Section 3: Analysis of the Personal Information Elements for the Program

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 or obtain 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 under Section 3 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. Appendix 1 of this PIA contains information on the categories of personal information that Statistics Canada collects from respondents or through administrative data sources.

Program 1: Economic and Environmental Statistics

Through the Economic and Environmental Statistics program, Statistics Canada creates a trusted, relevant and comprehensive source of information on the entire spectrum of Canada's economy to support government priorities and charters and to inform public debate on economic issues; support economic policy development, implementation and evaluation; and guide business decision making. These statistics support various statutory requirements, including those of the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Regulations, and the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination Agreement. The outputs are also vital to research, policy development and evaluation by provincial and territorial governments, and by federal departments and agencies, including the Bank of Canada; Finance Canada; Environment and Climate Change Canada; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; and Global Affairs Canada. They are extensively used by the private sector and by international agencies, such as the IMF, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the United Nations. Outputs include monthly and annual measures of gross domestic product, the Consumer Price Index, 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 to the analysis of relationships between human activity and the environment.

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

Through the Socioeconomic Statistics program, Statistics Canada provides integrated information and relevant analysis on the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of individuals, families and households, as well as on the major factors that affect their well-being. This information is used to support critical government priorities, social policy development, implementation and evaluation; to inform discussion on demographic and socioeconomic issues; and to guide evidence-based decision making. These statistics help fulfill the requirements specified by legislation or regulations in areas such as labour, immigration, official languages and employment equity. Outputs include data derived from administrative and survey sources as well as through data integration, and inform a range of social topics such as labour, income, health, education, justice, tourism, diversity and inclusion, population dynamics and social well-being. The information is used extensively by provincial and territorial governments, by non-governmental organizations, and by federal departments and agencies. The program also provides information, analysis and measures on publicly funded facilities, agencies and systems designed to meet the socioeconomic and physical needs of Canadians; 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

Through the Censuses program, Statistics Canada provides statistical information and analyses that measure changes in the Canadian population and its demographic characteristics, and in the agricultural sector. This information is used to support government priorities and charters and serves as a basis for public and private decision making, and research and analysis in areas of concern to Canadians. The program includes the Census of Population and the Census of Agriculture. It meets constitutionally specified statistical requirements, statutory requirements and the requirements of regulatory instruments. Both the Census of Population and the Census of Agriculture are mandated by the Statistics Act; the Census of Population is also mandated in the Constitution Act. The Census of Population provides detailed information on population subgroups for small geographic areas, which is required to assess the effects of specifically targeted policy initiatives, and serves as a foundation for other statistical surveys. The Census of Agriculture produces a comprehensive picture of the agriculture sector at the national, provincial and subprovincial levels. These data are used to benchmark the Agriculture Statistics Program, which feeds the Canadian System of Macroeconomic Accounts to form the agriculture component of the gross domestic product.

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: Cost-recovered Statistical Services

Through the Cost-recovered Statistical Services program, Statistics Canada conducts special surveys to gather new data; produces high-quality statistics that are currently not part of the agency's data holdings; and conducts on-demand special analytical projects to meet specific needs of federal, provincial and territorial institutions and other clients.

Personal information for this program would mirror that of the first three programs, depending on the nature of individual cost-recovered activities.

Program 5: Centres of Expertise

Through the Centres of Expertise program, Statistics Canada provides support in specific focused domains of expertise, primarily to other Statistics Canada programs. For statistical information programs, the program develops and implements leading-edge statistical methodology; information technology solutions, standardized concepts and classification systems; and an integrated set of registers of addresses, buildings and businesses (including farms, other businesses and organizations). The program provides operational support for data collection activities for surveys and censuses. To support other Statistics Canada programs and external clients of every kind, the program conducts a wide variety of analytical studies focused on current and emerging issues of importance to Canadians. The program also provides research and development activities relating to a number of areas, such as statistical methodology, data collection and operational activities. Finally, this program includes activities associated with the release of the agency's information to the public. Examples include the production of online databases and the dissemination of Statistics Canada's official release vehicle, The Daily.

Personal information used within Program 5 relates to the support of the activities of the statistical programs. Personal information on clients of Statistics Canada is also maintained and used.

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.

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