Canada’s Prideful and Historic 2021 Census (French version available)
What is a Census?
A census is a survey that helps governments know who lives in their communities: it provides a detailed snapshot of citizens, with information such as age, gender, ethnicity, income, occupation, and other important data.
What makes up one community varies from one to another. Without a census, governments cannot help communities with their distinct needs.
Canada holds a Census of Population, a survey of the entire country, every five years. The last Census of Population happened in 2021, with the results released in April 2022.
What is Different About Canada’s 2021 Census?
On April 27, 2022, Statistics Canada unveiled the data from Canada’s 2021 Census of Population. For the first time, Canada’s census included its “two-step approach”: where citizens were asked about their gender and sex assigned at birth.
For some people, their gender and sex assigned at birth are not the same. Previous censuses only included one question about sex, but nothing about gender.
Gender is how someone feels and presents; sex is how someone was labelled at birth as either male or female.
For people whose gender matches with their sex assigned at birth, they identify as cisgender. For people whose gender does not match with their sex assigned at birth, they do not identify as cisgender. Many of these people who do not identify as cisgender consider themselves transgender and/or non-binary.
Why is This Change Significant?
Since 2003, Statistics Canada has collected data on lesbians, gay men, and bisexual individuals within Canada. Unfortunately, transgender and non-binary individuals were never included in this data until now.
There are cases where a transgender and/or non-binary individual can identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. However, previous censuses did not provide statistics solely on transgender and non-binary communities.
Statistics Canada recognizes Canadians who are not cisgender by integrating its new two-step approach. Canada’s 2021 Census of Population revealed that 0.33% of Canadians do not identify as cisgender: this percentage includes 100,815 people.
While the percentage appears small, there are almost 101,000 Canadians within this category. Without the addition of the two-step approach, a lot of people would have been excluded from the census.
What Else Needs to Change?
While the 2021 Census of Population creates more support, there is room for improvement.
The terminology used in this article is “sex assigned at birth,” but the actual census uses “sex at birth.”
“Sex at birth” implies that gender is something suggested by how someone’s body appears, rather than something given meaning from society. “Sex assigned at birth” is the preferred term.
Furthermore, in some sections of the census, there are categories of “men+” and “women+.” The addition of these categories still misgenders (calling people a gender that they do not identify with) non-binary people. They are not men nor women.
What is the Future for LGBTQ+ Canadians?
The distinction between sex and gender will continue to grow in significance in future years.
Judging by trends in the census, there will be more people identifying as LGBTQ+ in the future. The 2021 results showed that the amount of transgender and non-binary people within Generation Z — those born between 1997 and 2006 — were three to seven times greater than those born in 1996 and before.
The increasing acceptance of LGBTQ+ peoples within Canada likely played a large role in these numbers. Recognizing transgender and non-binary people within the census will add to this show of support.
Boisvert, Nick. “Canada’s LGBTQ Population Now 1 Million — but Hate Crimes Are Rising Too: Statistics Canada.” CBC News, 15 June 2021, https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/statistics-canada-lgbtq-pride-report-1.6066638. Accessed 4 May 2022.
Statistics Canada. Census of Population. Government of Canada. 25 Feb. 2022. https://www.statcan.gc.ca/en/survey/household/3901. Accessed 6 May 2022.
Statistics Canada. Gender of Person. Government of Canada, 18 Oct. 2021, https://www23.statcan.gc.ca/imdb/p3Var.pl?Function=DEC&Id=410445. Accessed 4 May 2022.
Statistics Canada. The Daily — A Statistical Portrait of Canada’s Diverse LGBTQ2+ Communities. Government of Canada, 15 June 2021, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210615/dq210615a-eng.htm. Accessed 4 May 2022.
Statistics Canada. The Daily — Canada is the First Country to Provide Census Data on Transgender and Non-binary People. Government of Canada, 27 Apr. 2022. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/220427/dq220427b-eng.htm. Accessed 4 May 2022.
Thompson, Nicole. “Census Offers Snapshot of Canada’s Transgender Population for First Time.” CTV News, 27 Apr. 2022, https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/census-offers-snapshot-of-canada-s-transgender-population-for-first-time-1.5878130. Accessed 4 May 2022.