COVID-19 help text for census questions

Statistics Canada is aware that COVID-19 may have an impact on the way Canadians answers 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.          

Important notes:

Slight variations of the help text can be found in the questionnaire used in remote regions and reserves.

To view the full help button (?) information for each question on the questionnaire, please complete your questionnaire online by accessing the home page of the census website. Enter the 16-digit secure access code printed on your invitation letter and follow the short online instructions.

COVID-19 help text for language related questions

How to answer question 9 a) 'What language(s) does this person speak on a regular basis at home?'

Report any languages that the person speaks on a regular basis at home.

For a child who has not yet learned to speak, report the language(s) used most often at home to communicate with the child. Two languages can be reported, as long as they are used equally often with the child.

Respondents who live alone should report the language in which they feel most comfortable.

Respondents who are deaf or respondents who have a speech impairment should report knowledge of English, French, both or neither, by selecting the appropriate option. Knowledge of other languages, including sign languages, should be entered in the type-in boxes under the category labelled "Other language(s)".

When reporting other languages, be specific. For example, people who report Chinese should instead report the specific Chinese language: Cantonese, Mandarin, Hakka, Min Nan, Min Dong, Wu, Pu-Xian, Xiang, Gan, Huizhou, Jinyu, Dungan, Min Bei or Min Zhong.

Do not report languages that this person uses solely at work even if this person now works from home (for example, because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

How to answer question 9 b) 'Of these language(s), which one does this person speak most often at home?'

Report the language spoken most often at home. Report more than one language only if all languages are spoken equally often.

For a child who has not yet learned to speak, report the language(s) used most often at home to communicate with the child. Two languages can be reported, as long as they are used equally often with the child.

Respondents who live alone should report the language in which they feel most comfortable.

Respondents who are deaf or respondents who have a speech impairment should report knowledge of English or French, by selecting the appropriate option. Knowledge of other languages, including sign languages, should be entered in the type-in box labelled "Other language".

When reporting other languages, be specific. For example, people who report Chinese should instead report the specific Chinese language: Cantonese, Mandarin, Hakka, Min Nan, Min Dong, Wu, Pu-Xian, Xiang, Gan, Huizhou, Jinyu, Dungan, Min Bei or Min Zhong.

Do not report the language that this person uses solely at work even if this person now works from home (for example, because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

How to answer question 50 a) 'In this job, what language(s) did this person use on a regular basis?'

Report any languages that this person used on a regular basis at work.

Report the languages used to speak, read or write to perform a job or a major task.

Do not report languages used only during coffee, lunch or other rest breaks.

Respondents who are deaf or respondents who have a speech impairment should report knowledge of English, French, both or neither, by selecting the appropriate option. Knowledge of other language(s), including sign languages, should be entered in the type-in boxes under the category labelled "Other language(s)".

When reporting other language(s), be specific. For example, people who report Chinese should instead report the specific Chinese language: Cantonese, Mandarin, Hakka, Min Nan, Min Dong, Wu, Pu-Xian, Xiang, Gan, Huizhou, Jinyu, Dungan, Min Bei or Min Zhong.

If the person held more than one job, they should answer question 50 a) for the job at which they worked the most hours.

Do not report languages that this person speaks solely at home even if this person now works from home (for example, because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

How to answer question 50 b) 'Of these languages, which one did this person use most often in this job?'

Report the language used most often at work. Report more than one language only if all languages are used equally often.

Report the language used to speak, read or write to perform a job or a major task.

Do not report a language used only during coffee, lunch or other rest breaks.

Respondents who are deaf or respondents who have a speech impairment should report knowledge of English, French, both or neither, by selecting the appropriate option. Knowledge of other language, including sign languages, should be entered in the type-in box labelled "Other language".

When reporting other language(s), be specific. For example, people who report Chinese should instead report the specific Chinese language: Cantonese, Mandarin, Hakka, Min Nan, Min Dong, Wu, Pu-Xian, Xiang, Gan, Huizhou, Jinyu, Dungan, Min Bei or Min Zhong.

If the person held more than one job, they should answer question 50 b) for the job at which they worked the most hours.

Do not report the language that this person speaks solely at home even if this person now works from home (for example, because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

COVID-19 help text for education related questions

How to answer question 13) 'Did this person do any of their primary or secondary schooling in French in Canada (including immersion)?'

Question 13 should be answered by persons in dwellings located outside Quebec.

Answer these questions for children who are currently attending school or for anyone who has attended school in the past. Report "No" to these questions for children who have not yet begun their schooling.

A French-language immersion program is defined as a program in which French is the language of instruction for a significant part of the school day; that is, several or all subjects are taught in French, except for English language arts (reference: Statistics Canada, Elementary – Secondary Education Survey (ESES), Definitions Guide).

Report "No" for French-as-a-second-language, intensive, extended and enriched programs that are part of regular programs in English-language schools.

Report "No" for French language programs that were attended outside Canada, summer camps, exchange programs, etc.

Report "Yes (previously or currently attending)" if this person did any of their primary or secondary schooling in French in Canada (including immersion) even if part or all of the school year was cancelled or changed (e.g., online instead of in-person schooling) because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to answer question 15) 'For how many years did this person attend a regular French program in a French-language school?'

Question 15 should be answered by persons in dwellings located outside Quebec.

Answer these questions for children who are currently attending school or for anyone who has attended school in the past. Report "No" to question 13 for children who have not yet begun their schooling.

The number of years defining "primary" and "secondary" education varies from one province to the other and one program to the next. For this reason, answer these questions based on the schooling this person has done in a regular French program in a French-language school. Include kindergarten and middle school as part of primary schooling, where applicable.

For persons who completed a school year more than once, include all years.

Report the number of years in primary or secondary schooling that this person attended a regular French program in a French language school in Canada even if part or all of the school year was cancelled or changed (e.g., online instead of in-person schooling) because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to answer question 16) 'Did this person do any of their primary or secondary schooling in an English-language school in Canada (including immersion)?'

Question 16 should be answered by persons in dwellings located in Quebec.

Answer this question for children who are currently attending school or for anyone who has attended school in the past. Report "No" to this question for children who have not yet begun their schooling.

Select "Yes (previously or currently attending)" if this person did any of their primary or secondary schooling in an English-language school in Canada (including immersion) even if part or all of the school year was cancelled or changed (e.g., online instead of in-person schooling) because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to answer question 17) 'For how many years did this person do their schooling in an English-language school in Canada (including immersion)?'

Question 17 should be answered by persons in dwellings located in Quebec.

Answer this question for children who are currently attending school or for anyone who has attended school in the past. Report "No" to question 16 for children who have not yet begun their schooling.

The number of years defining "primary" and "secondary" education varies from one province to the other and one program to the next. For this reason, answer this question based on the schooling this person has done. Include kindergarten as part of primary schooling, where applicable.

For persons who completed a school year more than once, include all years.

Report the number of years in primary or secondary schooling that this person attended an English-language school in Canada (including immersion) even if part or all of the school year was cancelled or changed (e.g., online instead of in-person schooling) because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to answer question 33) 'Has this person completed a high school (secondary school) diploma or equivalent?'

Select "Yes, high school diploma" if this person obtained a high school diploma:

  • even if it was outside Canada;
  • even if some aspects of the school year (such as final exams or graduation ceremonies) were cancelled or changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Select "Yes, high school equivalency certificate" if this person has a certificate such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate or an Adult Basic Education (ABE) certificate. High school diplomas from outside Canada should be reported with "Yes, high school diploma".

The DEP/DVS (diplôme d'études professionnelles / diploma of vocational studies) and the ASP/AVS (attestation de spécialisation professionnelle / attestation of vocational specialization) are trades diplomas offered in Quebec. These diplomas should be reported in question 34 a) in the "Other trades certificate or diploma" category, even if the person received this diploma from a high school.

How to answer question 34) 'Has this person ever: a) completed a Registered Apprenticeship or other trades certificate or diploma?, b) completed a college, CEGEP or other non-university certificate or diploma? or c) completed a university certificate, diploma or degree (e.g., bachelor's degree)?'

Include certificates, diplomas and degrees obtained during the COVID-19 pandemic, even if some elements of the program (e.g., courses, work placements, practicums, clinical placements) were cancelled, changed or fast-tracked. This applies even if the person did not receive a physical copy of their certificate, diploma or degree.

Include:

  • completed certificates, diplomas and degrees from both public and private educational institutions that have been accredited by a province, territory, or non-Canadian government;
  • completed apprenticeship certificates issued by a Canadian or non-Canadian government;
  • completed certificates, diplomas and degrees obtained outside Canada. Report these in the category equivalent to that of the system of the province or territory where the person currently lives.

Exclude:

  • incomplete certificates, diplomas and degrees (e.g., one year of a two-year diploma);
  • training certificates from an employer, unless they correspond to courses offered by a recognized educational institution or are apprenticeship certificates issued by the federal, provincial or territorial government.

a) completed a Registered Apprenticeship or other trades certificate or diploma?

Include trades certificates and diplomas even if they were obtained from a college, CEGEP or other non-university institution. Do not report them again in question 34 b).

Select Certificate of Apprenticeship or Certificate of Qualification (Journeyperson's designation) if:

  • the person received a certificate upon the successful completion of a certified registered apprenticeship program; or
  • the person received a Certificate of Qualification (e.g., Journeyperson's designation, Red Seal endorsement) with respect to a trade, regardless of whether or not they completed a registered apprenticeship program. For example, a Certificate of Qualification can be obtained by passing an examination and meeting work experience requirements for a trade such as carpenter or electrician.

Exclude apprenticeship cards and apprenticeship competency certificates from Quebec.

Select Other trades certificate or diploma if:

  • the person received a certificate or diploma through in-school training in trade-level vocational or pre-vocational programs at a college, institute of technology, trade school or similar institution; or
  • if the person received a DEP/DVS (diplôme d'études professionnelles / diploma of vocational studies) or a ASP/AVS (attestation de spécialisation professionnelle / attestation of vocational specialization) from Quebec. Persons with these qualifications should report them in this category, even if they received them from a secondary (high) school.

b) completed a college, CEGEP or other non-university certificate or diploma?

Include:

  • certificates or diplomas from a public or private college (both university transfer and semi-professional career programs);
  • certificates or diplomas from a CEGEP (both general and technical);
  • certificates or diplomas from a polytechnic, institute of technology, police college, or any other postsecondary institution other than a trade school or a university;
  • teaching certificates from a non-university teachers' college, whether or not a high school diploma was required for entry;
  • graduate and postgraduate certificates and diplomas from a college, polytechnic, institute of technology or similar institution where program-specific entry requirements (such as a previous qualification) were a prerequisite for the program.

Exclude:

  • trades certificates or diplomas, even if they were obtained from a college, CEGEP or other non-university institution – report these in question 34 a);
  • the in-class portion of a registered apprenticeship program – report a completed apprenticeship certificate or a Certificate of Qualification in question 34 a);
  • bachelor's degrees and applied degrees from a degree-granting college, polytechnic, institute of technology or other non-university institution – report these in question 34 c) in the category "Bachelor's degree".

Program length

Select the regular program length of any college, CEGEP or other non-university certificates or diplomas, and not the time it actually took to complete the program. Do this even for certificates and diplomas completed through part-time classes, online courses or correspondence courses.

A CEGEP is a college-level public institution unique to Quebec that offers three main types of programs:

  • CEGEP general, or pre-university, diplomas, which are two years long and should be reported in the category "Certificate or diploma from a program of 1 year to 2 years";
  • CEGEP technical diplomas, which are three years long and should be reported in the category "Certificate or diploma from a program of more than 2 years";
  • Shorter technical programs of various lengths, which should be reported in the category corresponding to their length.

c) completed a university certificate, diploma or degree (e.g., bachelor's degree)?

Include:

  • all university certificates, diplomas and degrees, whether completed in Canada or outside Canada from a public or private university;
  • university qualifications granted by university colleges;
  • bachelor's degrees or applied degrees from degree-granting colleges.

Report a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) or a law degree (LL.B.) in the category "Bachelor's degree", even if the person completed it after completing part or all of another bachelor's degree.

University certificates or diplomas, either below or above the bachelor level

University certificates or diplomas are awarded for non-degree programs of study completed through a university. They are often connected with professional associations in fields such as accounting, banking, insurance or public administration.

Select "University certificate or diploma below bachelor level" if a bachelor's degree is not required to enroll in the program. This includes non-degree teaching certificates awarded by a provincial or territorial department of education for a program at an approved institution associated with a university, where a bachelor's degree was not required to enroll in the program.

Select "University certificate or diploma above bachelor level" if a bachelor's degree is required to enroll in the program.

Exclude (from certificates or diplomas above or below bachelor):

  • bachelor's, master's, medical and doctoral degrees (report these in the appropriate categories);
  • incomplete or in-progress certificates, diplomas or degrees (e.g., two years of a four-year bachelor's degree);
  • university transfer programs;
  • non-university professional designations.
How to answer question 37) 'At any time since September 2020, was this person attending school, such as high school, college, CEGEP or university?'

Select "Yes" for all persons who attended a school or an educational institution at any time between September 2020 and May 2021, full time or part time, even if they were enrolled but subsequently dropped out.

School attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many classes have been moved online or available through distance learning. Completion of schoolwork online or through distance learning should still be reported as school attendance.

For elementary, junior high and high school students:

  • Select "Yes" if they participated in structured learning activities, even if the schoolwork was done at home and even if it was only for part of the school year or only took a few hours per week.
  • Select "No" if they did not participate in any structured learning activities during the period from September 2020 until May 2021, even if they were officially enrolled in school.

For students at colleges, CEGEPs, universities and other recognized educational institutions, school attendance includes online attendance (or other forms of distance learning such as correspondence) if the courses can be used as credits towards a certificate, diploma or degree.

Additional school attendance information

Include only school attendance where the courses can be used as credits towards a certificate, diploma or degree from a recognized public or private educational institution.

Public or private educational institutions include

  • elementary schools, middle schools, junior high schools and high schools;
  • colleges, CEGEPs, polytechnics, institutes of technology and other non-university institutions;
  • business schools, nursing schools, trade schools, vocational schools, and schools for persons who are deaf or blind;
  • universities.

Include:

  • the in-class (or online) portion of an apprenticeship program;
  • attendance for persons who were in the process of completing a thesis or dissertation for a master's degree or doctorate during the specified period.

Do not include training received from an employer unless it corresponds to courses offered by a recognized educational institution.

If the person attended school at more than one institution during the reference period, select all categories that apply.

If the person was attending a degree-granting college to obtain a bachelor's degree or an applied degree, select "Yes" and "Was attending college, CEGEP, business school, technical institute, trade school or other non-university institution."

COVID-19 help text for employment and commuting related questions

How to answer question 39) 'During the week of May 2 to May 8, 2021, was this person on temporary lay-off or absent from their job or business?'

Select "Yes, on temporary lay-off from a job to which this person expects to return" for persons who expect to return to the job from which they were laid off, no matter how long ago they were laid off. This includes temporary layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Select "Yes, on vacation, ill, on strike or locked out, or absent for other reasons" for persons who had a job or business during the week of May 2 to May 8, 2021, and were absent with or without pay for the whole week. This includes absences because of parental leave (maternity or paternity), bad weather, fire, personal or family responsibilities, etc.

If this person did not have a job, select "No".

If this person is retired but has another job or business, answer for the current job or business the person has. Select the appropriate reasons why this person was absent from their current job.

All persons who did not work any hours during the week of May 2 to May 8, 2021 (reported 0 hours or answered "None" in question 38) should answer some of the labour questions, including the current one, even if the reason they did not work was that they were retired. This is because retirees looking for a new job need to be identified, and retirees with recent work experience have to answer questions about their last job.

How to answer question 42) 'Could this person have started a job during the week of Sunday, May 2 to Saturday, May 8, 2021, had one been available?'

All persons who did not work any hours during the week of May 2 to May 8, 2021 (reported 0 hours or answered "None" in question 38) should answer some of the labour questions, including the current one, even if the reason they did not work was that they were retired. This is because retirees looking for a new job need to be identified, and retirees with recent work experience have to answer questions about their last job.

If the person could not have started a job during this week because of the COVID-19 pandemic, select the category for the reason that best reflects why they could not work. For example, if the person was ill due to COVID-19 and could not start work during the week of May 2 to May 8, 2021, select "No, because of temporary illness or disability".

How to answer question 51) 'At what address did this person usually work most of the time?'

Questions 51 to 53 should be completed for the job recorded in questions 44 to 50.

For persons who had more than one job during the week of May 2 to May 8, 2021, questions 51 to 53 should be answered for the job at which they worked the most hours.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers have adapted to working under different conditions than what is typical for them, such as working at home instead of at their employer's address.

When reporting this person's place of work, if there remains uncertainty about what 'usual' means, please respond based on where they worked for most or all the week of May 2 to May 8, 2021. If the person was absent from work that week for any reason, please respond based on the usual place of work when last working.

For persons aged 15 and over who worked most of the time at home (e.g., farmers, teleworkers, apartment building superintendents, home daycare providers),

  • select "Worked at home (including farms)."

For persons who worked part of the time at home and part of the time at an employer's address, but most of the time was spent working at home (e.g., three days out of five, or 10 hours out of 15),

  • select "Worked at home (including farms)."

For persons who worked at various work locations or job sites and did not report to a head office, warehouse or garage before starting work each day,

  • select "No fixed workplace address."

For persons who worked as an independently contracted courier or driver (e.g., Uber drivers, SkipTheDishes couriers, etc.),

  • select "No fixed workplace address."

For employees who usually worked at a specific location other than their home,

  • select "Worked at the address specified below."

For persons who worked part of the time at home and part of the time at an employer's address but spent most of their working time at an employer's address (e.g., three days out of five, or 10 hours out of 15),

  • select "Worked at the address specified below."

For persons who reported to a head office, warehouse, garage or other fixed location each day before going to various work locations or job sites,

  • select "Worked at the address specified below."

When "Worked at the address specified below" is selected, enter the employer's address.

Provide a complete address including street number, name, and type.

If a direction (e.g., North, South, East or West) is part of the street address, please include it.

Please give the name of the city or town rather than the metropolitan area of which it is part.

For example:

  • Saanich rather than Victoria (metropolitan area)
  • St. Albert rather than Edmonton (metropolitan area)
  • Laval rather than Montréal (metropolitan area)

If the employer's address is unknown or if the employer's mailing address is a post office box, enter the name of the building or the nearest street intersection of the employer's physical address. Do not give a post office box number.

How to answer question 52 b) 'What main mode of commuting did this person usually use to get to work?'

Questions 51 to 53 should be completed for the job recorded in questions 44 to 50.

For persons who had more than one job during the week of May 2 to May 8, 2021, questions 51 to 53 should be answered for the job at which they worked the most hours.

When reporting this person's usual main mode of commuting, if the person has difficulty determining the usual mode for any reason, including changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, please respond on the main mode of commuting used to travel to work during the week of May 2 to May 8, 2021. If the person was absent from work that week for any reason, please respond based on the main mode of commuting used when last working.

Select the main mode of commuting usually used to get to work.

Select only one response indicating the mode of commuting used for most of the travel distance.

If the person used a different mode of commuting to come home from work than going to work,

  • select only the mode of commuting used to get to work.

If different modes of commuting were used at different times of the year (e.g., the person took public transit to work during the winter and walked, bicycled or used a motorcycle in the summer),

  • select the main mode of commuting used during the week of May 2 to May 8, 2021.

If more than one mode of commuting was used (e.g., driving and taking public transit) in the same trip,

  • select the one used for most of the travel distance.

If the person used different modes of commuting to get to work on different days during the week of May 2 to May 8, 2021 (e.g., the person drove three days of the week and took the bus two days of the week),

  • select the mode of commuting used for most days of the week.

If the person did not regularly commute from home to work (e.g., their home was far away from their work, and the person lived near their work during the work week and travelled home on weekends),

  • answer according to where they lived when at work.
How to answer question 54 a) 'How many weeks did this person work in 2020, including paid vacation?'

A year has 52 weeks.

Enter "52" weeks for persons who worked less than a year but who were paid on a 12-month basis (for example, teachers).

Do not convert weeks working part-time as if working full-time. For example, if this person has worked 10 hours for 4 weeks do not report working 1 week for a total of 40 hours (10 hours X 4 weeks), report 4 weeks.

Exclude weeks receiving employment insurance payments, such as maternity, parental or compassionate care benefits, or disability.

Include any week in which persons aged 15 years and over worked for pay or in self-employment, even if they worked for only a few hours during the entire week.

Include weeks:

  • on leave with pay from the employer
  • on training paid for by the employer
  • on paid vacation and sick leave with pay from the employer.

Self-employed persons

Enter "52" weeks for persons who operated an agricultural operation, business or professional practice for the full year, including weeks on vacation or sick leave (paid or unpaid).

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted many people's ability to have paid work through the full year. If the person was still being paid during the time the business was shut down because of emergency COVID-19 measures, please include those weeks in the total number of paid weeks worked even if that person had not worked any hours during those weeks.

How to answer question 54 b) 'What was the main reason this person did not work for the whole year in 2020, meaning from 49 to 52 weeks?'

If there are many reasons why the person did not work or why the person did not work more than 48 weeks, please report the main reason.

If the reason why the person worked less than 49 weeks (0 to 48 weeks) in 2020 is not listed, select "Other" and enter the reason in the type-in box.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted many people's ability to have paid work through the full year. If the main reason for having paid work for less than 49 weeks in 2020 was related to COVID-19, select the response category that best reflects the main reason. For example, if the person had to take unpaid time off to care for their own children or relatives, select "Cared for own children or relatives". If the reason does not fit with any of the reasons listed, select "Other" and then specify the reason.

How to answer question 55 b) 'What was the main reason this person worked mostly part time instead of full time in 2020?'

If there is more than one reason why the person worked mostly part time in 2020, please report the main reason.

If the reason why the person worked mostly part time in 2020 is not listed, select "Other" and enter the reason in the type-in box.

Select "Business conditions" if this person has had hours reduced due to not enough work at the place where they are employed, drop in orders, retooling, cutback in hours to save costs, etc.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted many people's ability to regularly work full time (30 hours or more) in 2020. If the main reason for working mostly part time in 2020 was related to COVID-19 select the response category that best reflects the main reason. For example, if the person couldn't work full time because they were looking after their children for part of the day (because the children weren't in school for a notable portion of the year), please select "Cared for own children or relatives". If the employer reduced their hours because of COVID-19, select the main reason for working part time as "Business conditions". If the main reason does not fit with any of the reasons listed, select "Other" and then specify the reason.

COVID-19 help text for expenditures related questions

How to answer question 56) 'In 2020, did this person pay for child care, such as day care or babysitting, so that this person could work at their paid job(s)?'

For people who paid for child care to work at a paid job in 2020, select "Yes" and enter the total amount paid.

Enter the full amount only once, even if child care enabled more than one person to work at a paid job. You may split the amount between the payers if you choose. Do not include casual babysitting arrangements made for entertainment purposes.

The amount of child-care paid in 2020 should not include periods for which no child-care service was paid due to circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

For people who did not pay for child care to work at a paid job in 2020, select "No."

How to answer question 57) 'In 2020, did this person pay child or spousal support payments to a former spouse or partner?'

For people who paid child or spousal support to a former spouse or partner in 2020, select "Yes" and enter the total amount.

Include only support payments that were actually paid. Do not include transfers of money or other gifts. Report the total amount paid, not only the taxable portion.

Child and/or spousal support paid in 2020 should not include instances where amounts were not paid due to circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

For people who did not pay child or spousal support to a former spouse or partner in 2020, select "No."

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