What is a Census?

Census, a survey of the entire population, produces a "snapshot" of data for a specific point in time. Every five years Statistics Canada conducts the Census of Populations and the Census of Agriculture to develop a statistical portrait of Canada and its people. The census is a reliable source of information for describing the characteristics of Canada's people, dwellings and agricultural operations.

Canada's first census was initiated by Intendant Jean Talon in 1666. The first national census of Canada was taken in 1871. Since 1956, the Census of Agriculture and the Census of Population have been taken together every five years. Over the years the frequency of census taking and the number and type of questions has varied. More historical information on the Canadian census can be found at Statistics Canada's History of the Census of Canada.

Early Manuscript / Nominal Census

The manuscript/nominal census consists of the forms as they were completed in script (handwriting) by the enumerators who asked the questions of the respondents. The information is arranged by household, and links to specific individuals. Information includes: age, sex, country or province of birth, religion, racial or ethnic origin, occupation, marital status and education. Portions of the 1851 census have not survived.

Returns prior to 1851 are rarely complete for any geographical area and most list only the heads of households.

For 1851, 1861 and 1871, there are also some agricultural returns, which list lot and concession numbers of farms, and provide considerable detail such as acreage, livestock and agricultural products. Additional schedules have survived for the 1871 census, including business/industrial returns and schedules of deaths in the preceding year.

The National Archives is required to wait 92 years before releasing the manuscript returns. Trent University Library and Archives has the Ontario manuscript returns published on microfilm by the National Archives for 1842, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901. See Trent Library Archives census and assessment records information for further information.  

2021 Census of Canada

2021 Census Main Page 

Census of Population 

Census Data

Census Analysis

Census Reference 

Census Topics 

Census Geography

Census of Agriculture 

2021 Census Release Schedule

2021 Census questionnaires  (Population)

2021 Census questionnaires (Agriculture)


Census educator toolkits 

2016 Census of Canada

2016 Census Program web site

2016 Census Geography files

2016 Reference Materials

2016 Census of Population

2016 Census of Agriculture

2011 Census of Canada

Census of Population:

By Topic                              2011 Census Geography              

2011 Data Products                     2011 Census of Agriculture         

2011 Analytical Products            2011 Corrections / Updates

2011 Reference Materials           2011 Custom Services               

For 2011, Statistics Canada did not use a mandatory long-form questionnaire as part of the census. Information previously collected by the mandatory long-form census questionnaire was collected as part of the new voluntary National Household Survey (NHS). Data from the 2011 Census and the 2011 NHS cannot be combined. Also, caution is advised in comparing data from the 2011 NHS and earlier Censuses

NHS Profile Data

NHS Data Table

NHS Focus of Geography Series

Previous Censuses

2006 Census

2001 Census

1996 Census

Access to Historic Census

ArchiviaNet: On-line Research Tool: Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm 1666-1901

Canadian Century Research Infrastructure

Censuses of Canada 1665 to 1871

Historical Statistics of Canada

History of the Census of Canada

Library & Archives Canada (1825-1916)

Search Engines

CHASS Census Analyser

The CHASS Canadian Census Analyser includes aggregated statistics and public use microdata of the census of population dating back to the 1961 census. Supports subsetting of files and variables and downloading data in various export formats including Text, HTML, CSV, MS Excel ready, SAS, SPSS. This is a licensed product, you will be prompted to login using your Trent account. 

Scholars GeoPortal

Scholars GeoPortal provides access to a  number of census geography boundary files including both cartographic boundary files and digital boundary files for a range of census years. Scholars GeoPortal supports clipping of boundaries files allowing you to select only the boundaries you need. This is a licensed product, you will be prompted to login using your Trent account.

Guides to the Canadian Census 

Census of Canada Guide. This excellent guide is published and maintained by the University of Toronto's Map & Data Library. It provides links to census information by year starting from 1870 and includes links to both numeric and cartographic information. 

Quick Index to Canadian Census Publications  This excellent index is published and maintained by Queen's University Library Data Services. It includes links to pre and post confederation censuses starting from 1851. It supports searches for print and digital information, including a separate section providing download links to PDFs of publications. 

For assistance with census research or census mapping, contact Trent MaDGIC