Guide to the Census of Population, 2021

Release date: November 17, 2021

This reference document provides an overview of the Census of Population content determination, collection, processing, data quality assessment and data dissemination. It may be useful to both new and experienced users who wish to familiarize themselves with and find specific information about the 2021 Census.

The Guide to the Census of Population will be released iteratively starting with non-data dependent information on November 17, 2021, with additional content made available based on subsequent topic releases. Please see the census release schedule for upcoming updated content.

Table of contents

Chapter 1 – Introduction

General information
Why does Statistics Canada conduct the Census of Population?
Why is the census in May?
Privacy and confidentiality
Consent to release personal information
Retention of census information
Official languages
Other languages and alternative formats

Chapter 2 – Census history

Impact of COVID-19 on the 2021 Census of Population

Chapter 3 – Communications

Key activities
Census website
Social media
Respondent relations
Media relations
Advertising
Outreach, public relations and events
Strategy for Indigenous and northern communities
Toolkits

Chapter 4 – Content determination

How are the census questions determined?
Content consultations
Questionnaire content qualitative test
2019 Census Test
Content test
Field operations test
Changes to the questionnaire for the 2021 Census
New content
Other changes
Overview of how Gender-based Analysis Plus considerations were made for the content/questionnaire
Additional references

Chapter 5 – Census of Population questionnaires

Short-form questionnaire (forms 2A, 3A and 2C)
Long-form questionnaire (forms 2A-L and 2A-R)
Forms used to enumerate usual residents of collective dwellings
Accessibility

Chapter 6 – Online questionnaire

Online versus paper questionnaires
Mobile-friendly responsive design
Security

Chapter 7 – Field operations

Introduction
Census delivery methods
Census wave approach
Census Help Line
Occupancy verification and follow-up activities for the 2021 Census

Chapter 8 – Processing

Introduction
Receipt and registration
Imaging and data capture
Edits
Coding
Response database
Edit and imputation

Chapter 9 – Data quality evaluation

Introduction
Why evaluate the quality of census data
Main types of errors
Evaluating data coverage
Certification
Quality indicators
Total non-response rate
Quality indicators by question
Quality indicators based on variance
Measuring sampling errors

Chapter 10 – Dissemination

Introduction
How census data are used
Overview of 2021 Census of Population products and services
Connecting with Canadians
Availability of products and services

Chapter 11 – Census geography

Introduction
National Geographic Database
Hierarchical model of geographic areas for collection
Hierarchical model of geographic areas for dissemination
The hierarchy of geographic areas: Understanding the hierarchy, how geographies are related and data analysis
Geographic areas for dissemination
Non-standard or user-defined geographic areas for dissemination

Appendix 1.1 – Legislation

Introduction
Requirement to respond
Constitutional law

Appendix 1.2 – Difference between census counts and population estimates

Appendix 1.3 – Information produced from the 2021 Census of Population

Who is included in the population of Canada?
Where are people counted?
Who is included in the disseminated data for each topic?

Appendix 1.4 – Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

Content determination
Collection
Data quality
Dissemination

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