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Statistics Canada

Statistics Canada () is the Canadian federal government agency commissioned with producing statistics to help better understand Canada, its population, resources, economy, society, and culture. Its headquarters is in Ottawa.[1]

The bureau is commonly called StatCan or StatsCan although StatCan is the official abbreviation. It has regularly been considered the best statistical organization in the world by The Economist,[2] such as in the 1991 and 1993 "Good Statistics" surveys. Public Policy Forum and others have also ranked it first.

Statistics is a federal responsibility in Canada and Statistics Canada produces statistics for all the provinces as well as the federal government. In addition to conducting about 350 active surveys on virtually all aspects of Canadian life, Statistics Canada undertakes a country-wide census every five years on the first and sixth year of each decade. By law, every household must complete the Canada Census form.[3] The Canadian census held in May 2006, was when an Internet version was made widely available for the first time. The most recent census was held in May 2011, again with the internet being the primary method for statistical data collection.

Statistics Canada was formed in 1971, replacing the Dominion Bureau of Statistics. The Dominion Bureau of Statistics was formed in 1918. Internationally, Statistics Canada is held in high regard for the quality of its data and its methodology.



The head of Statistics Canada is the Chief Statistician of Canada. The heads of Statistics Canada and the previous organization, the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, are:


Statistics Canada is governed by the Statistics Act, Revised Statutes of Canada 1985.


Statistics Canada publishes numerous documents covering a range of statistical information about Canada, including census data, economic and health indicators, immigration economics, income distribution, and social and justice conditions. It also publishes a peer-reviewed statistics journal, Survey Methodology. A press release on April 24, 2006, indicated that "effective today, all electronic publications on Statistics Canada's Web site will be available free of charge."[4] though these free publications are only overviews of the raw data, which can often be only available under CANSIM (Canadian Socio-economic Information Management System), a fee-based service. Statistics Canada does not consider CANSIM to be part of its electronic publications, even though it is also available electronically.


Long-standing issues (census)

Debate over the census and their contents have periodically created changes in the Statistics Act such as a 2005 amendment making the privacy restrictions of the census information expire after more than a century. Some groups such as the Freedom Party of Ontario stand in perpetual opposition to census collection as currently performed based on beliefs of how the data is used and privacy issues[5] however their belief that using statistical data to analyze resource allocation is a bad thing does not seem to be a widely held belief. For the most part, issues over the census tend to be lower priority for most Canadians.[6]

Recent changes

On June 17, 2010 an Order in Council was created by the Minister of Industry defining the questions for the 2011 Census as including only the short-form questions; this was published in the Canada Gazette on June 26, 2010,[7] however a news release was not issued by Minister of Industry Tony Clement until July 13, 2010. This release stated in part "The government will retain the mandatory short form that will collect basic demographic information. To meet the need for additional information, and to respect the privacy wishes of Canadians, the government has introduced the voluntary National Household Survey".[8] On July 30, 2010 Statistics Canada published a description of the National Household Survey.[9]

The federal Minister of Industry Tony Clement initially indicated that these changes were being made based on consultations with Statistics Canada[10] but was forced to admit that the change from a mandatory to voluntary form was not one of the recommendations received from StatCan after the head of the organization Munir Sheikh resigned in protest.[11] Information has since been uncovered that indicates attempts on the part of the government to distance themselves from the decision, instructing Statistics Canada officials to delete the phrase "as per government decision" from documents which were being written to inform Statistics Canada staff of the change.[12] The minister has since claimed that concerns over privacy[13] and the threat of jail time[14] are the reasons for the change[15] and has refused to reverse his decision[16] stating that the Prime Minister supports this legislation.[17] The argument over privacy has subsequently been undermined by a Privacy Commissioner statement that she was satisfied with the measures Statistics Canada had put into place to protect privacy .[18] Other industry professionals have also come out in defense of Statistics Canada s record on privacy issues.[6][19] The government has maintained its position, most recently expressed by Lynn Meahan, press secretary to the Industry Minister, that the new census will result in "useable and useful data that can meet the needs of many users." [20]

Central to the debate on this issue is the effect on the quality of data which will be collected by Statistics Canada under the new system. Many groups have made the claim that a voluntary system will not provide a quality of data consistent with what Statistics Canada is known for[6][11][16][19] while others feel that politically motivated changes to StatCan methodology taints the reputation of the whole organization in the international setting.[21] Supporters of the change have offered models of European countries who are adopting alternate systems,[13] although in these states the census is being replaced with a database of information on each citizen rather than a voluntary poll and none of these systems are planned for the Canadian 2011 census. They also challenge the current system's ability to cope with rapid socio-demographic changes, though this would not be addressed without increasing the frequency of the survey. Some public opposition to the changes has been expressed through the social media network Facebook.[22]

Insider trading allegations

Statistics Canada's habit of providing reports to a number of recipients ahead of the public has been questioned on a number of occasions, the latest of which occurred Oct 17, 2011, when Bloomberg published an article on this matter.[23]

2012 layoffs

Nearly half of Statistics Canada's 5000 employees were notified in April 2012 that their jobs might be eliminated as part of austerity measures imposed by the Conservative government.[24] The 2,300 employees will undergo a process to determine which ones are eliminated and which are given early retirement or put in new positions.[25] The government cuts will reduce the amount of information StatsCan produces and may result in data collection and processing services being contracted out.[24]


Statistics Canada uses a variety of terms to designate regions in Canada for statistical purposes:

References and notes

Further reading

External links

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