A Statistics Canada 2016 Census mailer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Statistics Canada sees more demand to fill out census online during pandemic

The agency made a change to anyone in the country to file through the internet-based form for the first time ever

Statistics Canada says the response to the census is higher than the agency expected so far, with online submissions coming from some remote communities for the first time.

Census cards with information about how to fill out the short- and long-form questionnaires went out to households in the last week ahead of census day on May 11.

One reason for the higher online response involves a pandemic-related change the agency made this year to allow anyone in the country to file through the internet-based form for the first time.

Geoff Bowlby, director general at Statistics Canada responsible for the census, says the agency assumed in previous census cycles that remote parts of the country didn’t have enough internet coverage to allow for online responses.

Now, he says, the agency is getting responses at a faster rate than expected from urban centres, First Nations, rural and remote communities.

Bowlby says the agency has even received a response from as far north as Grise Fiord in Nunavut, which registered a population of 129 in the last census five years ago.

The agency had expected about eight in every 10 people to respond to the census online, but that number could change as Bowlby noted that fewer people are requesting paper questionnaires.

He says having more online responses makes life easier for agency analysts, and safer for workers who will have to manually input fewer paper replies at a processing centre in the National Capital Region.

Analysts will spend the coming months sifting through the data gleaned from the census forms before releasing results in 2022.

The census, which takes place once every five years, provides the most detailed look at Canadians, leaving a wealth of information for demographers to review to see how the country continues to change.

For policy-makers, the census provides the base for local decisions on where to build new schools and hospitals, and how much the federal government sends to provinces and territories in transfers payments to pay for health-care systems.

But the pandemic has thrown a statistical wrench into the paint-by-numbers portrait of the population as daily routines have changed over the last year due to COVID-19.

Bowlby says the agency is looking at how to analyze responses to questions affected by the pandemic, such as a commute to work that for some people has been replaced by a walk down the staircase to a home office in the basement.

“We’ve had the same kind of conversations at our workplace. We’re all working from home at StatCan and can relate to how people might have difficulty responding to some of the questions because of COVID,” Bowlby said.

“As a result, we’re aware of this and there is, in fact, guidance for any respondent who is having trouble understanding how they should respond to those questions.”

The agency will again use existing data held by governments, such as income information from the Canada Revenue Agency, to supplement or replace parts of the questionnaire.

Statistics Canada had been working on ways to use these administrative data to potentially replace the short-form census that asks questions on the number of people in a home, their ages, and relationships.

It had to test those efforts five years ago when it used administrative data to help enumerate Fort McMurray during the wildfires that devastated the Alberta city.

Bowlby says the agency is still studying how a digital register of the population might work, citing technical barriers and the need to consult Canadians should it ever decide to replace parts of the questionnaires.

“If we were to replace some parts of the census, we have to be absolutely sure that … doesn’t impact the quality of the information that Canadians expect of the census,” he said.

“You can see how Canadians are enthusiastically taking up the census. There is a sense of pride in responding to the census form.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Census

Just Posted

This photo of the small wildfire burning above Naramata was taken at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021 (Monique Tamminga Western News)
BC Wildfire on scene of small wildfire above Naramata

Black smoke can be seen rising from the mountain

Keremeos’ heritage Grist Mill and Gardens. (Brennan Phillips - Keremeos Review)
Keremeos Grist Mill looking forward to restrictions easing with exclusive concert planned

Juno Award-winning folk artist Valdy is set to take the stage

Letter writer says COVID has created lots of newbie cyclists who don't know rules of cycling. (File photo)
LETTER: Newbie cyclists in Penticton need lessons on rules of the road

Penticton cycling group just received city funding, should give back by offering how-to lessons

No dental coverage for low income Canadians. (File photo)
OPINION: Penticton MP’s proposal for universal dental coverage rejected

One in 3 Canadians have no dental coverage, with COVID making it even worse

The weekly COVID-19 map for June 6 to 12. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees only 5 new cases in last week

The Similkameen Valley went a second week without any new cases

Bear wanders Kelowna on June 15. (Michelle Wallace/Facebook)
Bear climbs fence, uses crosswalk in Kelowna

The bear was spotted on Baron Road Wednesday evening

Students in the Grade 10 entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School have completed a cookbook with international recipes. (Contributed)
Summerland students create virtual international cookbook

Entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School uses virtual cookbook as fundraiser

Hundreds of people, young and old, joined the three-day Walking Our Spirits Home procession, honouring residential school survivors, those who never made it home and all those affected by the institutions. Here people walk the third portion on June 13. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Walking Our Spirits Home from Kamloops provides path to healing

First Nations in and beyond Secwépemc territory join in to honour residential school survivors

More flames
Lake Country home destroyed in large blaze, 11 dogs rescued

Fire crews are responding to 10839 Hallam Drive

(Facebook/Kelowna Cabs)
Kelowna Cabs reaches tentative agreement with dispatchers union

The tentative agreement could help end the dispute between the taxi company and the dispatchers

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

A boat sharing service is extending to Summerland. The company, Penticton Boat Club and Rentals, is also taking over the boat rentals at Summerland Waterfront Resort. (Photo by Chris Stenberg)
Boat sharing service extended from Penticton to Summerland

Company will also operate boat rentals at Summerland Waterfront Resort

201 First Street West 1980s. Prior revitalization. (Photo from Revelstoke Museum and Archives)
Man who redesigned downtown Revelstoke honoured with lifetime achievement award

Robert Inwood has worked on historical projects across the province

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

Most Read