What is the Census?

The Census is a nationally distributed survey that is conducted every 5 years. Information gathered from the Census is used for the planning of public services such as schools, public transportation, family services and fire and police services. Information gathered is used by the government, businesses and organizations.

The Census comes in two forms, the short form and the long form. The short form has fewer questions in comparison to the long form. The short form contains questions such as name, date of birth, relationship status and mother tongue.

The short-form Census has fewer questions but is sent to a higher number of households, 80% in 2006 and 75% in 2016. It includes questions about Sex, Date of Birth, martial status, Common law status, Relationship to persons in the household, Mother tongue, Personal data access question. The short-form of the 2016 Census collected data of birth and age, sex, relationship of household members, knowledge of official languages, languages spoken most often, other languages spoken regularly, fist language learned, and the permission for access to personal 2016 Census information 92 years after the Census.

The long-form Census is far more thorough in the types of questions it asks but is only answered by 20% in 2006 and by 25% of the population in 2016. The long-form questions include those listed above for the short-form, as well as questions about the difficulties with daily activities, health problems, place of birth, family history, language, citizenship/immigrantion status/year of immigration, mobility, education, employment, housing, and other socio-economic information. No questions on religion because that is asked every ten years (Census years with 1 at the end). In 2016, the long-form Census collected the activities of daily living, socioeconomic information, mobility, place of birth, education, labour market activities, Housing, and the same question about the personal information access after 92 years.


How does the Census define ethnicity? 

The term "ethnic origins" were first used in the 2006 Census. The 2006 Census included a question about ethnic origins: “What were the ethnic or cultural origins of this person's ancestors?” A person can have multiple ethnic origins, up to six can be listed in the 2006 Census. 

Ethnic origins in the 2016 Census may refer to the ethnic or cultural origins of a person’s ancestors. People can have a single or multiple ethnic origins. It may refer to a person’s ‘roots’ and does not refer to their citizenship, nationality, language, or place of birth. The response of people regarding ethnic origin are based on their own understanding of themselves and are therefore influenced by their social environment and the amount of time it has been since a person’s family has immigrated to Canada. The terms ”Ethnic origin”, “ethnic group”, and “ethnic ancestry” are used interchangeably in the Census. There is a shared understanding of ethnic origins between the 2006 and 2016 Census.