Rising to the challenge: meeting Canadians' information needs - part 1

January 31, 2019

Statistics Canada is the country's national statistical agency with a mandate to provide quality data on the country's economic and social well-being. And in general, we do a good job. Close to 24 million Canadians consult our website to fulfill their statistical needs every year. We respond to 20,000 calls and over 25,000 emails through our 1-800 number and our infostats service each year. Recent poll results show that 88% of Canadians trust Statistics Canada, and our website survey indicates that 76% of visitors find what they need on the website.

We agree that ideally, Statistics Canada should be the authoritative source for any key piece of data or information needed, and that it should keep up with the changing and increasing needs of Canadians in a data-driven society. The reality, however, is that the agency is funded to fulfill key socio-economic indicators and relies on federal government policy departments to fund programs that respond to the country's most pressing data needs.

We recently conducted comprehensive consultations on the evolving information needs of Canadian businesses, governments, NGO's, and Canadians. Their feedback was very clear. Today's complex economy, environment, and fast changing society require more information to fill emerging data gaps, more current information, and more detailed information whether it is for smaller geographic areas or specific population groups.

And, Statistics Canada is responding by innovating with new sources of data, by experimenting and conducting pilot projects. We are going beyond surveys and existing administrative data sources to web-scraping, using scanner data, and tapping into emerging big data sources, while continuing to build on a solid foundation of privacy and confidentiality protection. And, we have made good progress in a number of areas with information gaps such as cannabis, tourism, housing, and the low-carbon economy. We know a lot more has to be done.

The recent articles in the Globe and Mail are stimulating an important discussion with Canadians on their perspectives on the role of the agency in today's data landscape, raising important issues from access to anonymized microdata for research, privacy, and filling important data gaps. They have raised a number of gaps.

Filling many of the gaps will require collaboration with other levels of government who possess data consistent with their jurisdictional authorities, with the private sector, and using new data sources. We have in the meantime, started to compile a response to the information gaps identified and provide the following data we have, analysis that gives a qualitative sense of the important factors and trends for each area, and the efforts we are pursuing to provide Canadians with more data. As the list grows, we will update our efforts. Canadians can, of course, continue to consult our website, email us or call us at Contact us.

Addressing Data Gaps

Statistics Canada publishes information every working day on the state of the Canadian economy and society, and has done so since its creation in 1918.

The following provides a glimpse into the vast repository of high-quality and accurate statistical information accessible on the Statistics Canada website. It shows the progress that Statistics Canada has made in recent years to address data gaps that have been identified by Canadians in reports by news media.


Canadian Housing Statistics Program

Statistics Canada is currently developing a comprehensive database on Canadian housing – the Canadian Housing Statistics Program (CHSP). The CHSP will provide information on the composition and evolution of the Canadian housing market including characteristics on the dwellings, their owners and housing finance. The database will address many gaps related to housing data such as the extent of non-resident ownership and housing affordability. Data is now available for three provinces (BC, ON, NS) at the CMA level. The CHSP will expand to cover all provinces and CMAs by 2022.

Recent releases from the program include the following:

How often are tenants being evicted?

This is currently not measured. Statistics Canada has conducted an exploratory study to identify data sources on tenants being evicted. This type of data is owned and managed by provinces and territories.


Cancer statistics by ethno-cultural background

The Canadian Community Health Survey conducted by Statistics Canada provides data on cancer diagnosis by ethno-cultural background. However, this survey does not provide details on the type of cancer by ethno-cultural background.

Information on cancer types, such as breast cancer, is available from the Canadian Cancer Registry (CCR) housed at Statistics Canada but this information cannot be broken down by ethno-cultural background.

Information on cancer incidence and mortality rates is available from two distinct data sources at Statistics Canada. The Canadian Cancer Registry (CCR) provides information on cancer incidence while the information on mortality rates is available from our vital statistics program. Both information on incidence and mortality are not available by ethno-cultural background.

Information on mammograms by racial/cultural background is available from the Canadian Community Health Survey.

Immigrants and refugees

There are numerous data sources which measure the outcomes of immigrants and refugees over time, including the Longitudinal Immigration Database and the Census of Population. More specifically, the Longitudinal Immigration Database integrates detailed information on socioeconomic outcomes of immigrants, connecting short- and long-term outcomes with various characteristics at admission, such as immigrant admission category, refugee status, source country and knowledge of official languages.

Some recent studies:


Comprehensive information on more than 250 ethnic origins and population groups is collected and disseminated through the Census of Population.

With the creation of the Center for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion, Statistics Canada will be disseminating more information on Canada's diverse populations. In February 2019, there will be several products released on the demographic and socio-economic situation of the Black population in Canada.


Statistics Canada collects extensive data on gender and conducts analysis on gender issues. Statistics Canada has recently launched the Gender, diversity and inclusion statistics hub which provides a focal point for the latest data and analysis.

Some recent studies:

Marriage and divorce

Are more of us getting married or divorced?

Statistics Canada stopped producing data on marriages and divorces at the national level in 2010 due to budget cuts. Statistics Canada continues to collect information from Canadians on marital status and divorce through other sources, such as the census, as well as more detailed information on families through the General Social Survey.

How many underage and forced marriages happen in Canada?

Statistics Canada does not have information on forced marriages in Canada.

Indigenous peoples

Every five years comprehensive information on Indigenous peoples is available with the Census of population, supplemented by the Aboriginal Peoples Survey.

What is the indigenous on-reserve employment rate?

Statistics Canada has been working with Employment and Social Development Canada to develop new labour market indicators for the on-reserve population using the Census and administrative data.


Survey on Maternal Health

Information on maternal health is available from data collected through the Rapid Stats program, designed to produce information within a 90-day period. Recently, the program has also produced information on cannabis statistics, opioid awareness and the digital economy (see the links in this blog).

Other topics currently being actively collected and developed include Maternal Experiences and Access to Child Care.

Working in partnership with other organizations to fill data gaps

Federal government departments or any external organization can reach out to Statistics Canada anytime they identify new data needs. These can be filled through multiple data solutions, including surveys. Statistics Canada will engage in an initial discussion with the department to further refine their data needs and propose options to fill them. If the development of a new survey is the appropriate action, a more in-depth discussion on the survey requirements will follow. A project proposal and cost estimate will then be prepared for the department to decide whether they would like to proceed. If a decision is made to go ahead with the development of a new survey, a team formed of various internal partners within Statistics Canada will be put in place and the survey development work will begin.


Statistics Canada is working with partners in British Columbia to assess socio-economic factors and the opioid crisis. Discussions are underway to replicate the work done in British Columbia.

In 2018, Statistics Canada released results from the Survey on Opioid Awareness to provide a greater understanding of the opioid crisis: Opioid awareness in Canada.

Social and economic characteristics of hospitalizations due to opioids

Statistics Canada is working with provincial and municipal partners to better understand the social and economic characteristics of opioid-related hospitalizations and to inform intervention studies.

Long-term/residential care and living arrangements of seniors

The Census collects basic information on this topic every five years. Statistics Canada has identified the need for more information on the population living in seniors' residences, and is working with partners to find ways to address this important data gap.

With an aging population, there will be an ever increasing demand for long-term and residential care for seniors. According to the 2016 Census, 6.8% of Canadians aged 65 years and older were living in long term or senior's residences - this proportion jumps to 30.0% among Canadians aged 85 years and older. To better estimate tomorrow's demand for care, we need to know more about what puts seniors at risk for transition to institutional care. While age matters, so do factors such as losing a spouse, living alone and being diagnosed with dementia.


Understanding Canadian children is a priority for Statistics Canada, and the following studies address issues related to health, physical activity, the impact of the environment, and vulnerable populations. But gaps remain. Statistics Canada is working collaboratively with federal departments such as Employment and Social Development Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada to better understand community needs such as childcare demand and accessibility to early learning and child care initiatives. This program aims to understand associations between family-oriented policies such as parental leave and child care, parental and child outcomes, and characteristics of child care providers.

Physical activity

Physical activity of Canadian children and youth remains largely unchanged from 2007 to 2015 with only 7% achieving at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day, and 33% achieving a weekly average of at least 60 minutes per day.

For younger children, however, an estimated 73% of 3- to 4-year-olds and 30% of 5-year-olds met their respective physical activity recommendations.

A high proportion of children met the recommendations for sleep duration (83.8%) and physical activity (60.7%), but only 24.3% met the screen time recommendations.

Parenting and caregiving

Women are more likely than men to participate in housework and are overrepresented among caregivers, especially when the care recipient has a disability.

New initiatives will use linked administrative data to examine family policies such as parental leave in Canada as well as use of child care arrangements by families with children.

Child health

One in ten 15- to 24-year-olds reported having experienced symptoms of depression in their lifetime, and one in seven reported suicidal thoughts. A small percentage reported attempting suicide, but they represented more than 150,000 individuals.

Eight percent of Canadian children, 3 to 19 years of age, had hearing loss while less than one percent reported it. Sixty five percent never had a hearing test.


The Centre for Education Statistics collects and disseminates a wealth of information on education. Recent developments include new data on student pathways through the postsecondary education system and their labour market outcomes.

What is the postsecondary graduation rate for First Nations students?

The Census of Population provides high school completion rates and post-secondary educational levels for Indigenous populations aged 15 and older who live on and off reserve. Statistics Canada is exploring, in collaboration with Indigenous Services Canada, the use of on-reserve administrative data to develop better indicators of high school graduation for on-reserve First Nations students.

Which students are getting suspended?

Indicators of postsecondary persistence and dropout rates are being developed and will be published in 2020. The number of students being suspended, however, is not measured.


Statistics Canada's Centre for Justice Statistics regularly collects and disseminates comprehensive information on Canada's justice system and crime statistics. Some examples are listed below.

Hate crime

Statistics Canada regularly collects and releases data on hate crimes in Canada: Daily Police-reported hate crime, 2017.

Organized crime

Re-contact with the justice system

Sexual assault

In 2017, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics began working with police services, academics and other experts from across Canada to reinstate the collection of information on unfounded criminal incidents and address data around crime-related statistics.

Recently released information:

Gender-based violence

Statistics Canada is collecting new information related to gender-based violence. The results of a new survey on Safety in Public and Private Spaces will be released in the coming months.

Data on missing Indigenous women

In Canada, missing persons information resides with the policing community. Statistics Canada's Homicide Survey collects information on all culpable homicides in Canada, including missing person status. Statistics Canada continues to work with its justice partners to identify needs around justice-related data, such as this important topic.

Origins of firearms

The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, working with Public Safety Canada and other justice partners, is exploring this issue. A feasibility study is underway to explore what data exists in relation to the origin of firearms seized or recovered by police. The study will be completed by the end of March 2019 with recommendations on how to address these important data gaps.


The Economic Statistics Program covers a broad range of economic measures that form a trusted, relevant and comprehensive source of information on the entire spectrum of Canada's economy. These measures including monthly, quarterly and annual indicators on inflation, production of goods and services, investment and international trade are used to compile comprehensive provincial and territorial economic accounts that inform on the size and growth of the Canadian economy (Gross Domestic Product).

Cannabis statistics

Statistics Canada is currently publishing data that is also published by Health Canada such as the number of licenced producers. A significant amount of the data on the Cannabis Stats hub is built from data supplied by Health Canada. Planned updates to the Hub will include additional data such as retail sales and the results of the National Cannabis Survey.

Coal statistics

While exports of coal have not been available from Monthly Coal Supply and Disposition survey since January 2016, these statistics are still available in several other products offered by Statistics Canada.

The Canadian International Merchandise Trade Database offers statistics by commodity, province and country. Users can search the database using key words to find data by commodity. Coal statistics are available under HS 2701.

Digital economy

Statistics Canada released information on the sharing economy in 2017 and 2018:

Statistics Canada will release experimental estimates of the size and scope of the digital economy later this year for the period 2010 to 2018.


A recent study on the long-run productivity dispersion in Canadian manufacturing measures productivity in several OECD countries: Study: Long-run Productivity Dispersion in Canadian Manufacturing.

Ongoing work will build on this by examining the impact that increasing dispersion in productivity growth rates across firms has on the dispersion of earnings across workers.


How much gasoline is sold monthly in each province?

The monthly retail trade survey publishes sales figures for retail gasoline stations by province and territory: Retail trade sales by industry.

How many electric cars have been sold recently?

Passenger Vehicles Sales estimates include both electric passenger vehicles as well as conventional passenger vehicles combined into one sales figure.

Link to part two

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