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Canadian Census

This guide provides information about the Canadian Census, past and present, including links to census data products organized by census year.


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Amy Paterson
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The 2016 Census, Visualized

Find latest data from the 2016 Census

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The Census: Getting Started

Census Reference Materials

A Few Basic Terms

Aggregate Data

Data that have been aggregated (as opposed to microdata). To aggregate, means to join together, or to add together smaller data units into larger totals.  Statistics Canada's aggregate data sets have typically been produced when microdata is unavailable, often due to privacy restrictions.  Some examples of Statistics Canada aggregate data include CANSIM time series' or Canadian Business Patterns which uses Beyond 20/20 to provide aggregate data

Census of Population

The Census of Population is conducted every five years by Statistics Canada.  The census is used to collect data about the population of Canada - people, households, and their demographic and socio-economic characteristics.  

Census of Agriculture

The Census of Agriculture is taken at the same time as the Census of Population - every five years.  In Canada, every person responsible for an operation such as a farm or ranch that produces agricultural products for sale is required to complete a Census of Agriculture questionnaire. 

Geospatial Data

Geospatial data are used together with geographic information system (GIS) software to define geographic areas.  Examples of GIS software include ArcInfo and MapInfo, as well as the open source tools PSPP and R.  Geospatial data can be used in conjunction with census data through the use of a common geographic unit ID field.  


"Data about data".  Metadata consists of information describing information.  Metadata can be administrative, structural, and/or descriptive, and some widely recognized metadata schemes include Dublin Core, AACR2/Marc, and EAD.


Microdata is the data that is directly observed or collected from a specific unit of observation.  In Statistics Canada Census of Population files, this unit of observation is typically an individual, household, or family.   Statistics Canada microdata files must be used in conjunction with metadata before they can be employed for analysis and interpretation.

Public Use Microdata File (PUMF)

PUMFs are microdata files that have been made available for public use.  Statistics Canada has created PUMFs of census data, available by request through the Data Liberation Initiative or freely through the Statistics Canada website.  See, for example, the 2006 Census of Canada PUMF.