Archived – Raison d'être and responsibilities

Archived information

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Statistics Canada seeks to ensure that Canadians have access to a trusted source of statistics on Canada that meet their highest priority information needs. 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.

Under 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 act, Statistics Canada must collect, compile, analyze and publish statistical information on the economic, social and general conditions of the country and its people. The act specifically requires that Statistics Canada conduct censuses of population and agriculture in 1971 and every fifth year thereafter.

Statistics Canada is empowered to conduct surveys of businesses and households on both a voluntary and a mandatory basis; censuses are always mandatory under the act. Administrative records can also be acquired to assist in the Agency's work. In tandem with these powers, the Agency is charged with ensuring the confidentiality of information in its hands and 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 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 is also mandated under the Corporations Returns Act to collect and publish information on inter-corporate ownership in Canada, with an emphasis on 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 operation. Some key examples are: the Canada Pension Plan Act (Consumer Price Index); the Employment Insurance Act (Labour Force Survey); the Federal–Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act (numerous economic and demographic measures); the Income Tax Act (Consumer Price Index); the regulations to the Official Languages Act (census data on official languages); and the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act (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.