Painting a Portrait of Canada: The 2021 Census of Population
9. Confidentiality, privacy and digital security

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The government has an obligation to ensure that any personal information provided by the public for statistical purposes is kept strictly confidential, in accordance with the Statistics Act.

Confidentiality principles

Statistics Canada is bound by law to protect the identity of individuals at every step of the statistical process, including in all published data. Statistics Canada will never release identifiers, such as names, addresses or email addresses, either alone or in combination with any other information from the census questionnaire. These identifiers will never be given or sold to any individual or organization, or added to any mailing list.

In Canada, great care is taken to ensure that the information collected in the census is in the public interest, cannot be obtained effectively from other sources and can be collected efficiently enough to meet information requirements.

All information provided is securely held and used for statistical purposes only.

Statistics Canada places the highest priority on maintaining the confidentiality of information on individual questionnaires. The following stringent procedures have been implemented to ensure that confidentiality is maintained at all times:

Statistical confidentiality

Statistics Canada takes the following measures to prevent the release of statistical information that identifies the characteristics of an individual person, household or group of people:

Statistics Canada consults with users to balance the need for more information with its requirement to protect confidentiality.

The Statistics Act prohibits the use of census data for non-statistical purposes.

Security of field staff

Statistics Canada requires that census employees hold an enhanced reliability clearance. Candidates for census employment authorize Statistics Canada to conduct security checks, including a fingerprint-based criminal record check (completed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on behalf of Statistics Canada) and a credit check for certain positions. Fingerprints and information required for the credit check are collected by trained Statistics Canada employees during the selection process.

In addition, census employees are sworn to secrecy under the Statistics Act. This oath remains in effect throughout their term of employment and for life after that term of employment ends.

Any suspected breach of the confidentiality of census information is a serious matter that would be investigated immediately and thoroughly, and would be subject to the full force of the Statistics Act.

Security of outsourced services

Statistics Canada relies on private contractors to provide equipment, printing and other services. However, these contractors never have access to confidential data.

Digital security

Statistics Canada takes every precaution to protect information. The latest technologies are used to ensure that Statistics Canada’s strict security and confidentiality requirements are met.

Respondents are sent a secure access code by mail. Once respondents have obtained their code, they can use it to access their online questionnaire.

Encryption technologies ensure that the information passing between respondents’ computers and the agency’s web server is secure.

Census data are processed and stored on a high-security internal network. Powerful firewalls, intrusion detection systems and stringent access control procedures limit access to computer systems and databases. These systems have never been breached.

Census employees can access census data only from secure Statistics Canada locations.

Preserving census information

Statistics Canada is working with Library and Archives Canada (LAC) to determine the best way to preserve census records so that the information can be released in 92 years.

Statistics Canada takes every precaution to protect information. The latest technologies are used to ensure that Statistics Canada’s strict security and confidentiality requirements are met.
Respondents are sent a secure access code by mail. Once respondents have obtained their code, they can use it to access their online questionnaire.

LAC holds an extensive collection of census records from 1666 to 1926.

According to the Statistics Act, census data collected from 1910 to 2005, and those collected in or after 2021, will be transferred to LAC to be released to the public 92 years after the censuses were taken.

The 1926 Census of the Prairie Provinces was transferred from Statistics Canada to LAC on June 1, 2018.

While not all census records can be searched through the LAC website, records from the 1926 Census and previous censuses can be browsed free of charge at www.ancestry.ca. Users can also conduct searches based on various fields, including surname and given name.

Statistics Canada has microfilm copies of the census questionnaires from 1921 to 2001. The original paper questionnaires were shredded and destroyed.

The 2006, 2011 and 2016 censuses and the 2011 National Household Survey, which replaced the long-form census in 2011, were not microfilmed. Instead, Statistics Canada retained an archival data file containing all responses, including those submitted online. The original paper questionnaires were shredded and destroyed.

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