By JENNIFER LEWINGTON
URBAN AFFAIRS REPORTER
Tuesday, March 12, 2002
Canadians will get their first peek at themselves in a new century with today's release by Statistics Canada of figures in the 2001 census.
The population count will have wide-ranging implications, from political-representation shifts in Parliament to transfer payments.
The census will reveal the growing influence of immigration in overall population patterns, with some cities more of a magnet for newcomers than others. Because the falling birth rate slows growth, immigration plays an important role in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver.
In recognition of growing urbanization, Statistics Canada added two entries to its roster of 25 so-called census-metropolitan areas. These are city-regions with at least 100,000 people. As of the 1996 census, city-regions were home to six of 10 Canadians.
As the first statistical portrait of Canada in the 21st century, the 2001 census "is going to have an impact on the future confidence and optimism of the country," predicted historian Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies.
Prof. Jedwab, who teaches at the University of Quebec at Montreal and McGill University, predicts that the population figures will change the distribution of seats in the House of Commons. Big winners are likely to be Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, which grew over the decade. The chief electoral officer will use the data to calculate the additional number of seats for these provinces.
The information released today tallies the country's population at 31.1 million and reveals those areas -- by province and urban centre -- that gained and lost population since the 1996 census. More detailed profiles listing age, sex, language, immigration, education and religion will be released in stages this year and next.
"This is the first standardized snapshot that will address issues around growth rates and trends for the country over the last five years," said Mike Sheridan, assistant chief statistician for Statistics Canada.
The census, conducted on May 15, cost $425-million and employed about 45,000 people.
A new question on the 2001 census gathered information on same-sex relationships. These data are to be released in October, along with new information on families, marital and common-law status and household populations.
The 2001 census differs from past surveys in the wealth of data to be made available today to those with access to the Internet.
"This will be the first time we take full advantage of all the Internet has to offer as an information device," Mr. Sheridan said. "We have hugely increased the interactive ability for people to look up data and search out information on their community."
The Statistics Canada Web site (http://www.statcan.ca) includes maps and graphs that illustrate populations even within neighbourhoods, as well as percentage changes in area populations from 1996 to 2001.
New in this census is the category metropolitan-influence zones. These zones reveal the amount of urbanization beyond city-regions. A fast-growing community such as Barrie, Ont., lies outside the Toronto census area, yet a large number of Barrie residents work in the Toronto area.
Thus, a community with 30 per cent to 50 per cent of its residents commuting to a big urban region is considered part of a metropolitan-influence zone, said Doug Norris, Statistics Canada director-general of census and demographic statistics.
Data still to come
Statistics Canada's release of population numbers from the 2001 census is the first of eight snapshots of the country to be released over 14 months. Here are the release dates and census topics, according to the agency.
July 16: Age and sex
Oct. 22: Marital and common-law status; families; dwellings and households
Dec. 10: Languages; mobility and migration
Jan. 21, 2003: Citizenship; immigration; birthplaces of parents; ethnic origins; visible minorities; aboriginal peoples
Feb. 11, 2003: Labour-force activities; classes of workers; occupations; industries; places of work; modes of transportation; languages of work, unpaid work
March 11, 2003: School attendance; education; fields of study; highest levels of schooling; earnings
May 13, 2003: Religions; incomes and social and economic characteristics of individuals, families, households; shelter costs