Statistics Canada conducts the Census of Population in order to paint a statistical portrait of Canada and Canadians on one specific day. The census is designed to provide information about people and housing units in Canada by their demographic, social and economic characteristics.
The Census of Population is a reliable basis for the estimation of the population of the provinces, territories and municipal areas. These counts are essential for maintaining Canada’s equitable representation, as they are used to set electoral boundaries; estimate the demand for services in minority official languages; and calculate federal, provincial and territorial transfer payments.
The census also provides information about the characteristics of the population and its housing within small geographic areas and for small population groups to support planning, administration, policy development and evaluation activities of governments at all levels. The information provided by the census for these geographic areas and population groups is also used by the private sector as well as data users in their decision-making process.
In 2021, for the first time, immigrant status and year of immigration was obtained from administrative files provided by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). These data provide vital information to help understand the living conditions and socioeconomic outcomes of immigrants and their children in Canada.
Kind of Data
Census/enumeration data [cen]
Unit of Analysis
Household and individual
v2.1: Edited, cleaned and anonymised data.
The scope includes:
- Families, households and marital status
- Family characteristics of individuals
- Population and demography
- Census counts
- Other content related to Census counts
The census enumerates the entire Canadian population, on a “usual residence” basis (de jure). The population enumerated consists of usual residents of Canada who are Canadian citizens (by birth or by naturalization), landed immigrants and non-permanent residents and their families living with them in Canada. Non-permanent residents are persons who hold a work or student permit, or who claim refugee status.
The census also counts Canadian citizens and landed immigrants who are temporarily outside the country on Census Day. This includes federal and provincial government employees working outside Canada, Canadian embassy staff posted to other countries, members of the Canadian Forces stationed abroad, all Canadian crew members of merchant vessels and their families. Because people outside the country are enumerated, the Census’ population concept is considered a “modified” de jure census.
Foreign residents such as representatives of a foreign government assigned to an embassy, high commission or other diplomatic mission in Canada, and residents of another country who are visiting Canada temporarily are not covered by the census.
Producers and sponsors
For the census long-form, a random sample of 1 in 4 private dwellings in Canada is selected systematically. The sample size was determined to ensure the dissemination of reliable estimates for small areas and small populations. The long-form sample is selected from the 2021 Census of Population dwelling list.
A weight was produced and associated with each responding household of the long-form sample. Persons, census families and economic families inherit the weight of their household. The weight was used to estimate population parameters.
A weight was first calculated for all the dwellings of the sample based on the sample design as the inverse of the probability of selection. In remote areas and Indian reserves, where the long form was used to collect the information of all households, this was the final weight and data imputation was performed for all cases of total and partial non-response.
Dates of Data Collection
Data Collection Mode
Data Collection Notes
Responding to the survey was mandatory and data were collected directly from survey respondents. The census reference date was May 11, 2021.
Collection included response by Internet, paper questionnaire, the Census Help Line, and failed-edit and non-response follow-up.
Statistics Canada used a wave methodology throughout the collection period to remind the majority of Canadians to complete their census questionnaires.
The first wave took place during the first week of collection when an invitation letter was sent out to most dwellings across the country. This first letter provided instructions on how to complete the questionnaire online with a secure access code, the date by which the questionnaire should have been completed, as well as the census website address and toll-free Census Help Line number for support. During the second week of collection, a reminder was sent to households that had not yet completed their questionnaire. This letter also provided instructions on how to complete the questionnaire, as well as the census website address and toll-free Census Help Line number for support. By the third week of collection, households that had not yet completed a questionnaire received a final notice informing them that a Statistics Canada representative was going to visit their household or contact them by phone to complete the questionnaire.
Statistics Canada subsequently conducted follow-up activities with non-responding households to complete their questionnaires, either door to door or by phone.
The 2021 Census of Population questionnaires (short and long-forms) were similar to those used in the 2016 Census, with some revised and new content.