Census form

Do Your Part to Help Canada Thrive

It's Census Day in Canada, and the long form census is back! Now it's up to all of us to provide crucial data for the researchers.


Today is the official Census Day in Canada and by filling out the survey, you become an integral part of the largest research effort in the country.  The data collected from each household helps inform government agencies what infrastructure is needed in a community, tells businesses the best places to open in order to meet their clients’ needs, and provides community advocates with evidence that services are needed in a neighbourhood.

But your contribution to science doesn’t end there. Census data is also used in other research efforts, in disciplines ranging from environmental science to community health. Studies like the one published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology looking at socioeconomic status and overall survival rates in people with head and neck cancer in Toronto, would not have been possible without the Census. In fact, this year alone, Census data has been cited in thousands of scientific publications – and it’s only May.

Because of the broad applications of the Census, it is crucial that the data generated are meaningful. When the Conservative government replaced the mandatory long-form Census with the voluntary National Housing Survey in 2011, it greatly decreased the quality of the data collected. This was mostly due to a decrease in participation which reached only 77 per cent in 2011, down from 93.5 per cent in 2006.  Because of this, the data collected for some regions were insufficient and analysts were unable to draw any meaningful conclusions for smaller communities.

The long form census has been reinstated this year under the new Liberal government.  However, only one in four Canadian households were selected to complete it.  Not to worry, if you were one of the people who received the short form Census (like me), The Globe and Mail has suggested a few additional questions for us to enjoy.

This is the first year the census could be completed ahead of time online. Canadians were so excited to fill it out last week that they crashed the website and the hastag #Census2016 trended nationwide. Will we crash the server again today?

Note:  Statistics Canada has suspended Census collection in the Fort McMurray area to accommodate residents who have been displaced by the wild fires in the region.

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Allison Guy is a freelance science writer who is passionate about increasing scientific literacy and enhancing scientific discourse among the public. She holds a MSc in neuroscience from the University of Toronto and has been working as a drug development consultant for the pharmaceutical industry both domestically and abroad for the last 5 years. She is also a lecturer at Ryerson University in the Department of Chemistry and Biology and at the G. Raymond Chang School where she teaches pharmaceutical development and regulation.