Statistics program's purpose is to provide integrated information and relevant analysis on the social and socio-economic characteristics of individuals, families and households and on the major factors that affect their well-being. This information is used to inform public debate on socio-economic issues; support social policy development, implementation and evaluation; guide public and private decision making and is the primary source for assessing the impact of changing economic circumstances on Canadians. The Socio-economic Statistics program supports statistical requirements specified by legislation or regulations in the areas of labour, immigration and employment equity. The program also provides information, analysis and measures on publicly funded facilities, agencies and systems designed to meet the socio-economic and physical needs of Canadians, on the characteristics of the individual Canadians and families they serve, and on the outcomes of the services they provide, such as justice, health, and education.
The majority of information collected and used within Program 2 relates to individual persons, so would be considered to be personal information. For programs related to institutions such as schools and hospitals, personal information on contacts with specific institutions are sometimes maintained to facilitate data collection.
Program 3: Censuses of Population and Agriculture
The purpose of these two programs is to provide statistical information, analyses and services that measure changes in the Canadian population, demographic and socio economic characteristics, and the agricultural sector. It serves as a basis for public and private decision making, research and analysis in areas of concern to the people of Canada. The Census of Population ProgramFootnote 1 provides detailed information on population sub-groups and for small geographical levels required to assess the effects of specifically targeted policy initiatives and serves as a foundation for other statistical surveys. Population counts and estimates are used in determining electoral boundaries, distribution of federal transfer payments, and the transfer and allocation of funds among regional and municipal governments, school boards and other locally-based agencies within provinces. The majority of information collected and used for the Census of Population relates to individual persons, so would be considered to be personal information. Contact information is also collected by the Census of Population for collective dwellings.
The Census of Agriculture provides a comprehensive picture of the agriculture sector at the national, provincial and sub-provincial levels and is mandated by the Statistics Act. For programs related to the Census of Agriculture, information collected for unincorporated farms is personal information. Contact information for farms is maintained to facilitate data collection.
Program 4: Statistical Infrastructure
Statistical infrastructure comprises activities and services that are administered to support a strong statistical system. Professional and Statistical Services include the development of sound statistical methodology, standardized concepts and classifications (including geographic concepts), the development and provision of statistical metadata, the development and maintenance of registers of enterprises and addresses for statistical purposes, and the provision of advice with respect to the Statistics Act. Operational Statistical Services provide support to data collection activities for Statistics Canada's surveys, such as data capture, coding, editing, interviewer hiring and training, and the provision of advice to clients regarding statistical products. It also includes the production of Statistics Canada's catalogued publications, on-line databases and the dissemination of Statistics Canada's official release vehicle The Daily. The Continuity and Quality Maintenance Program includes the co-ordination of the aspects of the Agency's Integrated Strategic Planning Process that ensure the continuity and quality maintenance of programs.
Personal information used within Program 4 relates to the support of the statistical activities of the first three programs. Personal information on clients of Statistics Canada is also maintained and used.
Program 5: Cost-recovered Statistical Services
This activity produces high quality cost-recovered statistical services that meet the needs of specific federal and provincial institutions and other clients. These statistical services, if base-funded, would be included under one of the first three programs.
Personal information for this program would mirror that of the first three programs, depending on the nature of individual cost-recovered activities.
Program 6: Internal Services
Internal services comprise groups of related activities and resources that are administered to support the needs of programs and other corporate obligations of an organization. These groups are: Management and Oversight Services; Communications Services; Legal Services; Human Resources Management Services; Financial Management Services; Information Management Services; Information Technology Services; Real Property Services; Materiel Services; Acquisition Services; and Other Administrative Services. Internal Services include only those activities and resources that apply across an organization and not to those provided specifically to a program.
Personal information collected, maintained and used by Program 6 is out of scope for this generic PIA.
With respect to personal information collected and maintained by Statistics Canada, it is important to understand two categories of identifiers.
A – Direct personal identifiers
Direct personal identifiers are those which may be used for immediate identification of an individual, such as name and address as well as personal identifying numbers such as the Social Insurance Number and Provincial Health Number.
Direct personal identifiers are rarely useful in statistical analysis. Rather they are useful in the statistical operations: collection and processing. For example, names of individuals are used when contacting households to identify the household member from whom we would like to collect information. For telephone interviews, a home telephone number or wireless phone number is collected and used. An example of the use of personal identifiers in processing is when record linkage is involved. Statistics Canada matches the name of the individual in one data file with the same name in another data file.
Only those persons with a work-related "need to know" have access to direct personal identifiers, and even then, only for the period of time when this is required.
B – Indirect personal identifiers
Even without personal identifiers, in some cases a combination of information may identify an individual and therefore would be considered personal information. For example, a very old person may be identified, even without including his name, as he is the only one in a particular city that is this age. Indirect personal identifiers are situations where the information collected for the purposes of statistical analysis may identify an individual. In many cases, indirect personal identifiers may be used in combination with other indirect personal identifiers or with external information to identify an individual. Statistics Canada has procedures for determining whether information is identifiable, as such information is considered confidential under the Statistics Act and protected by the Privacy Act.
- Footnote 1
For 2011, the Census of Population Program included the National Household Survey.