Rising to the challenge: meeting Canadians' information needs - part 2

May 16, 2019

Link to part one

In an information age, more data is available than ever before. Yet, data gaps – real or perceived – still persist.

As Canada's national statistical agency, Statistics Canada is a key source of authoritative statistical information on all aspects of Canadian society and economy. It is incumbent on the agency to provide relevant and timely information to meet changing information needs.

However, we do not exist in a vacuum. The agency must work in partnership with other government departments to provide information to meet policy needs. We also consult extensively with data users to ensure our understanding of their information needs is up-to-date and accurate.

In the interest of contributing to ongoing discussions on information needs, attached is a re-cap of Statistics Canada's efforts to fill information gaps, as identified in the most recent article on the topic in the Globe and Mail newspaper.


Statistics Canada collects and produces information on suicide deaths and suicidal ideation, planning and past attempts. This information is based on both administrative and survey data sources. In the near future, additional information will be available by profession and population characteristics.

The Canadian Vital Statistics Death Database (CVSD) provides basic demographic data, antecedent causes of death and significant conditions contributing to a death. The Canadian Coroner and Medical Database collects information on suicide deaths investigated by coroners and medical examiners, as well as additional information on the circumstances surrounding the death and includes narrative information as detailed by the coroner/medical examiner.  The Canadian Community Health Survey and the Canadian Health Survey on Children and Youth, among other surveys, provide insights on suicidal ideation, planning, and past attempts.

Statistics Canada is also taking steps to provide more timely and accurate data, and to explore suicides by characteristic, such as ethnic group and occupation/industry group. Integrating data from the CVSD with the Canadian Census Health and Environment Cohort (CanCHEC) will enable publication of analytical reports in late 2019 and 2020. For instance, in June 2019, Statistics Canada will publish an article on suicide rates in the 2011-2016 time period among First Nations people, Métis and Inuit in private dwellings, drawing on the 2011 CanCHEC. It will also explore the socioeconomic factors linked with risk of suicide. CanCHEC data from 1991 to 2006 are also available for use by researchers in a network of 30 Research Data Centres in universities across the country.

Labour market information for those with disabilities

The Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) has been collecting employment data on persons with disabilities for 35 years.

Labour force data on persons with disabilities have always been among the core indicators measured on the CSD and its predecessor surveys, which have been conducted every five years (following the census cycle) since the 1980s. The data have been used to respond to the requirements of the Employment Equity Act since 1995.

The CSD has also been used to produce data such as employment rates for persons with 10 disability types (i.e. seeing, hearing, mobility, flexibility, dexterity, pain, developmental, memory, learning, and mental health) as well as by disability severity levels. (Note that for the CSD, autism is considered to be a developmental disability.)

The CSD data do not allow for historical comparisons between 2017 and 2012 due to improvements in coverage of persons with less visible types of disabilities. Significant improvements made to the CSD for 2017 ensure that coverage of the population with a disability is now more inclusive than ever before.

First-time home buyers

Statistics Canada is committed to providing access to trusted and reliable sources of information that meet the highest priority needs of Canadians. The Canadian Housing Statistics Program (CHSP) fills an information need by providing Canadians and policy makers with valuable information to monitor and analyze housing markets.

Each release from the CHSP provides new and relevant information. Most recently, a new measure of "assessment value per square foot" allows for more detailed comparisons of assessment values among property types across Canada.

Statistics Canada does not currently publish information on first-time home buyers, nor is there currently available a data source that could readily provide this information. It could be feasible for the agency to work with partners and explore using the CHSP and other data sources to determine if this information need can be met.

Incarcerated youth in segregation

Currently, Statistics Canada produces information outlining the number of persons in custody or under community supervision within correctional services and their personal characteristics such as age, sex and Indigenous identity (Adult and youth correctional statistics in Canada, 2016/2017)

However we currently do not capture data on segregation of adults and youth in custody due to the fact that, at the moment, a common definition of segregation is lacking, and this is needed to publish comparable data. Statistics Canada will continue efforts with stakeholders – specifically the Heads of Corrections working groups – to develop the methods necessary to produce relevant information on this topic.

First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations

The agency provides information on various topics related to First Nations people, Métis and Inuit, including population growth, languages, living arrangements, health, justice, education, employment and income.

There are some special considerations that must be taken when compiling statistics on Indigenous peoples. For instance, the population is diverse and spread out across the country, which presents challenges associated with sampling small populations.

The agency has responded by improving data and increasing communication and collaboration.

Statistics Canada works with First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders, communities and organizations on an ongoing basis to improve participation in surveys and the Census.  The 2016 Census had the best participation rate to date among those people living on reserve.

We have improved collection of data on First Nations people, Métis and Inuit by adding an Aboriginal identifier to household and administrative surveys and using administrative data sources. We also work collaboratively with Indigenous organizations and communities, and partner with other federal departments such as Health Canada to maximize and improve our data.

Through the Aboriginal Liaison Program, we assist in building statistical capacity in Indigenous organizations and communities. By doing so, Statistics Canada aims to contribute to community empowerment and improve data quality, accuracy and relevance for First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. Aboriginal Liaison Advisors build relationships with organizations and communities, helping them determine their data needs and helping them find and understand the data that is available for their communities.

In addition to collecting data for the census and other surveys, Statistics Canada is committed to making data available to decision makers and community leaders, in a variety of ways: in the form of publicly available data tables; research articles that interpret data and provide back meaningful results; and analytical files kept in secure research data centres so analysts can undertake their own research.


The 2019 federal budget provides for the establishment of a virtual Canadian Centre for Energy Information. Statistics Canada will work with Natural Resources Canada to ensure delivery of the Centre, which will compile energy data from several sources into a single easy-to-use website.

The Centre will also support ongoing research by Statistics Canada to identify and address data gaps that would improve the overall quality of energy information available to Canadians. We are exploring how energy utilization can be integrated into the data provided by the Centre.

Also with regard to energy use, the census collects information via questions on yearly payments for electricity, oil, gas, coal, wood or other fuels.

In addition, other data sources may provide relevant information. The Households and the Environment Survey provides data that could be of contextual interest to anyone studying energy poverty in Canada. Through that survey, we obtain information on household energy consumption. Energy use data are available by various household income categories.

Here are all the tables from that survey produced on household energy consumption:

Final Thoughts

As long as there is data to harvest, and it is always in abundance, there will be information gaps. Try as we might, no one institution or organization can claim to have it all. Every new data release and analytical study offers new insights. These in turn lead to new questions. These new questions turn into the search for answers through another data release or analysis, and so the cycle continues.

Policy departments interested in a specific topic will collaborate with Statistics Canada to analyze the results of a particular survey, but like any organization, our priorities need to be selected and aligned with available resources.

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