Accountability under the Statistics Act

The Statistics Act makes provisions for transparent decisions on statistical matters, such as the requirement to publish in advance mandatory requests for information from Canadians. In this spirit of transparency, Statistics Canada is committed to making more information available about the use of its authority under the Act, such as data sharing and disclosures.

Information about the authority for mandatory requests, data sharing and data disclosures is available below:

Mandatory requests for information

Under the Act, the Chief Statistician has the authority to approve the collection of information on a mandatory basis. Information may be collected directly from respondents by conducting mandatory surveys or indirectly by securely obtaining documents and records already held by government departments and other organizations.

Mandatory surveys

A mandatory approach to survey collection is only adopted when agency experts have thoroughly demonstrated that mandatory participation is the best means by which to attain the highest quality data to accurately measure our society and economy. A complete of list of mandatory surveys is available.

Administrative data

The use of administrative data that is already available allows Statistics Canada to improve data quality and meet new and ongoing statistical needs, while reducing data collection costs and the effort made by Canadians who respond to surveys. In these cases, Statistics Canada will request access to information that is already collected by other departments and organizations to produce official statistics. Administrative data requests for information are updated as required. For additional information, visit Administrative data.

Other surveys and statistical programs

Statistics Canada conducts over 350 surveys and statistical programs on an ongoing basis to measure and report on the state of Canada's economy and society. Under the Statistics Act, new statistical surveys are voluntary unless otherwise decided as per the provisions described above.

Data sharing

To help save Canadians' time by reducing the number of surveys to complete, Statistics Canada sometimes enters into sharing agreements with federal and provincial government departments, and with other organizations. Statistics Canada has active agreements with over 100 organizations.

Under Section 12 of the Statistics Act, Statistics Canada must inform respondents, at the time of collection, whenever a data sharing agreement applies to the information they provide, and with which organization their information will be shared. In most situations, respondents have the right to request that Statistics Canada not share their information with another organization.

Each organization receiving data from Statistics Canada has agreed to use the data for statistical purposes only and to comply with specific terms and conditions, with regard to the access, confidentiality and security of the information they received. Refer to receiving organizations obligations and duties.

Data disclosures

There are certain, but limited, cases in the Statistics Act that allow data relating to an individual person, business or organization to be disclosed (see chart below for the exceptions outlined in the Act). In those select cases, the Chief Statistician of Canada may authorize the disclosure of certain types of information. Information relating to an individual person, business or organization can be released only by an order issued by the Chief Statistician. In addition, personal information can only be released with the consent of the individual, or with authorization from the organization that originally collected the information.

In addition to the Statistics Act, data disclosures must meet certain Statistics Canada policy requirements. For example, Statistics Canada will only disclose information where there is a demonstrated need for statistical purposes and public good. Statistics Canada will also assess a potential disclosure to ensure that the release would not harm the individuals, organizations or businesses if their data is disclosed.

In compliance with these legal and policy requirements, Statistics Canada discloses certain information to the general public as part of its dissemination program to ensure that data are available to those who need it for policy development, statistical research and analysis.

Statistics Canada also releases specific information to federal departments, provincial ministries or other organizations that require the information for statistical and research purposes, and that have committed, in writing, to protect the confidentiality of the information.

The following types of disclosures may be authorized by the Chief Statistician of Canada under subsection 17(2) of the Statistics Act. A detailed list of disclosures is also available.

Disclosure provision in the Act: Description:
(a) information collected by persons, organizations or departments for their own purposes and communicated to Statistics Canada before or after May 1, 1971, but that information when communicated to Statistics Canada shall be subject to the same secrecy requirements to which it was subject when collected, and may only be disclosed by Statistics Canada in the manner and to the extent agreed on by the collector thereof and the Chief Statistician; Disclosures under 17(2)(a) require consent from the individual or organization that originally collected the information . Examples of the type of information covered by this paragraph include income tax records, vital statistics records and vehicle registration files.
(b) information relating to a person or organization in respect of which disclosure is consented to in writing by the person or organization concerned; Disclosures under 17(2)(b) require written consent from the respondent who provided their information to Statistics Canada as part of a survey.
(c) information relating to a business in respect of which disclosure is consented to inwriting by the owner for the time being of the business; Disclosures under 17(2)(c) require written consent from the business owner at the time of the disclosure.
(d) information available to the public under any statutory or other law; Disclosures under 17(2)(d) may be authorized without consent. This authority is used to release information that is already available to the public as required under an existing law. This does not include the Access to information Act.
(e) information relating to any hospital, mental institution, library, educational institution, welfare institution or other similar non-commercial institution except particulars arranged in such a manner that it is possible to relate the particulars to any individual patient, inmate or other person in the care of any such institution;

Disclosures under 17(2)(e) may be authorized without consent. This authority isused to release information for certain non-commercial organizations, but not any details about any individuals such as students, patients, clients or employees of the organization.

Statistics Canada will not release information of anorganization if the disclosure could negatively impact the organization.

(f) information in the form of an index or list ofindividual establishments, firms or businesses, showing any, some or all of the following in relation to them:

  • (i) their names and addresses,
  • (ii) the telephone numbers at which they may be reached in relation to statistical matters,
  • (iii) the official language in which they prefer to be addressed in relation to statistical matters,
  • (iv) the products they produce, manufacture, process, transport, store, purchase or sell, or the services they provide, in the course of their business, or
  • (v) whether they are within specific ranges of numbers of employees or persons engaged by them or constituting their workforce;
Disclosures under 17(2)(f) may be authorized without consent. This authority isused to release basic information about businesses and establishments, such as their type of industry and range of employees.
(g) information relating to any carrier or public utility.

Disclosures under 17(2)(g) may be authorized without consent. This authority is used to release information about carriers (by land, sea or air), and public utilities, such as: broadcasting, telecommunications services and water treatment facilities.

Statistics Canada will not release information for acarrier or public utility if the disclosure could negatively impact the organization.

Statistics Canada is not authorized to disclose confidential information, except as specifically set out in the above provisions of the Statistics Act.

Date modified: