Census compliance higher than expected in month since 'census day': StatsCan

More Canadians have completed the mandatory 2016 census than Statistics Canada expected, with the agency saying they've received 12.5 million questionnaires since census day one month ago.

About 12.5 million households have completed the mandatory survey, according to Statistics Canada

Statistics Canada has seen sustained enthusiasm for completing the mandatory 2016 census, says census program director Marc Hamel. (CBC)

More Canadians have completed the mandatory 2016 census than Statistics Canada expected, with the agency saying they've received some 12.5 million questionnaires since census day one month ago.

That's "slightly more" than the agency anticipated it would have at the one-month point, based on response rates in 2011 and this year's predictions, said Marc Hamel, director general of the census program at Statistics Canada.

"There's been a lot of enthusiasm in participating. We had very high response right off the bat in early May, and it's been [a] sustained response," Hamel said.

Letters from Statistics Canada containing access codes for the 2016 census ask recipients to "please complete it by May 10." (Alistair Steele/CBC)

The Liberal government restored the mandatory long-form census, which was scrapped by the Conservatives five years ago, after coming to power in the fall.

In early May, Statistics Canada mailed out access codes with instructions to complete the questionnaire online by May 10 — known as census day — but by that point, #Census2016 had been trending on social media for at least a week as eager Canadians filled out both the long-form and the short-form questionnaire.

Officials later clarified May 10 was not a deadline but a reference day that Statistics Canada uses when calculating the country's population and various demographic indicators.

Enumerators are now going door-to-door to track down the two million dwellings the government hasn't heard from. More than 20,000 enumerators are working evenings and weekends to try to reach Canadians when they're at home.

Census enumerators are working evenings and weekends to reach Canadians who have yet to fill out the 2016 census, Statistics Canada says. (The Associated Press)

"They're a bit surprised sometimes to see an enumerator show up," Hamel said. "It's not that they didn't want to do it, but the enumerators are trained to provide assistance in completing the form."

Statistics Canada won't provide an exact rate for what percentage of the population has filled out the census until it knows how many of the outstanding addresses are unoccupied, Hamel said.

Enumerators will continue to knock on doors for the next few weeks, and then the agency will assess what its next steps should be, Hamel said.

The potential penalty for not completing the census is a $500 fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months.

Statisticians need a minimum response rate of 98 per cent from each community to make accurate assessments, Hamel said.