2021 Census Postsecondary Research Kit

Release date: September 28, 2022

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1. How to use this toolkit

The Census of Population is a go-to source for students doing quantitative research on Canada.

This toolkit will help familiarize you with the Census and key sources of data and other information. It will show you:

  • topics covered by the 2021 Census
  • examples of research involving Census data
  • and
  • Census 2021 reference tools and sources for your next research project

Planning to check out the Census 2021 findings? Bookmark or print this document for quick access!

2. Topics covered by the Census of Population

Statistics Canada conducts the Census of Population every 5 years, to provide a snapshot of Canada and Canadians on one specific day. It is mandated by law in the Constitution Act (1867) and the Statistics Act (1985).

The Census is a primary source of socioeconomic data, including on these topics for the 2021 Census of Population:

  • Population and dwelling counts
  • Age
  • Sex at birth and gender
  • Type of dwelling
  • Families, households and marital status
  • Canadian military experience
  • Income
  • Language
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Housing
  • Immigration, place of birth and citizenship
  • Ethnocultural and religious diversity
  • Mobility and migration
  • Education
  • Labour
  • Language of work
  • Commuting
  • Instruction in the official minority language

3. How researchers have used Census data

Census data are pivotal for researchers across Canada. Here are some examples of how they have helped shed light on real-world issues.

The economic outcomes of immigrants…

The incomes of artists during COVID-19…

Canada’s performance on the world stage…

Housing and real-estate outlooks…

  • As Canadian Real Estate Wealth magazine attests, census population and dwelling count data are important for the real estate industry.  Shortly after the 2021 census population numbers were released, RE/MAX Canada used the data in their Quarter Century Market Report. Real-estate firms and professionals frequently use census data in their blog posts and other publications about market outlooks.

La Francophonie…

  • The Société acadienne et francophone de l'Île-du-Prince-Édouard (SAF’Île) are strong supporters of the census and use census data to understand how many Acadian francophones live in the province.  They talk about census data on their website as a reflection of their representation in the province.

The impact of diseases and infections…

  • In November 2021, the Canadian Cancer Statistics Advisory Committee, in collaboration with the Canadian Cancer Society, Statistics Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, released the Canadian Cancer Statistics Report 2021. This report cites census data extensively to provide estimates of the impact of cancer in Canada.
  • Public Health Ontario used census data to look at neighbourhood-level trends of COVID-19 spread from a health equity lens. Their April 2022 report, COVID-19 in Ontario – A Focus on Neighbourhood Diversity, February 26, 2020 to December 13, 2021, uses data from the Canadian census to assess neighbourhoods in the province based on: (1) the proportion of non-white and non-Indigenous residents, (2) the proportion of immigrants that arrived in Canada within the past five years, or (3) both.

4. Census resources for students

Where can I find information from the Census?

  • Statistics Canada publishes FREE data, analysis and other resources at statcan.gc.ca under the ‘Census’ tab. Check out the Release Schedule to see what is available for each release topic.
  • You can access the latest census data on StatsCAN, the agency’s mobile application; it is free to download from Google Play and the Apple App Store.
  • The Statistics Canada Library houses a comprehensive repository of publications produced by Statistics Canada and its predecessor organizations. This includes historical material dating back to 1851.
  • Many students and faculty have access to Public Use Microdata Files (PUMFs) and other resources through the Data Liberation Initiative (DLI), a partnership between post-secondary institutions and Statistics Canada. Material is available through an Electronic File Transfer (EFT) server or on repositories including Abacus, ODESI and CHASS. Consult your institution’s library website or reference librarian for more information.

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Accessibility and Alternate Formats

Statistics Canada web pages are tested to ensure full compliance with accessibility standards. Sign language video summaries of census data releases are also provided at Videos - Census. Data users can request materials in alternate formats by contacting Statistics Canada at 1-800-263-1136 (toll free) or 514-283-8300, or at infostats@statcan.gc.ca.

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What types of resources are available?

The following list describes products and services that provide access to Census information.   

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Data products

Raw data and data visualizations. Many are specific to Census Geography.

  • Census Profile: Profile of a community or region, for provinces and territories, census metropolitan areas, communities and census tracts.
  • Indigenous Population Profile: Census information focusing on the Indigenous identity population of various geographic areas. Data are available by age group for selected socio-demographic characteristics.
  • Data tables: Cross-tabulations based on various census topics.
  • Highlight tables: Information by topic via key indicators for various levels of geography. Users can perform simple rank and sort functions.
  • Data visualization products: Includes graphs and interactive charts.
  • Infographics: Key information in an easy-to-understand format.
  • Key indicators: Quick snapshots of data highlights by topic. Some are also provided as Census Analysis.

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Census Analysis

Key findings and impacts. Provides a deeper understanding of what the data mean.

  • The Daily: Statistics Canada’s official release bulletin and the first line of communication with the media and the public.
  • Census in Brief: Short analytical articles that zoom in on specific topics of interest.
  • Insights on Canadian Society: Articles that bring together and analyze a wide range of data sources, including the census.

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Reference Materials

Methodology and technical terms. Cover various aspects of the census and are intended to support the use of data. 

  • Guide to the Census of Population: Provides an overview of the Census of Population content determination, collection, processing, data quality assessment, confidentiality guidelines and dissemination.
  • Reference guides: How-to guides for effective data usage and interpretation.
  • Census Dictionary: Detailed definitions of concepts, variables and geographic terms, as well as historical information.
  • Technical reports: Aimed at moderate and sophisticated data users, these reports examine different aspects of the census such as coverage, sampling and weighting; Indigenous Peoples; and data on military experience.
  • Data quality and confidentiality information: Technical resources with details on how the data were produced.
  • Supporting documentation: Fact sheets, videos and other references on topics such as naming conventions (name formats) and concepts specific to each release topic.

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Census Geography Tools

Maps, geospatial apps and more. These cover a wide range of geographic areas and help users relate census data to them.

  • Spatial information products: These products show users the shape and location of geographic features. Go to statcan.gc.ca to learn more about products in this category.
  • Maps: Census maps show Canada and its geographic areas for which census data are tabulated and disseminated. This category includes static reference and thematic maps as well as the interactive mapping applications GeoSearch and Census Program Data Viewer.
  • Attribute information products: Tabular information for use with mapping and Geographic Information System (GIS) applications. A GeoSuite data package containing all of the 2021 tables in CSV format is available for download.
  • Reference materials: Specialized technical documents that allow users to better understand census geography products and concepts.

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5. Citation

Authors and researchers must give full credit for any Statistics Canada data, analysis and other content used or referred to in their studies, articles, papers and other research works.

Statistics Canada's citation guide provides examples of how to build bibliographic references when citing Statistics Canada products and materials. It also includes citation style suggestions by subject matter.

However, it does not intend to displace any existing requirements of universities, educational institutions, corporations and other users.

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Fun Facts

Early censuses required enumerators to adventure across the country in a camping outfit with pack-horses, dog-trains, and canoes.

The Census communications program once had Census messages on food items such as milk bags and cartons, margarine containers, and sugar packages.

In 1971, a voluntary project in which school children were familiarized with the census involved the participation of one million students. A similar project runs today, called Census at School.

The first known systematic enumeration of the colony population in Canada was first conducted in the winter of 1666–1667 by the first Intendant of New France, Jean Talon.

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Morris, M. (2018). Standing on the shoulders of Giants: History of Statistics Canada: 1970 to 2008. Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-20-0001/892000012018001-eng.htm

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