As the project moves into the second year of the SSHRC Partnership Development Grant (PDG), work will continue focusing on completing the Census inventory, as well as beginning to carry out pre-user testing of existing census data portals. This user testing builds on work completed in year one of ranking data discovery and related features of existing Canadian census data discovery tools. The project is also beginning to explore potential platforms and technologies for the envisioned discovery portal.

Year 2: Completing the Census Inventory & Moving Toward Envisioning a Portal

Project Milestones

  • As of August 2022, 98 of the 138 censuses have been inventoried.
  • One report and stakeholder papers, highlighting a year of consultations and lessons learned, have been released.
  • Updated inventory metadata crosswalk.

Further refinement and evaluation of the metadata standards and an assessment of the tools and platforms for the envisioned portal’s infrastructure, is slated to ramp up in year two. Further, as these salient parts of the portal come together, there will also be a continued focus on conducting user testing, with future users, and ongoing consultation with stakeholders. The continuation of evidence-based work will build upon what has already been learned about existing census portal models and will inform the development of the CCDDP prototype portal interface.

Newsletter Contents

Committee and Working Group Updates

Beginning in 2021, four working groups and committees were formed to initiate CCDDP’s Project Goals. From January 2022 to now, working groups and committees have been meeting monthly, and the following summarizes their progress.

Steering Committee Updates

Chaired by Leanne Trimble (University of Toronto)

  • Steering committee continues to provide support for the project working groups as they work towards project deliverables.
  • A subcommittee has been formed to examine technical solutions for a proof-of-concept for the portal’s interface.
  • Steering committee members are encouraged to bring forward relevant news and initiatives that may be in alignment with the project’s goals; this has helped the project identify stakeholder groups and strengthen connections with the research community.

Census Inventory Working Group Updates

Chaired by Leanne Trimble (University of Toronto)

  • 98/138 censuses have now been inventoried (Aug 31, 2022)
  • The total number of censuses increased since the last update, as additional censuses have been discovered
  • We are collaborating with the User Needs Working Group on several stakeholder consultations related to metadata, authorities, and census data discovery (in progress)
  • The project will be hiring three additional students in Fall 2022, to continue progress on the inventory

User Needs Working Group Updates

Chaired by Susan Mowers (University of Ottawa)

  • As mentioned above, an assessment and ranking of thirty-two Canadian census data platforms was completed. To carry out the assessment process, an ad hoc group developed a grading rubric for twenty-four census data user “features” with an emphasis on census data discovery features. Based on the assessment, the working group was able to rank and shortlist the assessed platforms including their census data discovery tools. Having completed this work, the User Needs Working Group has been propelled to move forward with stakeholder consultations and user testing.
  • In order to operationalize the aims of this working group, and to carry out next steps, the following short term task groups have been formed:
    • Census data discovery
    • Metadata and harmonized authorities
    • Sensitized research
    • User testing
  • Pre-testing of existing census discovery tools - to inform the development of CCDDP’s portal - has begun.
    • The goal of pre-testing is to test and refine the task group’s user testing approach. The approach adopted by the task group is inquiry-based, and has been informed by the advice of a Carleton University Human-Computer Interaction researcher.
    • It is hoped that this user testing approach will allow the task group together with the project more broadly to learn about:
      • what potential users really want in the CCDDP portal, and
      • in terms of the existing Canadian census discovery tools - how they work with; like or have doubts about; and identify with or envision differently; these various platforms and census data discovery tools.
  • Data discovery and metadata consultations are underway
    • Stakeholders identified for this round of consultations include providers of census data and data platforms, such as Statistics Canada, Library and Archives Canada, and OCUL Scholars Portal.
    • User stakeholder consultations are planned as well, and will draw on communication methods such as surveys.

Communications Committee Updates

Chaired by Katie Cuyler (University of Alberta)

  • Assisting committees and working groups in their communication needs.
  • Community Update Article for Scholars Portal Newsletter

Research Connections

Unified Infrastructure for Canadian Census Research

The CCDDP is pleased to showcase the work of Professor Zack Taylor (CCDDP Partner, Western University) and the UNI·CEN, the Unified Infrastructure for Canadian Census Research initiative.

UNI·CEN is a comprehensive database of historical and contemporary Canadian aggregate Census data, digital boundary files, and ancillary material, all provided in modern data formats. The goal of the project is to liberate Canadian Census data so that it can be more easily used by academic researchers, students, and the public.

Hosted in Borealis, the Canadian Dataverse Repository, the UNI·CEN database is an openly available resource that contains all available univariate Census Data from 1951 to 2016, and 1851–1951 and 2021 data will be added before the end of the year. For available Census years, data and boundary files are available at five levels of geographic aggregation: provinces, census divisions, census subdivisions, census metropolitan areas/agglomerations, and census tracts. Insofar as possible, the boundary files have been standardized with common coastal shorelines, metadata, and attributes, and are available in multiple file formats and projections.

A major innovation is the coding of variables with a standardized variable naming system. Linking all consistently defined variables across Census years will enable users to easily analyze stability and change over time—a task that previously required considerable effort and was often done on an ad hoc basis. We also include the products of a major digitization initiative: boundaries and data tables for the 1951, 1956, 1961, and 1966 census tracts.

Several elements of the project are still being developed:

  • A comprehensive database of questions asked in the Census between 1851 and 2021.
  • A series of concordance tables that link equivalent geographic units across Censuses.
  • An update of the Canadian Longitudinal Tract Database, which uses advanced techniques to apportion data pertaining to 1951–2016 census tracts to 2021 census tract boundaries.
  • Geographic lookup tables for all years that indicate which larger unit smaller units are located in, and also a postal code lookup table containing the best-fit Census units, across all time, that match each six-character postal code.

Professor Taylor was the founding director of Western’s Centre for Urban Policy and Local Governance and leads NEST’s Canadian Communities Policy Observatory initiative. We look forward to including the UNI·CEN data collections in the CCDDP Inventory and future Census data discovery portal!

For more information about file sources, the methods used to create them, and how to use them, consult the documentation at

For more information about the project, visit or email