The long-form census is back – here’s what you need to know

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Long-form census makes its comeback
WATCH: The mandatory long-form census is being sent to Canadians for the first time in a decade. – May 2, 2016

That’s right, after years on the sidelines, the long-form census will once again be assigned to some Canadians this year.

Maybe you’ve forgotten the controversy, or after so long, maybe you’ve forgotten what the long-form census all about.

Here’s what you need to know about the long-form census:

1. What is the long-form census?

Every household in Canada receives a basic census questionnaire – commonly called the short-form. This includes some simple questions about how many people live at a residence, their sex, age and marital status. It also asks a couple of questions about whether individuals speak English or French well enough to conduct a conversation, and whether other languages are spoken at home.

One quarter of households receive the long-form census, which includes all the questions in the short-form, plus a number of additional questions.

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2. What’s in the long-form census?

The long-form census includes some extra questions on a number of topics, like:

  • Physical disabilities
  • Health conditions
  • Place of birth
  • Ethnicity
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Commuting
  • Housing costs
  • Housing characteristics – like size and age

These questions need to be answered for every individual in the household.

3. Do I have to fill it out?

Yes, yes you do. It’s mandatory that you fill out whatever census you’re given: whether it’s the short or long form.

4. How do I fill it out?

This year, you have the option of filling out the census online. In fact, it’s almost encouraged – you won’t get the old-style paper copy unless you ask for one.

You’ll get a letter with a 16-digit access code from Statistics Canada in the mail, and you can use that to access the online questionnaire at Just follow the instructions, and if you have problems, call the census help line.

5. How long has it been since we’ve had a long-form census?

The last long-form census was done in 2006, 10 years ago. It was cancelled by the Conservative government and replaced with a voluntary questionnaire, the National Household Survey, in 2011.

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However, because it was voluntary, a lot of people didn’t fill it out. Over 26 per cent of surveys weren’t returned, compared to 6.5 per cent of 2006’s mandatory long-form census.

Very poor people, very rich people, and those in less-dense neighbourhoods were less likely to fill out the survey, according to a Global News analysis of response rates.

READ MORE: Who filled out the National Household Survey?

The Liberal party promised to restore the long-form census in the 2015 election campaign, and one of its first actions in office was to bring it back.

READ MORE: Researchers, public officials happy long-form census to be reinstated

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