Painting a Portrait of Canada: The 2021 Census of Population
Appendix A—Legislative process

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List of acts and regulations

1. The Constitution of Canada

The Constitution of Canada (and its amendments) requires that the Census of Population be conducted to determine the population of Canada and the required number of members of the House of Commons.

2. The Statistics Act

According to the Statistics Act, Statistics Canada is required to conduct a Census of Population and Census of Agriculture every five years, in the years ending in 1 and 6. The relevant provisions of the Statistics Act are as follows:

Subsection 19 (1):

“A census of population of Canada shall be taken by Statistics Canada in the month of June in the year 1971, and every fifth year thereafter in a month to be fixed by the Governor in Council.”

Section 20:

“A census of agriculture of Canada shall be taken by Statistics Canada (a) in the year 1971 and in every tenth year thereafter; and (b) in the year 1976 and in every tenth year thereafter, unless the Governor in Council otherwise directs in respect of any such year.”

Subsection 21 (1):

“The Governor in Council shall, by order, prescribe the questions to be asked in any census taken by Statistics Canada under section 19 or 20.”

Subsection 21 (2):

“Every order made under subsection (1) shall be published in the Canada Gazette not later than thirty days after it is made.”

Mandatory requirement to respond

Just as Statistics Canada is required by law to conduct a census, respondents are required by law to complete their census questionnaires.

This requirement is set out in subsections 7 (1), 8 (1) and 23 (1) of the Statistics Act, which reads as follows:

Rules, instructions and requests for information

7 (1) The Chief Statistician may prescribe the rules, instructions and, subject to subsection 21(1), requests for information that he or she considers necessary for conducting the work and business of Statistics Canada, the collecting, compiling and publishing of statistics and other information and the taking of any census authorized by this Act.

Mandatory or voluntary requests for information

8 (1) The Chief Statistician shall determine whether a request for information is mandatory or voluntary, with the exception of the census of population and census of agriculture, both of which are mandatory.

Request for information by any method

23 (1) The requests for information prescribed under section 7 may be made by any method authorized by the Chief Statistician.

Duty to provide information

(2) A person to whom a mandatory request for information is made shall provide the information to Statistics Canada, properly certified as accurate, not later than the time prescribed by the Chief Statistician and indicated to the person or not later than the extended time that may be allowed in the discretion of the Chief Statistician.

False or unlawful information

The requirement to complete a census questionnaire is supported by the penalty provisions of subsection 31 of the act, which was amended in 2017 to remove imprisonment as a penalty. This subsection is as follows:

Subsection 31:

“Every person is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than $500 who, without lawful excuse, 

  1. refuses or neglects, following a request for information under this Act,
    1. to provide any requested information to the best of their knowledge and belief, or
    2. to provide any requested information when and as required under this Act; or
  2. knowingly gives false or misleading information or practises any other deception under this Act.”

3. Relevant Government of Canada consolidated acts (external links)

4. Relevant Government of Canada consolidated regulations (external links)

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