The Census of Population is conducted by Statistics Canada every 5 years, and consists of both mandatory short-form census, answered by all Canadians, and long-form census, which goes to 25% of the population. This program gives in-depth insights into many aspects of our population, including income, language, education level, and more. Because this program is mandatory, the data is available down to very small geographic areas for a number of topics, making it an excellent resource when looking at cities, towns, and smaller areas.
In 2011 the mandatory long-form census was replaced by a voluntary survey, called the National Household Survey. As this survey was not mandatory there are a number of geographic regions with response rates low enough that the results cannot be reported, and data from this survey is not directly comparable to data from the 2006 or 2016 Census.
The short-form census was not affected, meaning data that can be found in the short-form questionnaire is comparable in 2011.
Public-use microdata files for 1991, 1986, 1981, 1976, and 1971 are available through <odesi>.
Most pre-1971 census data are only available in print but much of it has been digitized and uploaded to the Internet Archive.
Statistics Canada has simplified its search interface to help you find what you need (data, infographics, and reports are a few things available on their website), and Wilfrid Laurier University has produced an excellent video to help you navigate to what you need.
Need just the audio, or want a transcript of the video? Click here to get to the video on the WLU website, where you can access these accessibility options
Anything smaller than a province is referred to as a small geography or small area. Because these areas are smaller, with a smaller population, there are fewer statistical and data products available. For an in-depth understanding of these divisions check out the Statistics Canada lllustrated Glossary. While these geographic areas are used for the Census, they are used more widely by Statistics Canada for surveys with results that can be released at a sub-provincial level. Useful geographies to know include:
Census Division (CD) - in B.C. these follow the boundaries and names of Regional Districts. We are located in the CD of Fraser-Fort George.
Census Subdivision (CSD) - these follow municipal boundaries. The city of Prince George is a CSD.
Census Metropolitan Area (CMA)/Census Agglomeration (CA) - these are groupings of CSDs centered around a single CSD based on to population of the central CSD and the degree of integration of the CSDs grouped together. The CA of Prince George, for example, includes Prince George, Shelley, and a number of other connecting CSDs.
Census Tract (CT) - Small geographic areas with a population of 10,000 or less. These are only found in CMAs and CAs with a core population of 50,000 or more - the CA of Prince George is split up in to CTs.
Dissemination Area (DA) - These are areas (usually made up of city blocks) with populations between 400 and 700. This is the smallest standard geographic area for which all census data is disseminated.
The level of geography you can access statistics and data for depends on a number of things - survey design, number and distribution of respondents, and the sensitivity of the information being collected. Sometimes results for a smaller area may reveal sensitive or identifying information for individuals, households, and businesses, and so these results are not generally available to the public. That being said, there are many results available for larger geographic levels in Canada. These are:
Country - all of Canada.
Regions (from west to east) - the Territories (Yukon, NWT, and Nunavut combined), British Columbia, Prairies (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba combined), Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and PEI combined.
Provinces - each province and territory separately.
Hoping for data and statistics at a smaller scale? The Census program provides the most information at smaller geography levels, but a number of surveys also provide information at a sub-provincial level. More information about those geographies can be found below.