What you need to know about the return of the long-form census

May 2nd is census day in Canada. While a majority of Canadians will receive the 10-question short form survey, one in four homes will receive the long form census, which includes 40 questions.
The long-form census returns this May and Canadians will be filling it out soon. Instead of a census in 2011, Canadians voluntarily filled out a national household survey. (CBC)

May is census month in Canada.

While a majority of Canadians will receive the 10-question survey, one in four homes will receive the long-form census, which includes 40 questions.

The long-form census was last used in the 2006 count. In 2011, there was no mandatory long-form census because the Conservative government cited privacy issues and replaced it with the voluntary national household survey. The Liberal government reinstated the long-form census after being elected last year.

Census collects important data

Both the long and short-form census collect information that may help shape future growth in the country.

"What are some of the habits? Where has there been growth?" Gary Dillon, the director of the central region for Statistics Canada, told CBC News. 

"Where should we be looking for more health care?  Where should we be looking for more schools, roads, bridges and so on. All that information is collected through either partly from the long form or short form," he said.

Highlights of some questions being asked:

  • Basic population questions are used for programs like the Old Age Security and child tax benefits.
  • The questions about immigration status and visible minorities are required for programs under the Employment Equity Act and the Citizenship Act.
  • Questions on language are required for the Official Languages Act.
  • Labour market questions for the Employment Insurance Act.
  • Questions on housing for housing programs and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
  • Questions on First Nations for the Indian Act, or for use by FN governments

Important dates to remember

On May 2nd Canadians will receive an invitation to go online to fill out the form. There will also be an 800 number for anyone interested in filling out the paper copy of the survey. May 10th is the day Canadians will fill out the survey.

"Where you lived on May 10th...if you moved May 20th, you still participate based on where you were May 10th," said Dillon.

The information gathered from the census is released on the following days:

  • February 8, 2017: Population and dwelling counts.
  • May 3, 2017: Age and sex, type of dwelling.
  • May 10, 2017: Agriculture.
  • August 2, 2017: Families, households and marital status, language.
  • September 13, 2017: Income.
  • October 25, 2017 Immigration and ethnocultural diversity, housing, Aboriginal people.                         
  •  November 29, 2017:Education, labour, journey to work, language of work, mobility and migration.

Statistics Canada hopes to have the census completed by the end of July.


  • An earlier version of this story said that May 2nd is census day in Canada. That's actually the day when Canadians receive their censuses in the mail. May 10th is when Canadians fill out the censuses.
    Apr 27, 2016 10:57 AM ET