Frequently asked questions

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  • Block of questions 1: Frequently asked questions

    Frequently asked questions

    Is this a legitimate survey?

    Statistics Canada surveys are conducted in person, by telephone or electronically. For most surveys, Statistics Canada will first send an invitation letter or email to let you know about the purpose of the survey and to inform you that an interviewer will communicate with you.

    If you have not received such a letter or email, you can verify that the survey is indeed conducted by Statistics Canada:

    Don't be surprised if a Statistics Canada interviewer shows up at your door or contacts you by telephone in the evening or on weekends. To accommodate the respondents' busy schedules, Statistics Canada interviewers works at different times of the day, seven days a week and sometimes on holidays. For a telephone survey, you could also be called from different areas of Canada.

    How was I selected?

    All Canadian households receive a Census of Population questionnaire.

    Any of the persons responsible for an agricultural operation that produces at least one product intended for sale must complete a Census of Agriculture questionnaire.

    The majority of Statistics Canada surveys are sample surveys. Participants for a sample survey are selected randomly to avoid bias. Once you have been selected for a survey sample, Statistics Canada cannot replace you with anyone else because the sample would no longer be random.

    I have participated in a Statistics Canada survey already. Why did you select me for another one?

    This can happen because survey participants are randomly selected. Sometimes, the characteristics we seek from one survey to another can overlap.

    In some instances, some participants in one survey may be contacted again for a related survey. This practice helps to reduce the time and costs it would take to conduct a new survey each time.

    How are businesses or agricultural operations selected for a survey?

    The majority of Statistics Canada business or agricultural surveys are sample surveys. This means that only a certain number of businesses or agricultural operations in a particular industry in each province and territory are selected to complete the survey questionnaire. Together, the sampled businesses or agricultural operations represent all the businesses or agricultural operations in the industry in question. Most businesses or agricultural operations in a sample are randomly selected to represent other businesses or agricultural operations with similar characteristics, such as revenue or number of employees. Some businesses or agricultural operations must be included in the sample because they contribute significantly to their particular industry or region.

    A small number of our business and agricultural surveys are census surveys, which include all businesses or agricultural operations of significant size in a particular industry. A census is used when the industry in question comprises only a small number of businesses or agricultural operations or businesses or agricultural operations that are very different from one another. In such cases, a sample would not accurately reflect the entire industry in question.

    Do I have to participate?

    Participation in the Census of Population and the Census of Agriculture is mandatory pursuant to the Statistics Act. All Canadian households must complete a Census of Population questionnaire. All farm operators are required to complete a Census of Agriculture questionnaire.

    If Statistics Canada contacts you for the Labour Force Survey, a business survey or an agricultural survey, you are also obligated to participate pursuant to the Statistics Act.

    For other Statistics Canada surveys, participation is voluntary.

    Your participation is important

    To ensure the most complete results, it is very important that the people, households, businesses and agricultural operations selected answer the survey questions. Without your co-operation, Statistics Canada could not produce reliable, essential data.

    The information gathered in our surveys has a direct impact on Canadians' lives. Moreover, all of your responses are equally important. For example, to produce objective, accurate information about Internet use in Canada, responses from people who don't use the Internet are just as important as responses from people who do.

    Why are businesses and agricultural operations required by law to respond?

    Canadians need accurate and reliable information—the cornerstone for democratic decision making. Through the Statistics Act, Parliament has mandated Statistics Canada, as the national statistical agency, to produce such information.

    Business and agricultural surveys collect important economic information that is used by businesses, unions, non-profit organizations and all levels of government to make informed decisions in many areas.

    Because most business and agricultural surveys feed directly or indirectly into legally mandated programs, mandatory participation is required to ensure an adequate response rate as well as reliable results.

    How can I confirm an interviewer's identity?

    All interviewers carry photo identification issued by Statistics Canada. To verify an interviewer's identity, you can contact Statistics Canada by calling one of the telephone numbers below.

    • Atlantic
      • 1-800-565-1685
    • Quebec
      • 1-877-992-3999
      • 1-800-363-6720
    • Ontario
      • 1-800-387-0714
      • 1-800-461-1662
    • Western provinces and territories
      • 1-866-445-4323
    • National TTY line: 1-866-753-7083

    How is my private life and personal information protected?

    Statistics Canada takes your confidentiality very seriously. Under the Statistics Act, all information provided to Statistics Canada will be kept confidential, and used only for statistical purposes.

    Statistics Canada also cares about the privacy of its respondents. If a respondent knows the interviewer and is uneasy about giving personal information to that person, he or she can be interviewed by another Statistics Canada employee.

    Your answers are confidential

    The Statistics Act protects respondents' information. Statistics Canada does not release any information that could identify individuals, households, businesses or agricultural operations without their consent, or as authorized by the Statistics Act. We carefully screen final results before releasing them to prevent published statistics from being used to derive information.

    The Statistics Act contains very strict confidentiality provisions that protect collected information from unauthorized access. For example, agencies such as the Canada Revenue Agency, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the courts do not have access to individual survey responses.

    All Statistics Canada employees take an oath of secrecy and face severe penalties for any breach of confidentiality.

    Access is strictly controlled

    All Statistics Canada employees are responsible for ensuring the security of confidential information. Only employees who need to view confidential files as part of their duties are authorized to access them. A network of physical security systems and procedures protects confidential information against unauthorized access.

    Confidential data are stored and processed on an internal network that is segregated to prevent access by outside "hackers."

    How can I access published results from Statistics Canada?

    You will find results under “Published data” on the main page of every survey in collection.

    • The Daily: The Daily is Statistics Canada's official release vehicle. It contains the results of Statistics Canada's surveys every working day. It is also archived to permit a search for information from past releases.

    In addition to The Daily, the Statistics Canada website offers a wealth of information:

    • Census: This module provides a statistical portrait of Canada and its people. You will also find the most recent data from the 2011 Census.
    • Summary tables: This module contains over 400 statistical tables searchable by subject, by province or territory, or by metropolitan area.
    • CANSIM tables: CANSIM is Statistics Canada's key socioeconomic database. Updated daily, CANSIM provides fast and easy access to a large range of the latest statistics available in Canada.
    • Publications: You can order Statistics Canada publications and electronic products from this site, and also download several free internet publications. Over 700 libraries have a selection of Statistics Canada publications. Under the Depository Services Program, a number of libraries carry every publication from Statistics Canada.
    • My StatCan: My StatCan is a customizable one-stop portal that allows you to bookmark and quickly access your favourite articles, reports, data tables, indicators, and more; receive email notifications on our latest data releases; and participate in online discussions on the StatCan Blog, Chat with an expert and Question of the month.

    For more information about publications and products:

    Statistics Canada exempt from Do Not Call List

    Statistics Canada wishes to notify clients and survey respondents that it is among those organizations that are exempt from the National Do Not Call List (DNCL).

    The National DNCL was launched by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to limit telemarketing calls.

    As a result, individuals who register their telephone numbers with the National DNCL will continue to receive calls from Statistics Canada if they are part of a survey.

    Statistics Canada is mandated by the Statistics Act to conduct surveys to provide Canadians with accurate information on our society, economy and people.

    Canada owes the success of its statistical system to a long-standing partnership between the national statistical agency and the citizens of Canada, its businesses, governments and other institutions. Accurate and timely statistical information could not be produced without this continued cooperation and goodwill.

    For more information, contact our agents at 1-800-263-1136 or STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca.

  • Block of questions 2: Specific questions on business surveys

    Specific questions on business surveys

    Information on business surveys

    Brochure: Statistics Canada Business Surveys—Your time well invested

    How does Statistics Canada make it easier for businesses to respond?

    Statistics Canada is trying to balance the burden its surveys place on respondents with the need for detailed business statistics.

    Replacing surveys with data from other sources

    Statistics Canada has greatly reduced the response burden by using administrative data that businesses have already filed with government, such as annual tax returns and monthly employee payroll records.

    Fewer and faster monthly surveys

    Monthly surveys provide timely data for monitoring trends in prices, trade, manufacturing and employment. Statistics Canada strives to make them easy to complete and to keep them as short as possible. In recent years, Statistics Canada has substantially reduced the size of samples for monthly surveys by using administrative data.

    Electronic reporting

    Statistics Canada offers the option of electronic data reporting through the Internet for some surveys. Electronic reporting allows businesses to extract information directly from their data systems or to complete an online questionnaire and transmit it electronically to Statistics Canada. In offering such options, Statistics Canada provides strict electronic safeguards to secure the confidentiality of company-specific data.

    Customized reporting arrangements

    Large businesses with multiple operations in different industries and provinces have the option of special, customized reporting arrangements for the Integrated Business Statistics Program. For example, such a business can receive all questionnaires covering its branch locations at its head office. It can also choose to receive, for each province and industry in which it operates, a combined questionnaire covering all its branches in that province or industry.

    What is the Integrated Business Statistics Program?

    The Integrated Business Statistics Program (IBSP) is a multi-year initiative conducted by Statistics Canada to ensure continued data coherence and quality across its economic statistics program, and produce a consistent picture of the Canadian economy. This initiative incorporates several business surveys into a single framework, using questionnaires and reporting guides with a consistent look, structure and content. The standard IBSP questionnaires collect consistent data from businesses in different industries. The combined results produce more coherent and accurate statistics on the economy, particularly at the provincial/territorial and industry levels.

    The integrated approach makes reporting easier for firms operating in different industries because they can provide similar information for each branch operation. This way they avoid having to respond to questionnaires that differ for each industry in terms of format, wording and even concepts.

    Why doesn't Statistics Canada get all business financial information from the Canada Revenue Agency?

    Whenever possible, Statistics Canada does use administrative data already filed with government, such as annual tax returns.

    However, those records do not contain all the information required to make an accurate profile of the industry. This is especially true for large firms operating in diverse industries and in more than one province.

    Statistics Canada does not share any individual survey responses with the Canada Revenue Agency.

    Will the information from businesses be shared?

    The Statistics Act prohibits Statistics Canada from releasing any information that identifies or could be used to identify an individual, household, business or agricultural operation. However, the joint collection and sharing of survey information with third parties is allowed under certain conditions specified in the Statistics Act.

    Data sharing agreements

    To avoid duplicating surveys, Statistics Canada sometimes enters into joint collection and sharing agreements with federal or provincial government departments, and with other organizations. This reduces the overall paperwork imposed on businesses. Whenever this is done, Statistics Canada must inform respondents, at the time of collection, if a data sharing agreement applies to the information they provide and with which organization their information will be shared. Statistics Canada must also tell respondents about any right that they may have under the Statistics Act to refuse to share their information.

    Record linkage

    To enhance the data and to minimize reporting burden, Statistics Canada may combine information collected from a survey with information from other surveys or from administrative sources.

    Confidentiality waivers

    Statistics Canada is allowed to disclose identifiable information when the respondent has given written consent to release it, thus waiving their right to the confidentiality protection provided by the Statistics Act. The Statistics Act also allows the Chief Statistician to authorize the disclosure of certain data, related to companies and organizations — without the consent of the respondent — in specific and limited situations.

    Information collected under the Corporations Returns Act

    In addition to its primary mandate under the Statistics Act, Statistics Canada is also responsible for administering the Corporations Returns Act. This legislation was enacted to monitor the extent of foreign ownership of Canadian corporations. Surveys conducted under the Corporations Returns Act are the only ones in which Statistics Canada is authorized to release certain non-financial information on specific corporations. This information relates to the corporation's ownership, province of head office, country of control and industrial classification.

    The Canada Revenue Agency does not have access to individual responses

    The Statistics Act allows Statistics Canada access to administrative records from the Canada Revenue Agency to reduce the paperwork imposed on businesses by government. However, the reverse is not true; the Canada Revenue Agency does not have access to individual records from Statistics Canada nor is it party to any data sharing agreements with Statistics Canada.

    Who uses business survey results?

    The business sector benefits directly from the information businesses provide Statistics Canada. Survey responses are used to compile complete and accurate statistics on many industries and commodities.

    Businesses use industry statistics to:

    • track their performance against industry averages
    • evaluate expansion plans
    • prepare business plans for investors
    • adjust inflation-indexed contracts
    • plan marketing strategies.

    Industry associations, business analysts and investors use the data to:

    • analyze the economic performance of various industries
    • better understand rapidly evolving business environments, such as global communications networks, free trade and new technologies.

    Governments use the data when making decisions about:

    • programs to promote domestic and international competitiveness
    • fiscal, monetary and foreign exchange policies
    • programs and policies to assist businesses
    • calculating federal-provincial fiscal transfers and equalization payments.

    Ombudsman for business survey respondents

    As part of Statistics Canada's efforts to reduce respondent burden, an ombudsman is available to help business survey participants.

    The ombudsman's role is to investigate complaints from business survey respondents who believe they are unduly burdened or have been treated unprofessionally by Statistics Canada. The ombudsman's services are impartial and free of charge.

    Business survey participants can access the ombudsman by calling at 1-855-634-2362 or 1-800-263-1136 or by emailing statcan.ombudsman-ombudsman.statcan@canada.ca.

    Response burden reduction efforts

    Statistics Canada has a long history of working to reduce burden for its respondents, both businesses and individuals. We recognize that the goodwill of survey respondents is one of our most valuable assets, since it is the continued co-operation of Canadians that enables us to turn survey results into reliable information. This information enables decision-makers to work with more clarity, which, in turn, helps to provide better service to all Canadians.

    Statistics Canada is taking action to make it easier for businesses to respond

    Statistics Canada aims to reduce the time businesses spend responding to surveys, either by reducing the number of surveys or questions, limiting the time that a business can be part of a sample, or by using more friendly data collection methods. It is also working to better its communications tools to improve its relations with respondents.

    The individual initiatives, outcomes and benefits to respondents are detailed in the following links:

    Reduce redundancy of data requests across government departments
    Communication improvements
    Administrative burden reduction of Statistics Canada business surveys
    Respondent burden reduction: An on-going concern

    Statistics Canada's role in reducing respondent burden is part of government-wide initiatives that have been in place since 2007. Their collective goal is to eliminate excessive regulation, unnecessary adherence to outmoded processes, and duplication.

  • Block of questions 3: Specific questions on household surveys

    Specific questions on household surveys

    Information on household surveys

    Will the information provided by respondents be shared?

    Statistics Canada is committed to respecting the privacy of individuals. The Statistics Act prohibits Statistics Canada from releasing any information that identifies or could be used to identify an individual. However, the joint collection and sharing of survey information with third parties is allowed under certain conditions specified in the Statistics Act.

    Data sharing agreements

    To avoid duplicating surveys, Statistics Canada sometimes enters into joint collection and sharing agreements with federal or provincial government departments, and with other organizations. An individual's survey responses will be shared only with their consent.

    Record linkages

    Linkage of survey data and administrative data is a key element in reducing respondent burden and increasing data quality and consistency in household surveys. Statistics Canada informs respondents of the linkage of their survey responses to other surveys or administrative data. Respondents will also be notified of the possibility of potential linkage of their responses with other data. In addition, Statistics Canada practices a well-defined review and approval process for all record linkages.

    Confidentiality waivers

    Statistics Canada is allowed to disclose identifiable information when the respondent has given written consent to release it, thus waiving their right to the confidentiality protection provided by the Statistics Act.

    Who uses household survey results?

    The data collected by Statistics Canada is used by a number of people such as:

    • various levels of government including federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal
    • community organizations, educators and researchers
    • city planners and policy makers.

    Concepts for household surveys

    A dwelling is any set of living quarters that is structurally separate and has a private entrance outside the building, or from a common hall or stairway inside the building.

    A family is a group of two or more persons who live in the same dwelling and who are related by blood, marriage (including common-law) or adoption. A person living alone or who is related to no one else in the dwelling where he or she lives is classified as an unattached individual.

    A household is any person or group of persons living in a dwelling. A household may consist of any combination of: one person living alone, one or more families living together, or a group of people who are not related, but who share the same dwelling.

    Telephone numbers used by Statistics Canada

    How does Statistics Canada get phone numbers?

    To ensure that survey samples are representative of the Canadian population, Statistics Canada uses a variety of administrative files, which include:

    • telephone and cellphone number lists,
    • address lists from census records, and
    • information from other government departments where we have agreements to share administrative files.

    The lists that are used contain telephone numbers, cellphone numbers or addresses only.

    From these lists, Statistics Canada randomly selects samples that are representative of the Canadian population.

    Why is Statistics Canada asking questions about phone numbers used at home?

    We are asking these questions to correctly match all phone numbers to their respective households and, in doing so, to avoid selecting a household more than once for the same survey. Since each household selected represents a number of households with similar characteristics, when we make sure that we matched the right phone numbers to the right households, we can assign a more precise weight to each household, that is, the number of households it represents. This is essential to producing good quality data for the entire population.

    Why is Statistics Canada using cellphone numbers?

    Cellphone numbers are becoming increasingly popular as the use of landline numbers is starting to decline.

    Statistics Canada has started to acquire and use cellphone numbers, under the authority of the Statistics Act, to lower collection costs and ensure representativeness of all Canadian households, including those using only cellphones.

    Aren't cellphone numbers considered private information?

    Statistics Canada fully understands that some Canadians may be concerned if contacted on their cellphone by parties that are not immediate friends or family members. However, cellphone numbers are not considered private information (known only by the owner of the cellphone).

    Statistics Canada treats all telephone and cellphone number information it acquires under the authority of the Statistics Act as confidential.

    Information collected under the act is used only to support mandated programs of Statistics Canada. The information is not used for any other purpose, nor distributed to other parties, even within the Government of Canada.

    What if I have registered my telephone number on the National Do Not Call List?

    This list was launched to limit telemarketing calls. It doesn't apply to Statistics Canada.

    Statistics Canada is not a telemarketing agency. We are mandated by the Statistics Act to conduct surveys to provide Canadians with accurate information on our society, economy and people.

    As a result, individuals who register their telephone numbers with the National Do Not Call List will continue to receive calls from Statistics Canada if they are part of a survey.

    How is my telephone number used?

    The lists we use contain telephone numbers, cellphone numbers or addresses only.

    This information is used to support survey collection.

    Telephone or address information acquired by Statistics Canada is never provided to any other agency or person, even within the Government of Canada.

    How long is my telephone number kept?

    Statistics Canada continually acquires telephone numbers and updates the database in order to increase the efficiency of its survey programs.

    There is little need to retain information for telephone numbers that no longer exist, or that are no longer linked to a specific residential address.

    How likely is it that Statistics Canada will call me?

    Each year, only a small percentage of dwellings are selected for participation in Statistics Canada's household surveys.

    Most of the time, Statistics Canada contacts people (or households) by mail, by phone, or in person.

    What are Statistics Canada's calling hours?

    Calling days and hours vary by regional office and by type of survey. In general, calling hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Monday to Friday; hours are reduced on Saturday and Sunday.

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