Summary of the Evaluation of the Census of Population Program – Post-Field Activities

The census provides a statistical portrait of Canada and its people, covering various demographic and social topics. Statistical information from the census supports the measurement of the changes occurring in the demographic, social and economic characteristics of Canadians. It also supports a variety of statutory, legislative and regulatory requirements. The information is used by a wide range of organizations, such as different levels of government, not-for-profit and private organizations, and academic institutions, as well as by individual Canadians. The 2016 Census covered a range of topics: population (including age and sex) and dwelling counts (including type of dwelling); families, households and marital status; language (including language of work); income; immigration and ethnocultural diversity; housing; Aboriginal peoples; education; labor; journey to work; and mobility and migration.

The Evaluation Division of Statistic Canada's Audit and Evaluation Branch conducted an independent evaluation of the Census of Population Program. The main objective of the evaluation was to provide a neutral, evidence-based assessment of the governance, design and delivery, and user-centric approach of census post-field activities in support of decision making, accountability and improvement. The evaluation was conducted in accordance with Treasury Board Secretariat's Policy on Results (2016) and Statistics Canada's Risk-Based Audit and Evaluation Plan (2018/2019 to 2022/2023).

The evaluation found that overall, 2016 Census post-field activities were successfully completed and multiple teams worked collaboratively to deliver high quality outputs to Canadians. An overarching governance structure existed that generally worked effectively and efficiently; roles and responsibilities were well articulated, and post-field activities mostly took place as planned. Compared with 2011, the last release from the 2016 Census was approximately 10 months earlier (i.e., all releases completed 18 months after Census Day, versus 28 months). While the evaluation identified a number of risks, it found that the 2016 Census dissemination schedule could be replicated in 2021. Finally, while the evaluation found that the program has in place multiple mechanisms to capture information on user needs, an integrated view remains a gap.

The evaluation proposed five recommendations:

Recommendation 1:

With respect to institutional reviews, governance, roles and responsibilities, and processes are reviewed and adapted to ensure that clarity exists and that reviews adhere to policy. This should also include a more effective approval model. In addition, an approach should be developed for earlier approval from senior management on the dissemination strategy.

Recommendation 2:

The roles and responsibilities for the areas (including the Communications and Dissemination Branch, CSMS, COD, and SMAs) involved in the Dissemination Sub-Project are clarified and updated to ensure effective and efficient delivery of the sub-project. Governance should ensure that roles and responsibilities remain clear and are adhered to over time.

Recommendation 3:

The roles and responsibilities of CSMS with respect to SMA representation and coordination are updated and strengthened.

In addition, CSMS processes, tools and strategies used for managing schedules, access privileges and communication flows, and for sharing and adopting best practices, should be reviewed and updated.

Recommendation 4:

In alignment with Statistics Canada's goal of continually striving to release data in a shorter timeframe, all post-field activities are reviewed to identify potential time-saving measures. In particular, the dissemination strategy and coding activities appear to have the greatest potential. The risks identified in the evaluation should also be taken into account when planning such activities.

Recommendation 5:

A detailed and integrated analysis of user needs takes place. For example, user profiles based on the multiple sources of information already available could be created. The 2021 release strategy should be driven by the findings and conclusions of such an analysis and should also take into consideration the risks identified in the evaluation.

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