COVID can't stop data collection: The census is back

·3 min read

The 2021 Canadian Census is now in session.

This week, New Brunswick households began receiving 2021 Canadian census notices, complete with online access codes.

The online portal is now open to accept responses from every household. The questionnaire appears after an access code, unique to each person, is input as instructed, said Marc Melanson, area manager for the Atlantic provinces for the census.

And while the census encourages everyone to complete it by May 11, this is not a hard deadline, Melanson said.

If someone does not have access to the internet or does not wish to complete the census online, it can also be completed over the phone or by calling the phone number listed inside to have a paper copy mailed to you, he said.

This year, there is a surprising amount of enthusiasm for those hoping to get the long-form census, Melanson said, something received by only 25 per cent of households. The only way to know if your household will be invited to complete the long-form census is to enter your access code or by calling to have someone help you complete it, he said.

On Monday, New Brunswickers eager to do the census immediately by phone were already reporting waits on phone lines.

Canadians were keen to complete the 2016 census with hashtags related to the census trending on Twitter during the first few days of that survey’s release. On Monday #2021Census was also trending, with many respondents including comments about how important they felt data collected will be, this year more than ever.

The response rate to the 2016 census was 98.4 per cent, said StatCan spokesperson Peter Frayne.

The 2016 census craze also resulted in a short-lived website crash due to too many Canadians wanting to fill out the census right away, a problem Lynn Barr-Telford, assistant chief statistician for Statistics Canada, told the Times & Transcript last summer should now be resolved thanks to extensive testing.

“I think 2016 really showed how fundamentally important the census is to Canadians and I know we can rely on Canadians to participate,” she said.

This year, for the first time, the census will include questions around a person’s sex at birth, as well as current gender, expanded questions around ethnic and cultural origin, expanded questions around the economic and work situations of Canadians and more, said Barr-Telford. More data about minority language rights is also being collected, something French language advocates in New Brunswick have said is long overdue.

The census is confidential, said Melanson. The information is not shared with other government departments, he said, and responses will not be linked to your name and stored somewhere.

Completing the census is mandatory and should be filled out so the data is accurate as of May 11, said Melanson. Information should reflect the household; a single address will not receive multiple codes for each individual.

Those who do not fill in the census will be contacted by StatCan reminding them to do so and helping if necessary, Melanson said. First contact will be over the phone then, if necessary, StatCan employees wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and remaining outside dwellings will visit households to remind residents or help them fill out the census.

Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal

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