Canada

‘As nerdy as it sounds’ some Canadians hope they get the long-form census to complete

Starting May 3, Canadians can complete their census questionnaire online, using an access code received in the mail

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On Statistics Canada’s website, there’s a big, black and red countdown to the 2021 Census. Currently, there’s just four days left. 

In early May, people across Canada will receive instructions on how to complete this year’s census in their mailboxes, and they can decide whether to complete the questionnaire on paper, over the phone or online.

The aim of the census  — which includes the Census of Agriculture and Census of Population — is to give a complete picture of Canada’s population and the places where Canadians live, according to Statistics Canada. 

This includes enumerating the entire population of the country: Canadian citizens by birth and naturalization; landed immigrants and non-permanent residents, such as asylum seekers. 

While some Canadians may see the upcoming census as yet another government form to pencil in, others, like Carly Chalmers, are looking forward to taking the time to fill out the questionnaire. 

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“It’s something that we all participate in and it’s information that goes back to the government to hopefully make our lives better and improve our country,” said Chalmers, a marketing manager in Toronto. “I have this really kind of positive memory, you could say, of doing the last census, because I had just moved in with a new roommate who was a stranger to me, and we got to do the long-form census together. And it was just a very kind of interesting way to get to know someone.”

There are two kinds of census questionnaires sent out to the Canadian population. The first is the short-form questionnaire, which 75 per cent of people receive. It collects more basic information such as age, marital status and language. 

The second kind is the long-form census, which 25 per cent of people receive. In addition to collecting the same information as the shorter questionnaire, the long-form census also gathers information on Canadians’ social and economic situations, and the “dwellings” they occupy. 

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Starting May 3, Canadians can complete their questionnaire — short or long-form — online by using an access code received in the mail. 

Statistics Canada even has soundtracks for people to listen to while they fill out their census questionnaire — available on Spotify and YouTube — which include the likes of Drake, The Weeknd, Metric and Arcade Fire. 

Chalmers says that “as nerdy as it sounds” she would be excited to get the long-form census again. 

As someone who works in marketing, she says she knows what it’s like to be the person asking for information, so she’s “super willing” to put the effort in and “not just tick the boxes really fast and send it back.”

“To some degree, (it’s) almost a sense of civic pride,” she adds, “knowing that your experiences are helping the government to try to improve society.”

Census data provides key information on population growth, which is used to estimate future demand for pensions, child tax benefits and community services such as schools. For example, the last census revealed that 2016 marked the first time that Canada recorded more seniors than children 14 years of age and younger. 

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According to Statistics Canada, the 2021 census questionnaire will also contain “new and modified content that is critical to measuring equity, diversity and inclusivity.” This includes questions to count transgender and non-binary Canadians, and how people commute to work.

“It’s a permanent record … of Canada’s history, going into the future, of what Canada was and who Canada was at the time that census was taken,” said Scott Ritchings, a graphic designer in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. 

Just like Chalmers, Ritchings is also hoping to get the long-form census next month.

“It gives the clearest idea of who Canadians are,” he said.

“Being a graphic designer, data, I believe, is important. It helps the governments decide on all sorts of factors, because if they know where people live and what kind of situations that they live in, they can better suit how they address Canadians’ needs.” 

After Statistics Canada tweeted that the “census was almost here,” some Canadians online voiced their desire to fill out the long-form census — with some even asking if it was possible to request it (it’s not).

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The long-form questionnaire was re-introduced in the 2016 census, after it was eliminated in 2010 by the then-Conservative government. 

But, no matter the kind of census questionnaire people receive, all residents are legally required to complete it. Otherwise, they face a fine of as much as $500. 

“Canada is a very diverse place, a lot of people from different sorts of backgrounds live here. I would hope that a lot of people feel that it’s an opportunity for them to feel represented in some way,” said Chalmers. 

Statistics Canada says they expect more than 15 million households across the country to participate in the census, with an online participation rate of 80 per cent.

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