StatsCan plans 'contactless' census for 2021 in response to COVID-19

Statistics Canada is working on plans to deliver a "contactless census" next May if COVID-19 remains a threat.

Census will go ahead in May 2021 in accordance with public health advice, agency says

Statistics Canada is working on plans to deliver a "contactless census" next May in the event that COVID-19 remains an issue. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Statistics Canada is working on plans to deliver a "contactless census" next May if COVID-19 remains a threat.

Officials from the agency said Friday the census day will be May 11, 2021, as planned. But efforts are being made to protect the health and safety of both census staff and Canadians, and any in-person census-taking will respect any applicable health advice such as physical distancing and protective gear.

In a technical briefing given on condition they not be named, StatsCan officials said in 2016, almost 90 per cent of Canadians responded to the census without an in-person contact — online or by mail.

Some of the data collected in the 2021 survey may also show if there are long-term changes to Canada as a result of the pandemic, such as an increase in telecommuting and other impacts on the labour force.

On Friday, Statistics Canada published the full questionnaires that will be used for the census — which include for the first time questions to count transgender Canadians, veterans and active military personnel and members of Métis groups.

The changes to the 2021 questionnaire emerged out of consultations with various communities who felt they didn't see themselves reflected in the questions in 2016.

The questions now ask a respondent's sex at birth and current gender, which the questionnaire notes may be different from what is on current legal documents.

There is a new question looking for the numbers of Inuit enrolled in Inuit land claims agreements, and another asking about Métis government representation.

The census will also ask about all the ways people commute to work — part of the agency's effort to determine how many Canadians use public transportation instead of private vehicles.

Statistics Canada is no longer providing a list of suggestions of ethnicity, as it has in years past. Canada's Jewish community was flummoxed after the 2016 census cut its population in half, from 309,000 in 2011 to about 143,000 in 2016.

The change happened after "Jewish" was dropped as one of the 20 suggested answers on the questionnaire, because it had not been one of the top 20 answers in 2011. The 2021 question asking about the ethnic or cultural origins of respondents' ancestors does not provide any suggested responses.

Additionally, Statistics Canada is trying to get information about why people work part time or seasonally for the first time.

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