The census is coming – the census is coming! Statistics Canada conducts a census every five years and the next Census of Population will take place in May 2016. The census provides a statistical portrait of the country and its people. All residents of Canada are legally required to complete either the short- or long-form census questionnaire, according to the Statistics Act.
The census collects demographic information on every man, woman and child living in Canada. Information from the census will be used by governments, businesses, associations, community organizations and many others to make important decisions for your community, your province or territory, and the entire country.
Census information is important for your community and is used in planning services such as schools, public transportation, senior housing and police and fire services. Population estimates obtained from the census are used to allocate transfer payments from the federal government to the provinces and territories and from the provinces to municipalities.
The census includes every person living in Canada, as well as Canadians who are abroad, either on a military base, attached to a diplomatic mission, or at sea or in port aboard Canadian-registered merchant vessels. Persons in Canada – including those holding a temporary resident permit, study permit or work permit, and their dependents – are also part of the census.
So how are the questions for each census determined? Before each census, Statistics Canada undertakes a user consultation and testing program to determine the census questions. Data users and interested parties across Canada are asked for their views on the type of information they feel should be available from the census. These consultations include:
- various levels of government
- community groups and non-profit organizations
- private industry
- advisory groups
Statistics Canada takes into account emerging social and economic issues when determining the content of the questionnaire. Finally, the questions are approved by Cabinet and then published in the Canada Gazette.
Your answers are collected under the authority of the Statistics Act and will be kept strictly confidential. Confidential data is never released by Statistics Canada without the explicit consent of the respondents. No court or investigative agency, foreign or domestic, can access confidential information. The following measures are in place to ensure the security and privacy of respondent information:
- All employees are sworn to secrecy when they are hired. The Statistics Act states that employees are liable to fines of up to $1,000, and/or jail terms of up to six months if they reveal personal information.
- Statistics Canada has controlled access to its premises. Only persons with the appropriate security clearance and who have taken the oath of secrecy may enter facilities housing confidential data. Any employees from a private sector or government service provider that may require entrance to these premises are escorted at all times by a person who has taken the oath of secrecy.
- Census data are processed and stored on a highly restricted internal network and cannot be accessed by anyone who has not taken the oath of secrecy. Private contractors do not have access to confidential data.
- Employees follow specific instructions and procedures to ensure confidentiality.