StatsCan to hire 3,000 people in the North for 2021 census

This is the first time Statistics Canada is hiring people in northern and remote communities to carry out the census. The decision was driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agency is also increasing the pay to address high living expenses

An image of a 2016 census. The 2021 census will be the first time the territories will have local enumerators, instead of having a team flown in from the South to collect data. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Statistics Canada is taking a different approach to carrying out the 2021 census in the North. 

The agency is looking to hire 3,000 residents from communities in the northern territories and provinces, as it moves forward with a census amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"In past censuses we've sent teams up from the South to enumerate in the North and obviously because of the pandemic, that's not possible," said Geoff Bowlby, the director general of the census program.

"It forced us to be more creative in our approach to hiring,"

Through consultation with statistics offices in Yukon and the N.W.T., Statistics Canada has also increased the hourly wage for northern enumerators to $29 because of high living expenses in the North.

Residents across all of Canada will also be able to fill out the census online — marking a first for the territories.

"We really need to make sure that we offer Canadians as many ways to respond to the census on their own, without having someone come to your door so that they feel safe [and] they feel comfortable responding to the census," said Bowlby.

Northern residents can expect to receive a letter from Statistics Canada the week of May 3rd with information needed to access the online version or to request a paper copy of this year's census.

Bowlby is aiming for a 98 per cent response rate and for most residents to have their census completed by May 11th, but said they will accept answers as late as July.

"I do hope what we learn from this experience in 2021 applies to the next time we run the census in 2026," he said.

Bowlby said if gathering data locally and using the internet works for people in the North, it's better for the Canadian taxpayer because it will be cheaper. And that, he said, will benefit everyone in the long-run.