Canadian census-taking has been ongoing since 1666, when Jean Talon, the Indendant of Justice, counted the number of landowners in New France on behalf of King Louis XIV. He instructed that the people be counted where they lived, and to list their names, occupations, marital status, and their relationship to the head of the household. It was done much the same way then as it is today.
Census-taking was done sporadically in the following years in different parts of the country. It was not until the first national census was done in 1871, that a standard procedure was initiated, and a census has been taken every ten years since, across the ever-expanding country.
These censuses targeted all household members, and recorded such details as their age, sex, occupation, country or province of birth, education, and, of course, their relation to the head of the house.
In the 1901 census, the date of birth of each one in the house was added along with the civic address of the dwelling.
To date, all of these censuses (up to and including 1901) are available to the public for research. They are available at the National Archives of Canada, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0N3. Contact the Genealogy Reference Desk by phone at (613) 996-7458. You can also get this information through inter-library loan with your local library, from the local Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) and on-line at various genealogical societies in Canada.
In particular, the 1901 census is available on-line at the National Archives of Canada at http://www.archives.ca (it is not indexed on-line, so one has to know the general area in which the family lived to make it useful to them). The 1871 Ontario Census Index Online is also available at the National Archives of Canada. The 1891 Prince Edward Island Census is available at http://www.edu.pe.ca/paro/ and the 1901 Census of Alberta is available at the http://www.agsedm.edmonton.ab.ca/ website.
Canadian censuses after 1901 are not available to the general public for research. By a series of laws passed by Justice Canada from 1981 to 1985, they were designated as secret under the Privacy Act and are not accessible.
If you wish to find out more about this matter and how you can help win the release of the 1911 and all future Canadian censuses, please go to the following website at http://globalgenealogy.com/census/ and read about the struggle for their release.
"A former newspaper reporter in Canada's capital, Ottawa, I became interested in writing about genealogy when researching my own ancestor, Andrew Barclay, an American Loyalist from Boston, Massachusetts, early in 1990. Quickly, my interest spread beyond my own family, and by 1994, I was editing a genealogy newsletter and by 1997, I was editing the Sourcing Canada series of books. Since then, I have gone on to write "My Ancestor Was French Canadian" and a series of booklets on Canadian genealogy. I love to travel the Canadian and American countryside looking for interesting people and places to photograph and to write about." - E.B. Lapointe