2021 Census of Population – Backgrounder for Media

Overview of the census

  • Conducted every five years
  • 2021 Census was Canada's 23rd national census
  • 2021 marked the 355th anniversary of the first census
  • 2A (short-form census): 75% of Canadian households received the short-form questionnaire, covering the following topics: age, sex at birth, gender, relationships of household members, marital status, language and Canadian military service.
  • 2A-L (long-form census): 25% of Canadian households received the long-form questionnaire, covering the above-mentioned topics as well as activities of daily living, sociocultural information, mobility, education, and labour market activity.

Participating in the census

  • As in previous years, the 2021 Census was mandatory. All residents of Canada were legally required to complete a census questionnaire, in accordance with the provisions of the Statistics Act.

Major releases from the 2021 Census

  • Beginning February 9, 2022, there will be seven major 'themed' release dates for the dissemination of data from the 2021 Census of Population. Each major release by theme will be highlighted in The Daily, Statistics Canada's official release bulletin, and each major release will offer data, analytical, and reference products.
  • The next release, on April 27, 2022, will look at the pace of population aging and showcase Canada's oldest and youngest communities. For the first time, we will release census information about gender identity in Canada. We will also take a look at the living arrangements of young adults to see how they may have been affected by the pandemic. There are many other stories to come.
    • July 13 – Portrait of Canada's families and households
      • Canadian Military Experience
      • Income profile of Canadians;
    • August 27 – Linguistic diversity;
    • September 21 – First Nations people, Metis and Inuit in Canada;
      • Canada's housing portrait
    • October 26 – Ethnocultural and religious composition of our country
      • Portrait of citizenship and immigration in Canada
      • Ethnocultural and religious composition of the population
      • Mobility and migration
    • The final release on education, labour force and instruction in the official minority language will take place on November 30, 2022. Following the completion of the seven major releases, there will be further releases of new analysis and products (dates to be determined).

    Why do we conduct the census?

    • The census paints a portrait of people in Canada and the places where they live.
    • The census provides high-quality information that is used by all levels of government, businesses, and various community and social services organizations.
    • Census data are used to administer government programs and plan daycare centres, schools, hospitals, housing, skills training for employment, public transportation and emergency services.
    • The census is also conducted to meet statutory requirements. The population counts from the census are used to adjust the population estimates, which—in turn—are used to determine representation in Parliament, calculate transfer payments between different levels of government and support various government programs across the country.
    • Census data are key during the pandemic since they are used for emergency response and preparedness purposes. Local-level census population, age, income and housing data are required by all levels of government to determine who is most vulnerable to the health and economic crisis underway. Furthermore, vaccine allocations have been conducted on a per capitabasis, based on census data.
    • Census data will help us better understand the impacts of the pandemic on different groups and communities, as well as their evolution since the last census in 2016. Moreover, data collected in the 2021 Census will inform many of the economic and health-related policy decisions that must be made by all levels of government in the coming months and years as the aftermath of the pandemic continues to impact Canadians.

    How did we conduct the census?

    • Statistics Canada adapted to the reality of the pandemic to conduct a safe census that enabled Canadians to tell their story and provide vital information about our country and our communities.
    • Collection procedures for the census were redesigned to ensure respondents and census employees were safe by limiting the amount of contact needed to participate in this important exercise.
    • All dwellings were encouraged to complete the questionnaire online to promote as much as possible a contact-free approach to collecting census data.
    • No census employee from Statistics Canada was permitted to visit or enter institutional collective dwellings (e.g., seniors' homes, long-term care facilities).

    Languages and alternate formats

    • The 2021 Census questions were available in 25 languages (13 Indigenous languages, 12 immigrant languages), in addition to English and French. The census questionnaire was available in only English and French, however, and had to be completed in either English or French.
    • Materials such as large-print questionnaires and braille, video and audio versions of the questions were available upon request by contacting the Census Help Line.

    Content in the census

    • Statistics Canada undertook a rigorous consultation, testing, review and approval process to ensure that the questions on the 2021 Census respond to demands for key information.
    • The content proposed by Statistics Canada was submitted to Cabinet and the questions asked in the 2021 Census were prescribed by an Order in Council, as is required by the Statistics Act.
    • The 2021 Census of Population short form (2A) asked up to 17 questions on topics such as age, sex at birth, gender, relationships of household members, marital status, language and Canadian military service.
    • The 2021 Census of Population long form (2A-L) contained the same questions as those asked in the short form, but also featured some new and modified questions on ethnic or cultural origins, religion, citizenship and immigration, First Nations people, Métis and Inuit, labour and housing. These changes are outlined in topic-specific fact sheets available on the agency website.

    Response rates

    The national collection response rates for the Census of Population were as follows:

    The national collection response rates by Internet for the Census of Population were as follows:

    Please visit the agency website for a detailed breakdown (by geography and type) of the 2021 Census of Population collection response rates.

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