Statistics Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Statistics Canada

Statistics Canada is the nation’s central statistical agency. It was established in 1918 as the Dominion Bureau of Statistics and adopted its present name in 1971. Under the Statistics Act of that year, it has the responsibility to “collect, compile, analyse, abstract and publish statistical information relating to the commercial, industrial, financial, social, economic and general activities and condition of the people.” The agency works with government departments to develop integrated social and economic statistics for Canada and the provinces and territories. In addition, Statistics Canada is a scientific research organization that develops methodologies and techniques related to statistics and survey design.

Beginning of Canada’s Statistics

Early Censuses

Population censuses have a long history. More than 2,000 years ago, Greek and Roman regimes counted their inhabitants, usually for military purposes (i.e., to see how many men could serve as soldiers) or for tax collection. These early censuses were primarily administrative activities for limited government purposes. They did not attempt to count everyone and often did not record names, age or sex. Sweden and England’s censuses in the 1700s and early 1800s were the first censuses in modern Europe. Sweden’s 1749 census relied in part on church registers for enumerating populations. The 1801 census of England was enumerated by civil officials. These censuses, like the Greek and Roman ones, did not attempt to count every resident.

The first truly modern census in the world, with a count of everyone in a populace for statistical purposes, was the 1666 census of New France. It was supervised by Jean Talon, the civil administrator of the small colony. The 1666 census collected information from each household, with canvassers going door to door between Montreal and Quebec, recording residents by name, age, sex, marital status, family relationships and occupation. While the population of New France was small (the 1666 census counted 528 families, with a total of 3,215 people), the first census was well designed and executed. The New France census was so useful that it was conducted again at least 16 times and was still underway when French rule in Canada ended with the 1763 Treaty of Paris.

Jean Talon
Jean Talon, intendant of New France from 1665 to 1668. Talon conducted Canada's first colonial census between 1665 and 1666.

Early Birth and Death Records

The collection of birth and death records in Canada began in the 1600s. It was usually carried out by parish or church administrators. According to records from the first church in New France, the first child born in the colony was Eustache Martin, born in 1621 to Marguerite Langlois and Abraham Martin, a colonist after whom Quebec City’s Plains of Abraham are likely named. Early birth and death records were usually incomplete and stored in church or parish registers.

It wasn’t until much later, in the 1920s, that national vital statistics (i.e., data on births, deaths, marriages and divorces) became available in Canada. In that decade, the newly formed Dominion Bureau of Statistics developed a cooperative agreement with provincial and territorial authorities for the collection and tabulation of data on births and deaths.

National Statistical Activities before Confederation

The British Colonial Office (the government department responsible for administering colonies such as British North America) had no general statistical data collection procedures for Canada and its other colonies in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Colonies with larger populations, such as Canada, submitted reports from colonial governors, but were not required to carry out censuses or maintain regular statistical activities.

Immigration records began in the 1810s but were spotty and did not include migrants moving between Canada and the United States. The only statistical records that the British Colonial Office generally required were annual trade accounts. Some accounts on trade and shipping, insurance and banking appeared in the early 1800s, but these records were irregular and incomplete.

By the mid-1800s, the Colonial Office needed improved records of populations for setting political representation and assessing taxation. Statistical activities for the Province of Canada (formed by the union of Lower Canada and Upper Canada in 1841) were required by the Census and Statistics Act of 1847, which established a Board of Registration and Statistics. The board’s first work was registering births and deaths, in addition to taking population censuses of the colony. The board originally consisted of the receiver-general, the provincial secretary and the inspector general. In 1857, however, the minister of agriculture replaced the inspector general and became chairman of the board. This management structure remained for the next 60 years. Census and statistical activities remained largely the responsibility of the minister of agriculture until the establishment of the Dominion Bureau of Statistics in 1918.

Canada’s first decennial census (one conducted every 10 years) was carried out in 1851 under the authority of the Board of Registration and Statistics. Because a census was also carried out in 1851 in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, this was the first census of the population that was eventually to become the Dominion of Canada.

Did you know?
Although the 1851 census of Canada East and Canada West counted more than 1.8 million people, with 90 per cent residing in rural areas, the enumeration was incomplete because many residents, worried that the purpose of the census was taxation, were reluctant to cooperate.

Except for the decennial censuses of 1851 and 1861 in Canada East and Canada West, few statistics were collected and reported as required by the Census and Statistics Act of 1847. Dr. Joseph-Charles Taché, a medical doctor who was named the deputy minister of agriculture in 1864, argued in an 1865 report to the minister of agriculture that current statistics were inadequate and inaccurate. He noted “gross errors,” “deficiencies in form” and “absurdities of the most ridiculous character.” He argued that the Canadian government needed a permanent, well-trained statistical staff to improve the collection and reporting of useful statistics. Taché also maintained that several important steps were required for improved statistics, including a preliminary numerical study of Canada and the Indigenous population dating back to the early 17th century; development of statistical trends for the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries to 1871; revision and correction of the 1851 and 1861 censuses; and preparation for a better census in 1871.

Confederation and the Beginning of National Statistics

With the Confederation of Canada in 1867, the British North America Act of that same year included a section titled “Decennial Census.” This called for the federal government to take a national census of Canada in 1871 and thereafter every 10 years. The Act also stated that provincial representation in the House of Commons should be reapportioned following each decennial census (see Redistribution of Federal Electoral Districts).

The new federal Parliament provided funding for the census and other statistical activities within the Ministry of Agriculture. Dr. Taché remained responsible for federal statistical programs. The ministry conducted decennial censuses in 1871 and thereafter every 10 years. The censuses enumerated households and individuals, as well as collecting data on agriculture, manufacturing, mining and governments. Canada’s 1871 census was the most comprehensive census conducted in North America at that time.

Census of 1871 (English)
Two pages from the 1871 Census of Population, Canada's first national census.

Various federal agencies gathered other administrative data. They collected and reported statistics based on their administrative duties, however, and not as part of a program of national statistics. This statistical work, which covered various subjects, such as banks, insurance companies, railways, crimes and the labour force, evolved incidentally to administrative activities and was not central to the work of each agency. As a result, federal statistical work was dispersed and uncoordinated in the late 1800s.

Because a new staff was recruited for each decennial census, it lacked the training, organization and productivity of a stable team. The Census and Statistics Act of 1905 created a permanent Census and Statistics Office, which improved the staffing for decennial censuses and the coordination of other statistical activities. The census and related activities functioned better with a stable office staff. But the new census office did not work across federal departments. Other government departments continued to take on new work, increasing the amount of uncoordinated federal data collection.

Confederation also distributed responsibility for the administration of statistics between the national, provincial and local governments. Federalism, which gave local governments authority over statistical data collection, greatly complicated reporting by dividing work between many authorities from all three levels of government.

Creation of the Dominion Bureau of Statistics

The effects of uncoordinated federal statistics became increasingly apparent by the early 1900s. The need for change became clearer when the Census and Statistics Office was transferred from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Trade and Commerce in 1912. With the move to a different federal department, a commission was formed under the direction of Sir George E. Foster to review the collection and publication of statistics. According to 75 Years and Counting: A History of Statistics Canada (1993), the Departmental Commission on Official Statistics of Canada (also known as the Foster Commission) found that federal statistics were “fragmentary and poorly coordinated” and recommended that the Dominion of Canada establish “a Central Statistical Office.”

The creation of a central statistical office was delayed by the enormous time and effort Canada committed to the First World War. Once the government was able to turn to other legislative matters, it followed most of the recommendations of the Foster Commission, passing the Statistics Act of 1918 and establishing a central statistical system in the new Dominion Bureau of Statistics.

The Dominion Bureau of Statistics took over the existing activities for annual censuses of industry and decennial censuses of population, housing and agriculture. It also assumed responsibilities for statistics on trade and commerce, crime, transportation and other general statistics. The new central statistical office was mandated to work with other federal agencies to collect and publish statistics.

The Statistical Act of 1918 created the role of Dominion statistician, responsible for directing the Dominion Bureau of Statistics and coordinating the federal government’s statistical activities. Robert H. Coats served as the first Dominion statistician.

Robert H. Coats
Robert H. Coats was the first Dominion statistician of Canada. (Source: Wikimedia)

Early Activities of the Dominion Bureau of Statistics

In the first years of the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, the new unit worked to improve census work, take over and integrate many statistical functions from other departments, and develop relationships for the collection of new data.

One of Coats’s first goals was to improve Canada’s vital statistics, which were collected by local and provincial authorities. The Dominion Bureau of Statistics developed a successful model for provincial-federal collaboration in this area. While vital statistics are collected and tabulated at the provincial level, coordination between provincial and federal agencies benefits both levels of government. Recognizing this, provincial-federal groups developed uniform definitions for birth and death data, established common administrative procedures, and eventually used the same birth and death forms. Local authorities would collect information on births and deaths and forward copies of the forms to the provincial office, which in turn would tabulate data in a common format for processing and reporting to the Dominion Bureau of Statistics.

By the 1930s, the state of national statistics had improved greatly. New statistics were being collected and existing ones were improved. Much progress had occurred with provincial-federal cooperation. Censuses of fisheries, mining, forestry and hydroelectric power were conducted annually. Agricultural statistics were improved with annual data on crops and livestock and monthly data on crop conditions. Older statistics were reorganized and improved for trade, transportation, crime and immigration. The bureau began new statistical data collection on interprovincial trade and trends in provincial prices of goods and services.

Challenge of the Great Depression

A man sleeping on a cot during the Depression.
Credit: Library and Archives Canada/C-020594.

Canada experienced a major economic depression from 1929 to 1939. The Great Depression had severe repercussions on the Dominion Bureau of Statistics. In 1932, bureau salaries were reduced by 10 per cent and all unoccupied permanent positions were eliminated. The bureau managed to maintain activities during this period by increasing the number of temporary workers and assigning responsibilities to staff that sometimes went beyond their classifications or salary levels.

The Great Depression revealed that Canada lacked the statistics needed to understand and monitor the effects of such a crisis on the country’s economy. At the onset of the Depression, the bureau’s main historical data series on the labour force recorded changes in monthly employment. What was lacking throughout the Great Depression were crucial statistics on unemployment, hours and weeks worked, and wages and salaries. These data were not collected until 1941.

Role during the Second World War

On the eve of the Second World War in 1939, the Dominion Bureau of Statistics had become a competent, well-organized central statistical office. It had an excellent Dominion statistician in R. H. Coats, it was staffed with trained personnel, and its statistical program ably covered a wide range of social and economic areas.

Nevertheless, the wartime economy and government required a greater variety of statistics to support wartime planning and management. The bureau began collecting data for statistics on the cost of living, monthly payrolls and expanded information on industry. It continued to collect some of these data series after the war, but discontinued others.

Statistical sampling methods had developed in the 1930s, and the Dominion Bureau of Statistics began to use them widely during the Second World War. The bureau created a branch to research and develop new statistical methods. Also during the early 1940s, it began to implement a Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system for the compilation of industry statistics. While Canada and the United States later replaced this with the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), SIC remains in use in many other countries.

Postwar Restructuring

According to Herbert Marshall, Dominion statistician from 1945 to 1956, it was evident by the end of the war that the bureau needed “to prepare to meet greater demands in the post-war world.” The government’s growing role in economic policy planning required that it expand and improve statistical information. Better data were needed on employment and unemployment. The expansion of pensions and health care required more precise statistical information for policy planning. Overall, the challenge in the postwar period was to improve existing statistics and develop new ones to serve changing social and economic planning.

To streamline its work, the bureau established two new units after the war. The first was a unit that supported its growing number of surveys, as well as its sampling methods. Among the initiatives this unit supported was a large monthly survey begun in 1945 to provide objective measures of the labour force, as well as types of employment and reasons for unemployment. The second unit was a group of statisticians and economists that reviewed existing data programs and guided the development of new programs.

The bureau devoted major work in the postwar period to improving the decennial census. Chief among these improvements was the mechanization of parts of the census program, including the introduction of special census punch cards for enumerators (the people who go door to door to take the census). From punch cards, regional offices could transfer census information directly to computer files, which were introduced in the 1950s. This saved the time and money needed for hundreds of coders and keypunch operators. The installation of an in-house IBM computer in 1960, and the computer tapes that followed in the 1970s, made census processing more accurate and rapid.

IBM Celebrates 100 Years

During this period, the bureau also used modern statistical methods to reduce the burden of long census questionnaires on households by asking some questions from a sample of households. The census would ask everyone a limited number of questions, including their sex, age, marital status, family relationships and home language. These universal questions are needed to gather data from small areas such as neighbourhoods, where a sample would not provide accurate information. Since 1971, however, other essential census questions have been asked of a sample of households. The census questionnaire sent to most households is called the “short-form” and the questionnaire sent to a sample of households is called the “long-form.”

Census questionnaire data were originally collected by Dominion Bureau of Statistics employees, who went door to door asking information of a household adult. A major change was made for the 1971 census: bureau employees left a questionnaire with each household for self-enumeration. The questionnaire was later mailed back or collected from the household. In recent censuses, the questionnaire has been mailed to households, with a pre-paid return envelope included for returning the completed document by mail.

Census data users in the postwar years realized that decennial census data became outdated toward the end of the 10 years between censuses. More timely data became available when the bureau began a five-year census program in 1956, which has continued to date.

Creation of Statistics Canada: Background

In the 1960s, the federal government began to consider changes to its organizational structure, which included the Dominion Bureau of Statistics. At the same time, two other forces for change emerged outside Canada’s central statistical office. First, some federal departments viewed the bureau as unresponsive to their increasing need for statistics. Second, both the bureau and provincial statistical authorities realized that the need for comprehensive national statistics demanded closer cooperation.

Glassco Commission

In 1960, the federal government established the Royal Commission on Government Organization (also known as the Glassco Commission after its chair, businessman J. Grant Glassco) to examine and make recommendations about the organization of the federal government. The commission assessed the organization of the Dominion Bureau of Statistics and recommended that the government strengthen the centralized statistical system and ensure its independence. In particular, it recommended that the bureau become a separate federal department with the Dominion statistician holding the status of a deputy minister. The government accepted these recommendations in 1965.

Statistics Act of 1971

After several years of study and debate, Parliament passed a new Statistics Act in 1971. Although it maintained the basic principles for Canada’s central statistical office, it replaced the name Dominion Bureau of Statistics with Statistics Canada and made several other changes. For example, the Statistics Act responded to provincial requests for better federal-provincial cooperation by calling for joint data collection and data sharing. In 1974, Statistics Canada established the Federal-Provincial Consultative Council on Statistical Policy, which provides a formal arrangement for cooperation between provincial statistical offices and Statistics Canada.

The 1971 Statistics Act gave Statistics Canada access to income tax returns for statistical purposes and confirmed the department’s right to administrative data needed for its statistical work. Although Statistics Canada maintains all its data in strict confidentiality, the Act recognized that researchers should have access to non-identifiable microdata from samples (data in which all personal identifiers, such as names and addresses, are removed so that researchers cannot recognize individuals).

Position of Chief Statistician

The position of Dominion statistician changed to that of chief statistician when the department became Statistics Canada in 1971. Since the former position was established in 1918, 12 individuals have headed the agency. Its two longest-serving leaders are Robert H. Coats (the first Dominion statistician, who served for 24 years) and Ivan P. Fellegi (who served for 23 years). The current chief statistician is a deputy of the minister of industry responsible for the programs of Statistics Canada. The chief statistician administers the Statistics Act and supervises the operation of Statistics Canada. Dominion and chief statisticians who have held the post from 1918 to present are:




Years in Office

Robert H. Coats

Dominion statistician



Sedley A. Cudmore

Dominion statistician



Herbert Marshall

Dominion statistician



Walter E. Duffett

Dominion statistician/chief statistician



Sylvia Ostry

chief statistician



Peter G. Kirkham

chief statistician



James L. Fry

interim chief statistician



Martin B. Wilk

chief statistician



Ivan P. Fellegi

chief statistician



Munir Sheikh

chief statistician



Wayne Smith

interim chief statistician, chief statistician



Anil Arora

chief statistician



Activities of Statistics Canada

Statistics Canada, whose budget is set by Parliament, has the task of meeting the statistical needs of all levels of government and the private sector for research, policy formulation, decision making and general information. Some of its major statistical programs are the Census of Population (see Canadian Census), vital statistics for births and deaths, employment and unemployment in the Labour Force Survey, cost of living from the Consumer Price Index, macroeconomic statistics including the gross domestic product, international trade and current economic accounts.

Statistics Canada issues hundreds of publications per year, many of which are now published in electronic format only, including The Daily (published Monday to Friday, with the latest news from the agency), Labour Force Information (a monthly report of current labour force statistics with brief summaries), and Canadian Social Trends (a journal of topical articles published every six weeks in electronic format and twice a year in print). Statistics Canada also makes its information available in print and other media, including earlier publications and tabulations available on microfiche, microfilm and computer tape. Among its electronic holdings searchable digital database, the Canadian Socio-Economic Information Management System (CANSIM). Regional offices in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver conduct survey and census operations, and also offer reference and consultative services to clients outside the agency.

Uses of Statistics Canada’s Statistical Data

Many federal, provincial and local agencies use data from Statistics Canada. Studies of the Canadian population use survey and census data to better understand social trends. Researchers dealing with health and ageing use the many surveys and databases to collect information on the health of Canadian residents, health visits and treatment. Economists base much of their analyses on Statistics Canada’s labour force surveys, macroeconomic data, and surveys of consumers and businesses. Farmers, the food industry and agricultural policies rely on its data on crops, farm finances, farms, farmers and agricultural land use (see also Agricultural Economics). The transportation industry and transportation planners are key users of the agency’s data, including information on aviation (e.g., air fares), rail transport (e.g., revenue as well as cargo and tonnage carried), motor vehicles (including trucks, automobiles and public transit), and water transport (e.g., international and coastal shipping).

Statistics are available in many formats from Statistics Canada. Summary statistics and tables can be found on the agency’s website. Users can download tables for most surveys. In some cases, they can request specific tabulations using Statistics Canada’s online software. Many important data series are available in the CANSIM database. CANSIM has hundreds of tables that provide historical data — sometimes going back more than a century — for many variables, such as unemployment rates, population size, birth and death rates, agricultural crops and transportation. Some tables focus on provinces, territories and cities. For example, users can consult CANSIM to learn that international air passengers (those flying to countries other than the United States) at the Vancouver airport increased in number from 4.1 million in 2013 to 6.2 million in 2017.

Researchers can use survey and census data for more complicated analysis by accessing microdata samples in two ways. First, Statistics Canada releases census and some survey data as public-use microdata samples. These have all individual identifiers removed and some data (such as geographic or detailed social characteristics) are combined to prevent identification of individuals or families. Surveys that offer public-use data valuable to researchers include the General Social Survey (which collects information on social topics, e.g., caregiving and care receiving) and the Labour Force Survey (which provides important labour statistics, e.g., the monthly unemployment rate).

Researchers can also access more detailed census and survey data by applying to use Statistics Canada’s Research Data Centres (RDCs) or its Centre for Data Development and Economic Research (CDER), located at its head office in Ottawa. These centres provide researchers with secure access to microdata from population and household surveys, as well as administrative data collected from government agencies and businesses. The centres are staffed by Statistics Canada employees. They operate under the provisions of the Statistics Act, in accordance with confidentiality rules, and are accessible only to researchers with approved projects who have been sworn in under the Statistics Act as “deemed employees.” Centres are located throughout the country, so researchers do not need to travel to Ottawa to access the agency’s microdata. There are currently more than a dozen centres located at universities throughout Canada, ranging from the Atlantic RDC at Dalhousie University to the British Columbia Interuniversity RDC (with locations at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria).

Long-Form Census Controversy

On 17 June 2010, the Conservative federal government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an order-in-council announcing that the long-form census would not be used in the 2011 national census. It would be replaced by the National Household Survey (NHS), a voluntary questionnaire similar to the mandatory long-form one. The NHS would be distributed to 30 per cent of households as opposed to 20 per cent (the long-form sample size used during the 2006 census).

The government stated that it made this decision to respect the privacy wishes of Canadians, despite the established practice of removing all personal identifiers from census data. This resulted in public controversy, drawing widespread criticism, especially from social scientists. Munir Sheikh, then head of Statistics Canada, resigned in protest in 2010. Critics noted that a voluntary survey would mean a decline in data quality, while an increased sample size would mean a rise in cost. (See also Stephen Harper the Expert?)

Stephen Harper
Stephen Harper, 22nd Prime Minister of Canada and leader of the Conservative Party greeting crowd on street and posing for photos while waiting for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to arrive. Photo taken on: July 01st, 2011

When the results of the 2011 NHS were tabulated, the response rate was 68.6 per cent, significantly lower than the 93.8 per cent response rate to the 2006 long-form questionnaire. In addition, the cost of administering the survey exceeded that of the previously planned census operations (which included the NHS questionnaire) by $22 million. The extra cost owed to Statistics Canada’s effort to make up for the lower response rate by sending printed questionnaires to more households and having field staff follow up to collect information from respondents.

On 5 November 2015, the new Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the long-form census would return in 2016. The 2016 census was conducted with procedures similar to those of 2006 and earlier.

Challenges for Canada’s National Statistics

In the years ahead, social and technological changes will present hurdles for Statistics Canada and national agencies in other countries that collect and report statistics.

Several of these challenges stem from changing demographic factors. Households and families in Canada and other societies are increasingly complex. Although a larger proportion of adults live alone, more households include blended families with children who may be unrelated to one or more of the adults in the household. With an increasing number of foreign-born adults, there has been an increase in multi-generation households, with grandparents, parents and children in the same home. Sometimes, households may include several families, such as a couple with one or both sets of their parents. More complicated living arrangements make it more difficult to use statistics to monitor changing family patterns as well as changes in social welfare for families.

Although geographic and social mobility has been studied for many years, the pattern of mobility has become more complex and difficult to track and study. Surveys that examine the population at one point in time — in an increasingly mobile population — may fail to understand the dynamics of change.

A final social challenge for surveys is that response rates have been decreasing in recent years. Response rates to Statistics Canada’s household surveys, for example, dropped by 4 per cent in the five-year period from 2012 to 2017, a trend common among countries in Europe and North America. In addition to increasing survey costs, declining response rates create an important problem because non-respondents as a group may have different characteristics than respondents and thereby bias survey results.

The Jean Talon Building is part of Statistics Canada's headquarters in Tunney's Pasture, Ottawa. Photo taken in 2008. (Courtesy Demetri1968/Wikimedia CC)

One reason that response rates may be declining is that the methods for recruiting respondents have changed due to technological advances and costs. Until the mid-1970s, most surveys were conducted by survey interviewers knocking on doors and conducting person-to-person interviews. Doorstep interviews became prohibitively expensive and, by the 1980s, were used only for well-funded, critical research purposes. As a replacement, more surveys relied on telephone interviews or mail questionnaires.

Both telephone and mail surveys have become more difficult in recent years. A larger proportion of adults use mobile phones and are increasingly reluctant to answer requests for an interview. Mail interviews have become more expensive and have diminishing response rates. Internet-based surveys have been tried more recently but with varying results because it is difficult to develop a proper statistical sampling frame that ensures an accurate random sample of the population.

Statistics Canada has, however, had success using the Internet for the census. In 2016, households received instructions for submitting their census information on a secure, confidential Statistics Canada website. Online submission of census information increased from 18 per cent in 2006 to 68 per cent in 2016, resulting in cost savings as well as more accurate data. Statistics Canada also developed a special census questionnaire for the smaller screens of smartphones. This seemed to be worth the effort, because more than 7 per cent of Canadians submitted their 2016 census information on their smartphones. Nevertheless, changes in technology continue to present challenges for statistical data collection.

Statistics Canada // Key Terms


Representation in Canada’s Parliament is based on electoral districts, with one member in the House of Commons for each district. The number of electoral districts is assigned or apportioned to provinces and territories following each decennial census (one conducted every 10 years), based on calculations related to population statistics.


Enumeration is the complete listing of all items in a collection. In the study of populations, the term enumeration refers to the collection of data on all individuals residing in a country. A census enumeration, in other words, collects information on the entire resident population. Countries use several different forms of census enumeration, ranging from face-to-face interviews to mail-out or mail-back questionnaires or electronic responses through the Internet.


Microdata is information on individual respondents from survey or census data. Census data on, for example, the age, sex, marital status and employment status of individuals are made available, but without information such as name and address that could identify actual persons. Microdata are useful for researchers so that they can examine relationships between several variables or perform more complicated statistical analysis.

National economic accounts

National accounts or national economic accounts are records that describe the income, expenditures and output of groups that shape the economy, including households, businesses and government. As in most countries, Statistics Canada maintains a national economic accounts program that provides accurate measures of total economic activity.


Once Statistics Canada collects census or survey data, it tabulates or summarizes this information in tables. In earlier years, IBM machines were used to sort cards in groups. In recent years, data from individuals are stored digitally in large computer files and are used to prepare tables such as the number of people by age and sex in each province and territory.

Vital statistics

Vital statistics are records of the key events that alter the size and composition of a population. Birth and death records track the two most important ways in which individuals join or leave a population. In many countries, including Canada, vital statistics also refers to records of marriages and divorces, which determine the marital composition of a population.

Further Reading

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