Painting a Portrait of Canada: The 2021 Census of Population
Appendix B—Glossary

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Note: For definitions of 2016 Census content, readers can refer to the 2016 Census Dictionary. The 2021 Census Dictionary, which contains updated definitions, will be released in fall 2021.

Canada Gazette:

The Canada Gazette is the official newspaper of the Government of Canada. The newspaper publishes information on new statutes, new and proposed regulations, administrative board decisions, and public notices.

Canadian Statistics Advisory Council:

The Canadian Statistics Advisory Council advises the Chief Statistician and the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development on matters concerning the overall quality of the national statistical system, including the relevance, accuracy, accessibility and timeliness of its data. The council publishes an annual report on a wide range of issues relevant to the national statistical system, including emerging issues, challenges and suggestions on how to overcome them. Council members play an important role in helping modernize Statistics Canada in a transparent manner to ensure it continues to meet the needs of Canadians for high-quality, timely and relevant statistics.

Census Day:

The day of the census provides a specific point of reference for the respondent on which to base their answer. The timing of the Census of Population is driven by the need to maximize the number of Canadians who are home during enumeration. The mid-May date allows collection procedures to run smoothly, which reduces costs. In addition, the date allows more time for follow-up before summer holidays begin.

Census of Agriculture:

The Census of Agriculture is collected every five years at the same time as the Census of Population. It provides a statistical portrait of Canada’s agriculture industry and its farm operators and families.

Census of Population:

A census of population is the total process of collecting, compiling, evaluating, analyzing and publishing demographic, economic and social data on all people in a country or part of a country at a specified time.

Census test:

In preparation for the Census of Population and Census of Agriculture, Statistics Canada conducts census tests to evaluate the census questionnaire’s new and modified questions, as well as the agency’s collection procedures and tools.


Confidentiality refers to the assurance that Statistics Canada will not disclose any information that could identify respondents. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent the direct or residual disclosure of identifiable information. Consequently, data on geographic areas with a population below a certain threshold are not published.

Statistics Canada places the highest priority on maintaining the confidentiality of individual questionnaires. Stringent instructions and procedures ensure that confidentiality is maintained at all times. For example, census data are processed and stored on a highly restricted internal network and cannot be accessed by anyone who has not taken the oath of secrecy.

Data quality assessment:

Data quality assessments evaluate the overall quality of the census data. The assessment results are used to inform users of the reliability of the data, make improvements for the next census, adjust census data for non-response and—for two coverage studies (reverse record check and Census Overcoverage Study)—produce official population estimates. Quality assessment activities take place throughout the census process, beginning before data collection and ending after the results are released to the public.

Governor in Council:

Governor in Council appointments are made by the Governor General, on the advice of the Queen’s Privy Council of Canada (Cabinet). The responsibilities of Governor in Council appointees range from making quasi-judicial decisions and providing advice and recommendations on socioeconomic development issues to managing Crown corporations.


The imputation process is used to assign replacement values for missing, invalid or inconsistent data that have failed edits.

Multivariate analysis:

Multivariate analysis allows users to examine interrelationships across different census questions, such as age, education, income and immigrant status.

National Household Survey:

In 2011, information previously collected by the mandatory census long-form questionnaire was collected as part of the voluntary National Household Survey. In 2016, the Government of Canada reinstated the long-form questionnaire.

Population count:

The Census of Population aims to produce population counts for the total population of Canada. This target population consists of Canadian citizens by birth or by naturalization, landed immigrants and permanent residents, and—since 1991—non-permanent residents and their family members living with them in Canada. Non-permanent residents are people who hold a work or study permit, or who are asylum seekers. All people in these categories are included in the population count provided they have a usual place of residence in Canada. The census counts people according to their usual place of residence, which refers to the dwelling in which a person usually lives (the dwelling they call home). The total population also includes certain Canadian citizens, landed immigrants and permanent residents living outside the country; government employees working outside Canada; embassy staff posted to other countries; members of the Canadian Armed Forces stationed outside Canada; and Canadian crew members of merchant vessels and their families. Together, these persons are referred to as “persons living outside Canada.” Foreign residents are excluded from census data (e.g., residents of another country visiting Canada temporarily, government representatives of another country posted in Canada and members of the armed forces of another country stationed in Canada).

Population Estimates Program:

This program provides monthly, quarterly and annual demographic estimates by age and sex for Canada, its provinces and territories, and many subprovincial levels of geography. This program meets several legislative requirements, including the Fiscal Arrangements Act and the Fair Representation Act. Finance Canada uses these annual estimates to compute approximately $80 billion in transfer payments to the provinces and territories each year. These estimates are also used by many other partners, including provincial and territorial statistical agencies to compute social and economic indicators (e.g., labour, income, education, health, justice and well-being). They are also used in Statistics Canada social surveys (e.g., the mission-critical Labour Force Survey) for weighting purposes, and they serve as the base population for other programs, such as the demographic projections.

Privacy Act:

The Privacy Act extends existing Canadian laws that protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves held by a government institution and that provide individuals with a right of access to that information.

Research Data Centre:

The centres provide researchers with access—in a secure university setting—to microdata from population and household surveys, administrative data holdings, and linked data. The centres are staffed by Statistics Canada employees. They are operated under the provisions of the Statistics Act in accordance with all applicable confidentiality rules and are accessible only to researchers working on approved projects who have been sworn in as deemed employees under the Statistics Act.

Statistics Act:

The Statistics Act mandates Statistics Canada to “collect, compile, analyse, abstract and publish information relating to the commercial, industrial, financial, social, economic, and general activities and conditions of the people of Canada.” To balance Statistics Canada’s extensive powers to collect information, the act establishes the legal requirement for the agency to protect the confidentiality of respondents to Statistics Canada surveys. The legislation makes a formal commitment to respondents that the information they provide will never be released to anyone in a way that will identify them without their authorization.

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