Frequently asked questions—COVID-19 and the 2021 Census

1. Is the 2021 Census still happening, given the COVID-19 pandemic?

The 2021 Census is on track and will be conducted as planned, starting in May. Statistics Canada has adapted to the new reality of COVID-19, to keep delivering on the census. Completing the census questionnaire online is the best way to stay home and stay safe, while fulfilling your census obligation.

2. Will the 2021 Census collect information on COVID-19?

Statistics Canada has a variety of other options available to measure the impact of the pandemic on Canadians. Traditional, fast-track and new crowdsourcing surveys, modelling techniques and web panel approaches allow for timely COVID-19 data to be produced for policy and decision makers across the country.

Furthermore, Statistics Canada is using alternative data sources in addition to survey information to provide key information on the impacts of COVID-19 on different segments of the Canadian society.

3. How will COVID-19 affect the way Canadians answer census questions?

Statistics Canada is aware that COVID-19 may have an impact on the way Canadians answer some census questions, including those on employment, education, commuting and expenditures. When providing answers to census questions, please choose the responses that best reflect your situation or the situation of members of your household for the date or time period in question.

The information provided throughout the census questionnaire should reflect each person's situation on May 11, 2021, unless the questions specify otherwise. This reference date ensures that the information collected in the questionnaire provides an accurate snapshot of Canada's society at this point in time in our history.

Most questions have a help button (?) to give respondents further context and clarification if needed. Statistics Canada has included some additional COVID-19 help text within the questionnaire to assist Canadians in their responses to specific questions.

4. How has COVID-19 impacted planning for the 2021 Census?

The census provides important information to Canadians and Statistics Canada has adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that the 2021 Census is conducted as planned in May 2021, in the safest way possible. Collection procedures for the census have been redesigned to ensure respondents and census employees are safe by limiting the amount of contact needed to participate in this important exercise.

Statistics Canada will do everything it can to get Canadians to respond to the census without an in-person visit from a census employee. Completing the census questionnaire online is the best way to stay home and stay safe, while fulfilling your census obligation. Respondents without reliable access to the Internet can also call the Census Help Line to complete their census questionnaire over the phone.

If a census questionnaire is not completed online or over the phone with a Census Help Line agent, Statistics Canada will begin non-response follow-up activities. Census employees will do as much follow-up as possible over the phone.

In cases where a Statistics Canada census employee is sent to a dwelling for non-response follow-up, a new no-contact protocol will be followed. Under this protocol, no interviews will be conducted inside the respondent's dwelling. These interviews will instead be physically-distanced and the census employee will be required to wear a mask, in accordance with public health guidelines.

5. Will there be fewer enumerators for the 2021 Census because of COVID-19?

Collection procedures for the census have been redesigned to ensure respondents and census employees are safe by limiting the amount of contact needed to participate in this important exercise.

Even though it is anticipated that more respondents will be completing the census questionnaire themselves, using either the online or the paper questionnaire, we will need the same number of enumerators to complete the collection activities.

Since its introduction in 2001, the online census questionnaire has only increased in popularity. In 2016, 68.3% of private occupied dwellings completed the census online, up from 53.9% in 2011 and 18.3% in 2006. In 2021, the objective is at least 80% online response.

In the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, responding online is the best way to stay home and stay safe while fulfilling your census obligation.

6. Will all Statistics Canada enumerators/census employees be vaccinated against COVID-19?

Vaccination against COVID-19 is not a requirement, nor is it administered, as part of a 2021 Census position. Individuals working for the census, like other Canadians, can receive the vaccine based on the vaccination schedule of their respective province or territory.

However, census employees must wear a mask and practise physical distancing, in accordance with guidelines from public health authorities. Statistics Canada will do everything it can to get Canadians to respond to the census without an in-person visit from a census employee. In-person visits will take place only when other options (e.g., online, by phone) are not available.

Completing the census questionnaire online (or by phone) is the best way to stay home and stay safe, while fulfilling the census obligation.

7. How will Statistics Canada protect its enumerators/census employees in the course of their work activities, given COVID-19?

Statistics Canada is committed to ensuring the safety of its employees at all times, including those working for the 2021 Census.

Census employees will wear a mask and have hand sanitizer with them, when they go door to door in communities. In cases where a census employee is sent to a dwelling for non-response follow-up, a new no-contact protocol will be followed.

Under this protocol, no interviews will be conducted inside the respondent's dwelling. These interviews will instead be physically-distanced and the census employee will be required to wear a mask, in accordance with guidelines from public health authorities.

8. Are Statistics Canada enumerators/census employees able to work from home, given COVID-19?

Statistics Canada is committed to ensuring the safety of its employees at all times, including those working for the 2021 Census.

If a census questionnaire is not completed online or over the phone with a Census Help Line agent, Statistics Canada will begin non-response follow-up activities. Census employees will do as much follow-up as possible over the phone.

With that said, most census jobs involve doing the field work associated with data collection. In cases where a census employee is sent to a dwelling for non-response follow-up, a new no-contact protocol will be followed. Under this protocol, no interviews will be conducted inside the respondent's dwelling. These interviews will instead be physically-distanced and the census employee will be required to wear a mask, in accordance with guidelines from public health authorities.

9. What impact has COVID-19 had on how the census will work in collective dwellings?

Statistics Canada takes a safe, secure and practical approach to enumerating people living in collective dwellings, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Collection procedures for the 2021 Census have been redesigned to ensure respondents and census employees are safe by limiting the amount of contact needed to participate in this important exercise.

No census employee from Statistics Canada will be permitted to visit or enter institutional collective dwellings, especially the dwellings housing residents who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, such as residences for senior citizens and hospitals. (For most correctional facilities, administrative records will be used from Statistics Canada's Canadian Correctional Services Survey to replace collection for federal, provincial and territorial custodial facilities.)

Letters or emails with secure access codes for online response will be sent to the administrators of most collective dwellings. All follow-up contact will be performed by mail, email or phone with the administrator of the collective dwelling, who will be requested to provide Statistics Canada with the key information required on each resident.

For some types of dwellings, in which there is no administrator present, or where there are no available administrative records, alternative arrangements will be made. For instance, in the case of lodging or rooming houses, census employees will complete a census questionnaire with the respondent at their door, respecting physical distancing guidelines.

For establishments with temporary accommodation services (e.g., hostels, hotels, campgrounds, YMCA/YWCA) or other establishments—including school residences, military bases and work camps—a usual resident head count will be requested online or by phone. Lastly, for Hutterite colonies, Bosses will arrange for the distribution and collection of census questionnaires amongst members, but may also complete the questionnaires on behalf of the members.

For more information on how census enumeration is conducted in collective dwellings, please visit Frequently asked questions—Collectives enumeration.

10. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, how will Statistics Canada ensure that people in remote, northern and First Nations communities are counted safely in the 2021 Census?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Statistics Canada has adapted to ensure that the 2021 Census of Population is conducted throughout the country in the best possible way, using a safe and secure approach.

In past censuses, some remote, northern and First Nations communities were enumerated using a traditional canvasser approach, whereby Statistics Canada census employees would administer questionnaires in the dwellings of respondents between February and July. Sometimes this would be done using census employees dispatched to the community from southern parts of the country.

This approach will change for the 2021 Census to protect public health in these communities. Early enumeration will no longer take place for the 2021 Census, but instead will coincide with regular census activities between April and July. Statistics Canada will work closely with communities and provincial and territorial authorities to implement a new approach.

Furthermore, collection through self-response will be available in these remote, northern and First Nations communities for the first time in 2021. The plan will involve Statistics Canada enumerators distributing invitations for online completion of the census questionnaire. These enumerators will be hired locally and will follow a protocol that avoids entry into dwellings. In the case of in-person visits, enumerators will be required to wear a mask as well as maintain proper physical distancing, in accordance with guidelines from public health authorities.

Respondents will also be able to complete a questionnaire with the help of a Statistics Canada employee, by calling the Census Help Line.

Where possible, completing the census questionnaire online is the best way to stay home and stay safe.

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