2016 Census Teacher's Kit – Teacher's Guide

Dear educator:

The 2016 Census Teacher's Kit has been developed for use in elementary, intermediate and secondary classes across the country. All activities are classroom-ready and have been reviewed to meet curriculum requirements.

The four activities contained in this kit are appropriate for many subjects, including mathematics, social studies and language studies in English or French. They also include 'Next steps' ideas to connect these subject areas with concepts in the sciences and creative arts.

The best time to incorporate the teacher's kit into your curriculum is during May 2016, when the Census of Population and the Census of Agriculture are being conducted. However, activities can be incorporated into classroom studies throughout the school year.

If you have questions or comments about the 2016 Census Teacher's Kit, please contact:

Statistics Canada
Census Communications
100 Tunney's Pasture Driveway, 10th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0T6
Fax: 613-951-0930 or 1-877-256-2370
Email: censuskit@statcan.gc.ca

Thank you for helping to spread the census message to your students. We welcome and appreciate your feedback. To assist us in improving the teacher's kit for 2021, please complete the enclosed evaluation form and fax it back to 613951-0930 or 1-877-256-2370.

A separate 2016 Adult Education Kit is available.


This guide contains useful information for educators who are teaching their classes about the census, or who are incorporating activities from the 2016 Census Teacher's Kit into their programs.

The guide contains an overview of the activities included in the kit and background information about the Census of Population and the Census of Agriculture.

This kit is designed to:


The best time to incorporate the teacher's kit into your curriculum is during May 2016. This will coincide with Statistics Canada's national, provincial and local census awareness campaigns and with the arrival of census information in households across Canada. Teachers are also encouraged to use census activities, concepts and statistics obtained through the census throughout the school year.

Teacher-ready activities target four suggested grade levels, and an overview of these activities is provided on the following page for planning purposes. While suggestions are provided, educators should feel free to adapt activities to their programs and student needs.

Each activity plan includes the following:

Overview of activities

Activity 1 - Counting classmates

Suggested grade level: grades 2 to 4

Primary and junior-level students will learn about collecting data to better understand a group of people. They will gather information and compare their findings with simplified statistics derived from the 2011 Census.

Activity 2 - Our class, our community

Suggested grade level: grades 5 and 6

Junior-level students will think about the class as a community, similar to other small groups of people who live in Canada. They will learn how data can be used to make sure people in communities have services to support their needs. They will make decisions for their class community, using survey data to inform those decisions.

Activity 3 - Food, feed and function

Suggested grade level: grades 7 to 9

Intermediate-level students will investigate current data from the Census of Agriculture and become familiar with some of the agricultural products from their region. They will consider geographic factors that contribute to the success of these products in their region, and compare their region's production with those of others in Canada.

Activity 4 - 92 years from now

Suggested grade level: grades 10 to 12

Senior-level students will investigate some of the questions asked in the census, using the 2011 Census as a tool. They will think critically about the census questionnaire and consider how this information would be useful to past and future generations. They will also be asked to devise their own census questions.


A variety of resources are available to inform students, their families and educators about the Census of Population.

Included in this kit

Additional resources

A note about enumeration

For the Census of Population, a field representative may, in some situations, contact households who have not returned the census questionnaire online or by mail. Sometimes these people will bring a paper copy of the questionnaire to a household or conduct interviews to help households complete the questionnaire.

The Census of Agriculture is different in this regard. Farm operators are asked to complete the census questionnaire themselves. If assistance is needed to complete the questionnaire, farm operators can call the Census Help Line (CHL).

Quick census facts

What is the census?

The census provides a statistical picture of a country and its people. Almost every country in the world carries out a census on a regular basis.

The Canadian census collects information, in five-year intervals, on every man, woman and child living in Canada. This does not include non-permanent residents, foreign diplomats or foreign military.

A Census of Agriculture is taken every five years at the same time as the Census of Population. The Census of Agriculture collects information on every agricultural operation in Canada.

When will the next census be held?

The next census takes place in May 2016.

Why take a census?

The census collects important information that is used for decision making.

It is the main source of detailed data available in a standard format for large and small areas of Canada.

Legal requirements and confidentiality

According to the Statistics Act, a census must be conducted every five years and every household in Canada must participate.

Confidential data never leave Statistics Canada premises, nor are they ever out of Statistics Canada's control.

Providing personal information to anyone, whether in a census, survey or in any other manner, does involve some loss of privacy. However, it is recognized that the public benefits of accurate data far outweigh this minimal loss of privacy, especially when measures are taken to ensure that personal information is kept strictly confidential.

Who will be included in the census?

Every household in Canada is included, as well as Canadians and their families who are working abroad for the federal and provincial governments, Canadian embassies or the Canadian Armed Forces.


Most households will receive a letter inviting them to complete the census questionnaire online and some households will receive a questionnaire in the mail. A small percentage of households will be canvassed by an enumerator who will complete the questionnaire with them.

Completing the questionnaire online helps to improve data quality, saves times for respondents and reduces paper waste.

Paper questionnaires will still be available to respondents who prefer to complete their census forms by hand.

Who uses census data?

All levels of government, the private sector, social service sectors and the media use census data to make informed decisions that affect the lives of everyone in Canada.

Census Help Line

The Census Help Line (CHL) is available during the census to answer respondents' questions.

The Census of Canada

The Census of Population

Statistics Canada conducts a Census of Population every five years. The last census was in May 2011. The next one will be in May 2016.

Census history

Census taking is not a new idea. During the third and fourth centuries, B.C., the Babylonians, Chinese and Egyptians enumerated their populations in order to collect taxes and to fight foreign wars. The Romans were avid census takers and regularly held censuses to learn about areas in their far-reaching empire.

In contrast to early censuses, later censuses became more than just a way to levy taxes or to muster men for fighting. They were seen as an inquiry into the social and economic state of the nation.

The first 'Canadian' census was taken in New France by Intendant Jean Talon. Sent by Louis XIV to administer the colony of New France, Talon recognized the importance of having reliable information with which to organize the colony and further its development.

This first census in 1666 enumerated 3,215 inhabitants and collected information on age, sex, marital status and locality. In addition, the census identified professions and trades for 763 persons. A supplementary inquiry in 1667 asked about the area of land under cultivation and the number of cattle and sheep.

No fewer than 36 censuses were conducted in New France. Each one introduced new questions on topics such as the production of various crops, the number of public buildings, churches, grist mills and saw mills, and the number of firearms and swords.

The first census under the British regime was taken in 1765 and asked many of the same questions as the censuses in the latter part of the French regime. As time progressed, new topics appeared, such as race, ethnicity, religion and place of birth.

During the 1800s, separate censuses were held at various times in the Atlantic colonies, Upper and Lower Canada, and in Manitoba. In 1867, the British North America Act (now called the Constitution Act) brought about Confederation and called for a Census of Canada to be taken every 10 years, starting in 1871. Census results would be used to determine the number of members in the House of Commons.

A mid-decade agricultural census was first held in Manitoba in 1896.

When the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were created in 1905, the increasingly rapid settlement of the west made the quinquennial census a constitutional requirement. A new Census and Statistics Act called for additional censuses of population and agriculture to be taken in the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta in 1906 and every 10 years after that until the population of each of the three provinces reached 1.25 million. These censuses continued until 1956, when Canada began taking national censuses of population and agriculture every five years.

A census every five years

In 1956, the Dominion Bureau of Statistics began taking national censuses every five years to provide up-to-date information on the nation's rapidly changing population. The mid-decade census was made mandatory in the Statistics Act of 1971.

How is the census taken?

During May 2016, every household in Canada will be asked to complete a census questionnaire – either online or on paper. Over 13.4 million households are expected to take part.


In 2016, Statistics Canada will be encouraging households to complete the census questionnaire online. Benefits of completing a questionnaire online include improved data quality, time savings for respondents and less paper. Paper questionnaires will still be available for those respondents who prefer to complete the census form by hand.

In addition, the 2016 Census will include a question asking respondents to consent to have their census information released after 92 years. This information will benefit historical, academic and genealogical research.

Every household in Canada is required to complete a census questionnaire.

Short-form census (questionnaire)

The short-form census questionnaire contains 10 questions that collect basic information such as age, sex, marital status, relationship to others in the household, and language.

Long-form census (questionnaire)

The long-form census questionnaire contains an additional 50 questions. It collects detailed social and economic information about our communities, and provides data for small geographic areas and small population groups. This information is needed to help plan public services such as child care, schooling, family services, public transportation and skills training for employment.


Statistics Canada will contact about 80% of households by mail. Most households will receive a letter requesting they complete their census form online, while the remaining households will receive a paper questionnaire.

In rural and less-populated parts of the country, dwellings will receive a visit from an enumerator who will deliver a census questionnaire. These forms will contain a secure access code that respondents can use if they want to complete the questionnaire online.

Canvasser enumeration will be conducted in remote, isolated parts of the provinces and territories, reserves and where other collection methodologies are deemed to be too expensive to conduct. These areas will complete a census questionnaire with the help of an interviewer.

What questions are asked?

The information collected must be clearly in the public interest, needed at the small geographic level (for example, a community or neighbourhood) and not obtainable from other sources. The questions are approved by Order in Council and published in the Canada Gazette.

The questions remain the same, as much as possible, from census to census. In this way, trends can be tracked over the years, such as the growth or decline in the population in various areas of the country.

Who uses census data?

Governments, businesses and associations use census data extensively. The following are some examples:

More than a civic responsibility?

It is vital that decision-makers have accurate information when making policies that will shape our country's future. For this reason, answering census questions is more than a civic responsibility – it is required by the Statistics Act. This law states the legal obligation of every household to participate in the census. By the same law, Statistics Canada must protect the confidentiality of the personal information provided by respondents.

Privacy and confidentiality

Statistics Canada recognizes the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of personal information and has made the protection of such information its highest priority. Confidential data never leave Statistics Canada premises, nor are they ever out of Statistics Canada's control.

Providing personal information to anyone, whether in a census, a survey, or in any other manner, does involve some loss of privacy. However, it is recognized that the public benefits of accurate data far outweigh this minimal loss of privacy, especially when measures are taken to ensure that personal information is kept strictly confidential.

Resources for census material

Census information can be obtained free of charge in many libraries. Academic and large city libraries have a full range of Statistics Canada products in a variety of media, while others carry a selection of publications.

To find specific information about your city, town or community, go to the Statistics Canada website, click Census of Canada, and then select 2006 Community Profiles.

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