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Census 2021 In Canada : Every Citizen’s Responsibility

The information that will follow may be redundant to the great majority of us who completed the 2021 Census form as provided by our federal government and as required by law for citizens of this great country of ours: our rights to benefit the privileges of living here for our family and ourselves come with some responsibilities, and completing the Canada Census form is one small but important one. Although official Census Day was May 11, the government is still welcoming late-coming entries from reluctant or forgetful Canadians. The choice of a mid-May date was chosen to allow more time for a final follow-up and completion before the busy summer vacation schedule and has resulted in better results. The Act stipulates that a person who refuses to complete the census can be fined up to 500$ and may be required by Court to complete the questionnaire.

The Canadian census has a long history: the first one was conducted in New France by Jean Talon, its first intendant, as well as in British North America before Confederation. The legal purpose of the census was to determine seats representation in the government as warranted by population changes; its information is also the basis in the assignment of transfer payments to provinces in health, education, transportation, housing and more. But the most important purposes however is to provide a snapshot of Canadian society: the data collected is analysed and the results provide an accurate understanding of the evolution of Canada.

Historically, although there where censuses of Upper and Lower Canada in 1851 and 1861, the first truly national census was held in 1871 following the 1867 Confederation; it was held every decade afterwards, and also every mid-decade starting in 1956, with the exception of the Prairie provinces which held their own and Newfoundland which only joined in 1951; every new edition of the census added new questions: religion and birthplace (1901), employment (1931), housing (1941), education and income (1961), common-law relationships (1991). In the early days, it was advertised in churches and newspapers, then on radio, followed by television as the technology evolved; until then only available in the two national official languages, in 1996, Census became available in 49 non-official languages, including 12 aboriginal; the first online questionnaire would soon follow in 2006. In 2010, the Harper government announced that the new voluntary National Household Survey would replace the mandatory long-form census questionnaire, the debate and decision being reached on account of ‘invasion of privacy’; but the Trudeau government restored the mandatory long-form census in 2016 and participation reached a record high 99%.

Statistics Canada has implemented stringent procedures to protect the confidentiality of census information per the Statistics Act, such as requiring employees be sworn to secrecy when they are hired, and limiting access to personal and confidential information to those with a need to know to complete their work. Questionnaires completed online are protected through a number of measures, including a secure login process and encryption between the user’s browser and Statistics Canada’s servers. Census data are processed and stored on a highly restricted internal network.

The 2016 Canadian Census is the most recent detailed enumeration of Canadian residents, which counted a population of 35,151,728, a 5% change from its 2011 population of 33,476,688. All census results are available through Statistics Canada, but Jean Talon’s stats are unfortunately not… But here is typical sample:

‘The first ever census taken in what would eventually become Canada was taken in 1666, by the Intendant of New France, Jean Talon. Talon conducted most of the census himself, going from door to door, recording the names, genders, ages, and occupations of the population. This included seven butchers, eleven bakers, and three candlestick makers.’ (from Census,gc.ca)

Next week’s column will bring us all back a century, to the 1921 census: pretty amazing discoveries, surprises, statistics and results on Canada, Ontario, Ottawa, Prescott county, Hawkesbury, Alfred and…MORE! Please join us!

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