Geek looking at data

Canadian Statistics Advisory Council Report: Strengthening the Foundation of Our National Statistical System

Dec 16, 2021, 15:23 PM by Canadian Statistics Advisory Council

This report emphasizes the importance of good data to the economic and social recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic

Ottawa, December 16, 2021 – Today the Canadian Statistics Advisory Council (CSAC) issued its second report on the state of the country’s statistical system to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. The report recognizes that Statistics Canada has done well throughout the pandemic. It also sees the need for the country to have a clearer definition of principles around data governance and the role of data stewardship. Policy and legislation need to be updated to meet both the expectations and needs of Canadians and to support a vibrant economy.


The report includes three core recommendations:

  1. Adapting governance and data stewardship to a digital society
  2. Adapting statistical legislation to reflect the needs of a modern digital national statistical system
  3. Leveraging opportunities for addressing critical data needs


There is a wealth of public and private data in Canada that is not part of the national statistical system. When data are built upon common concepts and definitions and shared standards, they are foundational for a strong society. As Council Member Jan Kestle observes, “This past year has shown even greater need for and commitment to data-driven decision making. As we move to economic and social recovery good data are needed more than ever.”


For Canada to succeed in an increasingly dynamic digital world, Statistics Canada’s role is key. The agency is an independent and trusted source of official statistics and provides a solid foundation for government accountability and evidence-based decision making by both the public and the private sectors, which benefits all Canadians.


The Council finds that strong, clear and unambiguous statistical legislation is important to support the national statistical system. Most of the current wording in the Statistics Act is essentially unchanged since 1918 and must be updated to accommodate modern digital technologies for collecting, transferring and sharing statistical information. The role of the Statistics Canada as a data steward is also not well defined in the Statistics Act. Without clear legislation and policy the agency and national statistical system could fall behind current trends and needs.


Data sources on their own generally do not provide the breadth, depth or interconnections required to examine more complex issues. Council Member Dr. Céline Le Bourdais notes. “Multiple public and private data sources exist throughout the country. Taken separately, these data are of limited value. It is only when they are shared and combined that they can shed light on critical issues facing Canadians such as the climate crisis and socio-economic inequalities. “To support these analyses, datasets need to be constructed from multiple sources under clearly specified confidentiality and security protocols. Increasingly, researchers need to be able to link and connect relevant variables on demand.


To promote a truly national statistical system partnerships and collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders is essential. For example, as Council Member Gail Mc Donald observes “As we move into the third year of our CSAC mandate, we will take stock of the strength of our recommendations to improve capacities, support new partnerships and co-developments, support the investments in Indigenous data governance and capacity and to move toward a stronger, more inclusive national statistical system. This will take time, respectful collaboration, new ways of thinking and doing to achieve these together”. Statistics Canada is well placed to convene and lead on data standards and methods as it has the expertise that cross different issues and contexts and it is a trusted and cherished institution.


Chairperson of the CSAC notes “The most pressing problems of the 21st century, such as the climate crisis, inequity, or navigating the post-pandemic recovery demand connected and integrated data that flow from a range of sources to provide real-time and granular data that represent all Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast.” The Council’s recommendations strengthening the foundations to ensure that can be achieved.



Dr. Céline Le Bourdais
Mobile: 514-770-3714
Availability on December 16, 2021: 9h – 16h EDT
Expertise: General insight on report, focus on data access and strengthening the collaboration among different levels of government


Jan Kestle
Mobile : 647-988-2834
E-mail :
Availability on December 16, 2021: -8h – 16h EDT
Expertise: The importance of quality data and evidence-driven decision-making, modernizing methods for the production of official statistics, national data strategy, privacy and security of data.


Gail McDonald
Mobile:  514-970-8254
Availability on December 16, 2021: 8h – 16h EDT
Expertise: General insight on the report, focus on Indigenous data, capacity development and governance


Dr. Howard Ramos
Mobile: 902-402-9893
English/ français
Availability on December 16, 2021 -9h -16h EDT
Expertise: General insight on report, focus on race and ethnic data, data access, balance of privacy and need for data


Members of the CSAC:

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