Guide to the Census of Population, 2016
Chapter 7 – Field operations


During the field operations' data collection phase, the objective was to ensure that responses were obtained from all households in Canada. Field operations included: delivering questionnaires, following up with non-respondents, conducting interviews, determining the occupancy status of a dwelling.

Census delivery methods

For most private dwellings (99%), respondents were asked to complete the questionnaire for themselves and all members of the household.

Starting May 2, 2016, all private dwellings in the mail-out (MO) area (approximately 82% of private dwellings in Canada) received a bilingual invitation letter to complete the questionnaire online. As in 2011, this letter contained a secure access code (SAC), the URL of the 2016 Census website, as well as a telephone number, allowing the respondent to request a paper questionnaire if preferred.

For 17% of dwellings, enumerators dropped off paper questionnaire packages. List/leave (L/L) door-to-door delivery took place from May 2 to May 9, 2016. During the L/L operation, census enumerators listed all private and collective dwellings in specific areas in their Visitation Record (VR). The paper questionnaire had a SAC in the upper right-hand corner so that respondents could fill out the questionnaire online.

For the remaining 1% of dwellings, the questionnaires were completed by having enumerators conduct personal interviews (canvasser areas).

Census wave approach

Statistics Canada implemented a wave approach for the 2016 Census. The following table outlines the key dates for the different waves in mail-out (MO) and list/leave (L/L) areas.

Mail-out (MO) refers to the mail delivery of questionnaires. Each census questionnaire was directed to the dwelling rather than to a specific person.

List/leave (L/L) refers to non-mail out areas. Drop-off needed to be done in person because mail delivery to a civic address was not possible.

Census wave approach
Table summary
This table displays the results of Census wave approach. The information is grouped by Collection phase (appearing as row headers), Main activity, Coverage and Key start date (appearing as column headers).
Collection phase Main activity Coverage Key start date
Wave 1 MO areas received an invitation letter with a SAC. No questionnaire package mailed. All MO dwellings (82% of all dwellings). May 2, 2016
L/L areas received a questionnaire package which included paper versions of short or long forms in both official languages. All L/L dwellings (17% of all dwellings). May 2-9, 2016
Wave 2 MO areas, excluding early non-response follow-up (NRFU) areas, received a reminder letter with a SAC. All non-responding MO dwellings, excluding those in early NRFU areas. May 10, 2016
MO areas (early NRFU areas only) received a questionnaire package. All non-responding MO dwellings, in early NRFU areas only. May 10, 2016
L/L areas received a reminder card. All L/L dwellings. May 10, 2016
Wave 3 MO areas (excluding early NRFU areas) received a questionnaire package. All non-responding MO dwellings, excluding those in early NRFU areas. May 18, 2016
MO areas (early NRFU areas only): start of non-response follow-up (NRFU) by enumerator. All non-responding MO dwellings, in early NRFU areas only. May 20, 2016
L/L areas: start of non-response follow-up (NRFU) by enumerator. All non-responding L/L dwellings. May 20, 2016
Wave 4 MO areas (excluding early NRFU areas): voice broadcast message and start of NRFU. All non-responding MO dwellings, excluding those in early NRFU areas. Voice broadcast:
May 30-31, 2016
NRFU: June 1, 2016

Census collection methods

Enumeration of usual residents of private dwellings

Most residents of private dwellings completed a form by themselves. In some regions, interviews were conducted.


Self-enumeration was the most common mode of collection: in MO and L/L areas, an adult member of the household was asked to complete the census questionnaire for all members of the household. If the questionnaire was completed on paper, the respondent returned it by mail in a pre-addressed envelope to the Data Operations Centre (DOC).

One in four private dwellings received the long form (2A-L), while three in four dwellings received a short form (2A). Residents who wished to be enumerated separately could fill out their own form by requesting a short form for individuals (3A).

Canvasser and reserve enumeration

This method was used in remote and northern areas of the country, and on Indian reserves where other collection methodologies were deemed to be less efficient. Canvasser methodology was also used in what is called early enumeration (EE) areas where enumeration takes place before Census Day (May 10, 2016), the reference date used is the date on which the household is being enumerated.

Early enumeration took place from February to April 2016 for populations who tend to migrate out of their communities starting in May.

In 2016, approximately 1% of dwellings were enumerated using the canvasser enumeration method. In these cases, an enumerator visited the dwelling and completed a questionnaire (2A-R) for the household by interview.

Enumeration of collective dwellings

A collective dwelling refers to a dwelling of a communal, institutional or commercial nature. There are different types of collective dwellings, depending on the types of services provided. The type of collective dwelling determined how it was enumerated.

Collective dwelling enumeration was conducted from May 2 to June 3, 2016. The enumeration of all types of collective dwellings followed the same general procedures regardless of whether they were in an MO or L/L area, with field staff ensuring that each usual resident was enumerated.

For 2016, there were four main types of enumeration procedures covering the different types of collective dwellings.

(1) Administrative records and/or an interview with the collective dwelling census contact or an administrator, for institutional collective dwellings

This approach was used in hospitals, shelters, nursing homes and/or residences for senior citizens and correctional or custodial facilities. Enumerators obtained mandatory data by accessing administrative records. If administrative data were not available, then for nursing homes and/or residences for senior citizens, enumerators may have interviewed residents using Form 2A and Form 3A for live-in employees or employees' family members.

(2) Canvasser for lodging and rooming houses

For lodging and rooming houses, enumerators completed the questionnaire (Form 3A) with each resident with a face-to-face interview.

(3) Self-enumeration for religious establishments and Hutterite colonies

For religious establishments such as convents, monasteries or seminaries and Hutterite colonies, enumerators left the questionnaire (Form 2A) with a collective dwelling census contact for distribution to residents, then arranged pickup of the completed questionnaires.

(4) Usual resident (UR) count only

For some collective types, the census collected only a count of usual residents (UR). This was used in establishments with temporary accommodation services such as hotels, campgrounds, YMCA or hostels and other establishments such as school residences, military bases, work camps or vessels.

Enumeration of residents outside Canada

To enumerate Canadian residents posted outside Canada, Form 2C was used (see Chapter 5).

Census Help Line

The Census Help Line (CHL), a free, nationwide, multilingual service, was available to all respondents. The toll-free number was printed on the census questionnaire and guide, and advertised in all census communications materials.

Data collection verification and follow-up activities for the 2016 Census

Apartment occupancy verification (AOV) – The purpose of the AOV is to be able to verify the occupancy status of all units in an apartment building through one management contact. Pre-contact is done to collect contact information for large apartment buildings. This verification can only be done for units in buildings with contact information. It is an important exercise as it helps to produce a more accurate status of occupancy for these types of dwellings and to reduce the workload of the census non-response follow-up (NRFU) activity. AOV was conducted from Statistics Canada regional offices from March 1 to 31, 2016.

Dwelling occupancy verification (DOV) – The status of dwelling occupancy was verified immediately prior to non-response follow-up (NRFU) in MO areas. Dwelling occupancy verification (DOV) was conducted from May 20 to 27, 2016, to identify as many unoccupied dwellings as possible, close to Census Day, in order to remove these dwellings from the NRFU workload. The accuracy of the unoccupied status is higher if identified closer to Census Day, May 10, 2016. This operation is independent from AOV described above.

Non-response follow-up (NRFU) – The purpose of NRFU was to obtain a completed questionnaire from all households that did not return a questionnaire. This was the final collection activity in MO and L/L areas. Follow-up was first done by telephone when numbers were available. If a completed questionnaire could not be obtained by telephone, personal visits were conducted until a completed questionnaire was obtained. In L/L areas, follow-up was generally conducted from May 20 to July 15, 2016, and in the MO areas from June 1 to July 31, 2016. NRFU was not conducted in areas of early enumeration and canvasser areas, as completeness was verified during the enumeration process.

Failed edit follow-up (FEFU) was a process through which follow-ups were made on selected dwellings to resolve missing and incomplete responses on the census short-form questions. FEFU was conducted from Statistics Canada regional offices for those questionnaires received at the Data Operations Centre (DOC) that were identified as having failed edits because they were missing information. It was primarily focussed on cases with potential household composition issues. FEFU was conducted from May 10 to August 14, 2016.

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