Securely combining data for better insights

With social movements for Indigenous rights, racial justice, and economic equality gaining momentum in Canada, there have been many national conversations about equity, diversity, and inclusion. Statistics Canada is answering the call of Canadians who are seeking detailed data to help address gender gaps, racism and other systemic barriers.

Through the Disaggregated Data Action Plan announced in Budget 2021, Statistics Canada is working with Canadians to produce better data for better decision-making.

This action plan seeks to combine data and then break them down into sub-categories according to gender, race, age, sexual orientation, disability (or a combination of these). This process will help to reveal uneven economic and social realities in Canada. For every Canadian to reach their full potential, we need to properly understand the circumstances in which people live and the barriers they face. We cannot improve what we cannot measure.

To provide more disaggregated data, Statistics Canada is exploring new secure ways to get the most out of the data that has already been collected - for instance, by securely combining its census and survey data with data already collected by other federal or provincial / territorial organizations. Data from other organizations are sometimes called “administrative data.”

By linking data in this way, we can reduce the burden on Canadians by reusing data they have already provided to the government. We can also improve the accuracy of the data and expand the range of results and insights they provide. Data linkages have been conducted at Statistics Canada for many years in accordance with Statistics Canada’s Directive on Microdata Linkage.

Statistics Canada’s new Secure Infrastructure for Data Integration (SIDI) - currently undergoing the consultation and construction phases  - is a set of methods, technologies and protocols that will enhance the way Statistics Canada combines its existing data with data from other organizations.

SIDI relies on strong privacy principles. Linked data files are scrubbed of all personal identifiers - such as individuals’ names, addresses, and social insurance numbers - immediately after data linkage and prior to the data being further analyzed and used.

All information collected through Statistics Canada’s censuses and surveys, as well as administrative data from third parties, is protected under the Statistics Act, the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. By law, no personal information collected by Statistics Canada is ever shared with any other agency or person, even those within the Government of Canada. Statistics Canada employees are, furthermore, sworn to secrecy and subject to fines and/or imprisonment should they unlawfully disclose confidential information.

By creating a safe environment to combine data, Statistics Canada is maximizing the information at its disposal, information which can help build a more equitable Canada by bringing fairness and inclusivity to decision-making.

Learn more about our Secure Infrastructure for Data Integration, email for details on the Canadian experience of building a privacy-responsible integrated statistical register infrastructure:

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