Read the much longer article here:


Data from the Census of Population are important for all communities and are vital for planning services that support employment, education and health care. Governments, businesses, associations, organizations and many others use these data to make important decisions. The census provides information that reflects Canada’s changing society and is the primary source of sociodemographic data for specific population groups such as lone-parent families, Indigenous peoples, immigrants, seniors and language groups.

Adjusted population counts from the census are then used as the base for the Population Estimates Program. Population estimates are used to determine representation in Parliament, calculate transfer payments between levels of government and support various government programs across the country.

Evaluating and revising census questionnaire content ensure that it continues to be relevant. We consider the following factors when evaluating the census questionnaire:

  • legislative requirements
  • program and policy needs
  • burden on Canadians when answering questions
  • privacy concerns
  • input from consultation and testing
  • data quality
  • cost and operational considerations
  • historical comparability
  • availability of alternative data sources.

Consulting with census data users and the Canadian public allows Statistics Canada to identify whether or not the questions asked in the census are relevant, how census data are used and how important the census is to Canadians. A formal consultation is set at the start of each census cycle. During that time, Statistics Canada invites data users, stakeholders and the general public to provide feedback on what information they use, for what purpose and what, if any, data gaps Statistics Canada should consider addressing in the next census cycle.

Statistics Canada conducted its consultation process for the 2021 Census from fall 2017 to spring 2018 using an online questionnaire and face-to-face discussions with stakeholders. All Canadians were welcome to participate in the online consultation. More than 2,800 respondents participated, an unprecedented number that demonstrated a high level of interest in helping to shape an important source of demographic and social information for decision making and analysis. Detailed responses were received from organizations and individuals representing federal, provincial, territorial and local government departments; First Nations people, Métis and Inuit; the general public; academia; special interest groups; and the private sector.

The country relies on high-quality information from the census. Statistics Canada uses the best standards and scientific methodology to design content for the Census of Population questionnaire. The longstanding and well-established process to determine census content has been in place for many censuses. It begins with broad consultations with data users, followed by qualitative tests and, finally, a quantitative content test.

Based on the findings from consultations, Statistics Canada modifies the questions asked in the census. In 2018, various versions were tested qualitatively through cognitive, one-on-one interviews. These interviews were conducted across Canada in both official languages. Based on the results of qualitative testing, the census questionnaires were further revised and will be tested quantitatively among 250,000 households during the 2019 Census Test. After statistically analyzing the results of the 2019 Census Test and considering costs, operational factors and safeguards against quality loss, Statistics Canada will make recommendations to the government, which will determine the final content of the 2021 Census questionnaire.

Consultation process: Overview

The consultation process started in September 2017 and ended in May 2018. It involved an online consultation with all Canadians and face-to-face discussions with federal departments; other organizations; and First Nations, Métis and Inuit stakeholders.

Statistics Canada heard from individuals and organizations in many sectors of Canadian society:

  • federal departments
  • provincial and territorial ministries and organizations
  • municipal governments
  • First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals, leadership and organizations
  • non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
  • researchers and academia
  • businesses
  • the general public.

To understand the needs of Indigenous organizations and communities, more than 60 in-person discussions were held in 30 Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities across Canada involving more than 400 contributors.

This report focuses on the findings of the online consultation and stakeholder discussions. Chapter 1 explains whom we consulted. Chapter 2 describes how we assessed information needs, while Chapter 3 focuses on information needs by census topic and reported data gaps. Chapter 4 explains the final steps for determining what content to propose for the 2021 Census questionnaire.

A separate report describing results from extensive discussions with First Nations, Inuit and Métis contributors will be released separately. There will also be a separate report with the findings of consultations on census products.

Appendix A – Distribution of responses to the 2021 Census online consultation

Table A.1
Responses to the 2021 Census of Population online consultation, by province and territory
Table summary
This table displays the results of Responses to the 2021 Census of Population online consultation. The information is grouped by Province or Territory (appearing as row headers), Responses (appearing as column headers).
Province or Territory Responses
Newfoundland and Labrador 101
Prince Edward Island 41
Nova Scotia 77
New Brunswick 88
Quebec 372
Ontario 1,145
Manitoba 163
Saskatchewan 110
Alberta 324
British Columbia 316
Yukon 20
Northwest Territories 16
Nunavut 25
Unspecified 6
Total 2,804