Guide to the Census of Population, 2016
Chapter 5 – Census of Population questionnaires

Most census data are collected using the census short form or census long form. In 2016, a sample of 25% of Canadian households received a long-form questionnaire. Income data were obtained from personal income tax and benefits files (Also refer to: Section on Changes to the 2016 Census Questionnaire). Additional immigration data on admission category were obtained from administrative files from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Forms used to enumerate usual residents of private dwellings

Most of the population in Canada reside in private dwellings. For residents of private dwellings, the census data are collected primarily by having one adult member of the household respond on behalf of the entire household through self-enumeration using an online form.

The short-form questionnaire (Forms 2A, 3A, 2C)

The census is the primary source of exhaustive demographic data in Canada and in 2016, collected the following information:

Form 2A: The short form is used to enumerate all usual residents of all private dwellings in the 2016 Census.

Form 3A: The short form for individuals. This form is used to enumerate one person. It is delivered to usual residents in private dwellings who wish to be enumerated separately from other members of the household (e.g., roomers, lodgers, boarders).

Form 2C: The short form for persons living abroad. This form is very similar to the Form 2A and is used to enumerate residents who are overseas. In 2016, this included Canadian government employees (federal and provincial) and their families, and members of the Canadian Forces and their families.

The long-form questionnaire (Forms 2A-L, 2A-R)

Complementing the data collected by the short-form questionnaire, the long-form questionnaire is designed to provide information about people in Canada based on their demographic, social and economic characteristics. In addition to the short-form information, the 2016 long form collected the following information:

Form 2A-L: The long form. This form contains the census long-form questions.

Form 2A-R: This form is very similar to Form 2A-L and is used in early enumeration, canvasser and reserve areas only. It contains the census long-form questions with examples adapted for Indian reserves, and an additional question on Indian band housing.

Forms used to enumerate usual residents of collective dwellings

A collective dwelling refers to a dwelling of a communal, institutional or commercial nature. Most of the population in Canada reside in private dwellings, but a small portion lives in facilities such as nursing or senior homes, jails, lodging or rooming houses, or even hotels or motels.

People may live in a collective dwelling either temporarily or permanently. For instance, guests of hotels and motels typically stay for a short time and are considered temporary residents, or they may be considered foreign residents if their main home is outside Canada. Guests or the hotel's owners or managers could live there permanently as their main (or only) residence. Such persons are considered 'usual residents' at that address and need to be counted at that address for census purposes.

For the usual residents of institutional collective dwellings, census short-form information was collected in 2016 using Forms 2A and 3A.


Forms 2A and 2A-L were available in electronic format online and in paper format, including large print. All other forms were available only in paper format.

The online forms were designed to comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, to ensure that they were accessible for respondents using assistive technologies.

All census forms were available in both official languages. In addition to English and French, the 2016 Census questions were available in 11 Aboriginal languages and 11 Immigrant languages (see Chapter 1 for the list of languages). Respondents could obtain a copy of the census questions in any of these languages by visiting the census website or by calling the Census Help Line.

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