Households across Canada are to begin receiving their yellow census packages in the mail Monday. 

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The Statistics Canada website displays links to the 2011 and 2006 census. ((The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick))

The 2011 short-form census consists of the same basic eight questions, including gender and date of birth, that appeared on the 2006 census short-form questionnaire, with the addition of two questions on language.

Under the Statistics Act, it is mandatory for Canadians to fill out the census, with the threat of fines for non-responders. If a respondent's completed form is not received by the beginning of June, an enumerator will visit the household to get the questionnaire.

This is the first time the census won't have a mandatory long-form questionnaire.

The Harper government cut the mandatory long-form census last year, and replaced it with a voluntary National Household Survey, which comes out approximately four weeks after the mandatory census.

The Tories argued they were striking a balance between the need for reliable data and the right of Canadians to refuse to divulge personal information.

Hundreds of organizations and municipalities, and some provinces, decried the move. A coalition of Maritime aboriginal groups argued in Federal Court in Halifax that the voluntary nature of the 2011 national household survey would produce skewed data about off-reserve populations, leaving them at a disadvantage.

In January, the court dismissed the action, saying the native groups failed to establish the existence of an aboriginal right that might be adversely affected by the changes.

Officials in Ottawa have tried to make filling out the census as easy as possible. It can can be completed online or on paper. It is available in English and French, as well as 20 ethnic languages, 11 aboriginal languages, Braille, audio and signed video.

The data collected is used by governments, businesses, associations and community organizations to plan services such as schools, daycare, police services and fire protection.

Census data is collected every five years. The results of the 2011 survey will be released next year.