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Some Canadians didn’t fill out the census, could face fines or jail

Some Canadian households never filled out their census.
Some Canadian households never filled out their census. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

An unspecified number of Canadian households did not fill out their census last spring and summer, in spite of an overall response rate of 98.4 per cent.

Statistics Canada is expected to release the first round of census results on Wednesday morning. The initial data will be limited to population count and density.

READ MORE: National Household Survey missed people on social assistance.

But as the agency gets ready to roll out the numbers, it has confirmed that there were people who could not be reached or outright refused to fill out the census as required by law.

“While Statistics Canada made every effort to encourage respondents to complete their census, there are households that did not complete a questionnaire (i.e. away during the census period, no contact was made with the household after many attempts or a refusal),” confirmed Statistics Canada spokesperson Marie-Pier Isabel in an email.

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“It is too early to know how many cases may be referred to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.”

READ MORE: Who filled out Statscan’s National Household Survey?

Any cases that do end up in court should start moving ahead by “late winter,” according to the agency.

The number of Canadians who refuse to fill out their forms is normally very low. But anyone who won’t fill it out faces a fine of up to $500, or up to three months in jail.

These cases can make headlines, depending on the circumstances. During the 2011 census, for instance, 89-year-old Ontario resident Audrey Tobias said she would not fill out the questionnaire because an information technology contract linked to it had been awarded to an American company, Lockheed Martin.

Tobias was charged with violating the Statistics Act, but eventually acquitted.

READ MORE: Former Statistics Canada boss explains why he quit his job

The overall response rate for the 2016 questionnaire was 98.4 per cent and the response rate for the long-form census, delivered to one in every four households, was 97.8 per cent.

Those numbers may be updated slightly on Wednesday, said Isabel.

How has Canada’s population changed? Is your city growing or shrinking? How dense is your neighbourhood? Check back on Wednesday, when Global News will have full coverage of the first round of census data. 

Census release dates

Feb. 8, 2017: Population and dwelling counts
May 3, 2017: Age and sex, type of dwelling
Aug. 2, 2017: Families, households and marital status, language
Sept. 13, 2017: Income
Oct. 25, 2017: Immigration and ethnocultural diversity, housing, Aboriginal Peoples
Nov. 29, 2017: Education, labour, mobility and migration

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