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Policy on Informing Survey Respondents

1.1 Policy on Informing Survey Respondents

Approved September 9, 1998


It is the policy of Statistics Canada to provide all respondents with information about: the purpose of the survey (including the expected uses and users of the statistics to be produced from the survey), the authority under which the survey is taken, the collection registration details, the mandatory or voluntary nature of the survey, confidentiality protection, the record linkage plans and the identity of the parties to any agreements to share the information provided by those respondents.

The information required by this policy must, for all surveys, be prepared in written form and made available to respondents prior to or at the time of collection. In the case of telephone/interview surveys without introductory materials the information shall be provided verbally and shall be provided in writing on request.

Information to be Provided to Respondents

Respondents must be informed of the following:

1. Principal Purpose(s) of the Survey

The major intended uses and users of the data, including any subsequent follow-up surveys, must be explained.

2. Authority

A statement that the information is collected under the authority of the Statistics Act, must be communicated to respondents.

3. Collection Registration

The collection registration number and the personal information bank number required under the Privacy Act for surveys collecting personal information must be communicated to respondents. These must be displayed on questionnaires for self-enumeration surveys. In the case of telephone and personal interview surveys, they must be made available, if requested.

4. Mandatory or Voluntary Nature of the Survey

The Statistics Act requires all persons to answer questions posed in a survey carried out by Statistics Canada unless an order has been issued, pursuant to section 8, to authorize the collection on a voluntary basis. Respondents must be advised whether their participation in a given survey is voluntary or mandatory.

(a) Voluntary Household or Business/Institutional Surveys
In the case of voluntary household or business/institutional surveys, respondents must be informed explicitly that response is voluntary. Other information about the survey may be communicated first, but the voluntary nature of the survey must be communicated prior to any survey questions being asked. Should enquiries about the nature of the survey be made at any time, a direct response must be immediately provided.

(b) Mandatory Household Surveys
In the case of mandatory household surveys, respondents may be advised in a factual and non-threatening manner that their response is required by law.

(c) Mandatory Business/Institutional Surveys
In the case of mandatory business/institutional surveys, respondents must be informed that they are legally obliged to respond. This will be communicated by means of standard wording on the questionnaire and/or the introductory letter in the case of self-enumeration surveys or in an introductory letter in the case of telephone or personal interview surveys. In the case of surveys which include small businesses, the administration of the mandatory nature of the survey must be carried out with due regard to the reporting burden of the business.

5. Confidentiality Protection

The confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act must be explained and the key procedures that ensure the confidentiality of individual returns must be provided when requested.

For surveys using pre-filled questionnaires, the "Guidelines on transmittal of pre-filled questionnaires" approved by the Policy Committee on September 13, 1995 must be applied.

6. Record Linkage Plans

Respondents must be notified at the time of collection of any planned linkages of their survey responses to other data files, where linkage is for other than internal methodological purposes. Planned linkages are those that are an integral part of the survey and are envisaged as the methodology is being developed. Internal methodological linkages would include such activities as the maintenance, validation, evaluation or re-design of ongoing data collections or research related to the design of new surveys.

7. Joint Collection and Data Sharing Agreements

Any relevant joint collection or data sharing agreements must be explained in accordance with the requirements of the Statistics Act. The guidelines with respect to notifying respondents of their right to object to data sharing approved by the Policy Committee on November 16, 1988 are to be followed.

When the agreement is with a party that has legislative authority to collect the information, the requirements of that legislation must also be specified.

Note: Data-sharing notices must be provided at the time of collection to ensure that respondents are aware of the data-sharing agreement at the time they are providing the information.


Responsibilities for implementation of this policy are assigned as follows:

1. Subject-matter divisions

- draft the information required by this policy for use in the survey questionnaire or in a companion document, or by such other means as are deemed appropriate;

- consult Data Access and Control Services Division during the initial planning phase to ensure that all policy and legal requirements are fully met;

- consult the Communications Division during the initial planning phase with respect to public communications;

- ensure the preparation, for the use of collection staff, of information manuals that provide adequate information to answer the questions of respondents.

2. Regional Operations Branch

- assists in the preparation of question and answer material for the use of regional operations staff.

3. Data Access and Control Services Division

- counsels subject-matter divisions about provision of respondent information related to the requirements of the Privacy Act, the Statistics Act and related Statistics Canada policies;

- formulates standard wording for notices to respondents on questionnaires or related materials, as required;

- reviews survey collection documents to ensure that statutory requirements related to confidentiality and privacy are observed;

- provides collection registration numbers and personal information bank numbers

- monitors implementation of this Policy and reports to the Policy Committee on implementation.

4. Communications Division

- assists in preparing communications materials required by this Policy.


Inquiries concerning this policy are to be directed to the Director, Data Access and Control Services Division, 951-9349.

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