Data for Good hosted a workshop in collaboration with Statistics Canada and the City of Toronto. Paul Laffin from Statistics Canada outlined the different methods that are used to collect and store the Census information. Whereas Heath Priston from the City of Toronto spoke to the value to the community of having this data readily available. In attendance were representatives from various local NFPs and data enthusiasts.

Statistics Canada gathers data through the census every five years, directly from Canadians. This data provides information on the demographic and the socio economic conditions of the population. The “geographic hierarchy” of the census data is divided into various administrative and statistical geographic areas which adds value by allowing better use of the data. In December 2017, Toronto city council adopted a policy framework to guide how it would work with community based NFPs and made a commitment to pursue a more consistent and a clear policy. This gave the city more access to data and data management capacity that could assist with strategic initiatives within communities by analyzing vulnerabilities.

Statistics Canada Resources

Paul shared details on how to access the open census data via the website and an extraction tool (Beyond 20/20) Note, Beyond 20/20 only works on PCs. Data extracted from the website can be downloaded in CSV, TAB, IVT, XML format as data tables or full extracts.  Statistics Canada also has a monthly newsletter, list of webinars and information sessions, individuals and organizations are encouraged to join the distribution list for updates to census data and other tools that may assist in using the data in a meaningful manner.

Workshop Discussion

During the workshop, NFPs in attendance voiced some of the data gaps they had and how Statistics Canada or City of Toronto could help in filling these gaps.

In particular, City of Toronto provided some details on some successful partnerships between the two entities such as:

  • Data, research and maps portals
  • Neighbourhood level profiles that represent local trends from Census data, at a smaller level than the Dissemination Areas in Census data
  • Statistics about community well being across Toronto neighbourhoods
  • Community data programs and participations

Participants agreed that increased access to this data assists for effective policy making as it helps identify trends and address gaps. However there are limitations to this – the data can only be used as a secondary source of information that will help validate hypothesis/ideas.

Written by Anam Mazhar & Eunice Lo