Unfortunately, the changes that were made to the long form census overshadowed another decision which is making detailed census data available to the public for free, rather than as products for purchase. To make it easier to locate these resources, all of the links referenced in this post are included as a list at the end.
The image of Canada, to the right, was constructed with these newly available boundary (dissemination block) and road network files which were posted on the Statistics Canada website in November 2012.
The first set of 2011 census data has also been posted but only for summaries of municipal, regional, provincial and territorial population and dwelling counts. The more detailed dissemination area data which is used by a variety of organizations for demographic analysis should be available later this month.
The census profiles of dissemination areas are large files that can be difficult to explore without the assistance of specialized software. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have been developed specifically for this purpose which makes it possible to explore and share this data visually. For the researcher on a budget the open source GIS package Quantum GIS (QGIS) is available at no cost and features most if not all of the commonly used utilities and data formats as the proprietary GIS packages. If you are familiar with the ArcGIS or MapInfo software packages you should find QGIS straightforward to use. If you are unfamiliar with GIS there is a moderate learning curve but the process is so iterative that you will be able to pick it up quickly.
Quick Reference – Links cited in this post:
- Statistics Canada 2011 Census Boundary Files
- Statistics Canada 2011 Census Road Network Files
- Statistics Canada 2011 Census Profiles
- Quantum GIS
Other Links of Interest:
- Stats Canada description of 2011 questionnaire
- Wellesley Institute article on Long Form Census changes
- Resignation of Munir Sheikh, Head of Statistics Canada
- Resignation of Philip Cross, Chief Economic Analyst (with thanks to @GregRousell )