TORONTO -- Every five years, the government of Canada conducts a national census and starting today the 2021 census is underway. 

The census helps the government plan for the future with regards to health care, public transit and education and everyone must take part.

“When the census results in 2022 come out they will paint a very rich portrait of who we are as Canadians," said Geoff Bowlby, Director General of the Census Program.

Some 15 million households will get forms in the mail, however they will come with an access code so you can fill out the census online.

There are an estimated 38 million people in Canada, but we'll know exactly how many when the census is completed. 

“Canadians take great pride in the census and identifying themselves on the census,” said Bowlby.

If someone can't fill out the census online they can request paper forms be sent to complete. 

At least 75 per cent of Canadians will get the short-form census that takes a few minutes to answer. The remaining 25 per cent will be asked to fill out a long-form version with a detailed questionnaire which will take about half an hour to complete.

Bowlby said this year there are some new questions.

“There is now new information on the short form for veterans and there is also a gender identity question. If you get the long form there are additional questions on the labour market,” said Bowlby. 

The census will help the government plan for the future and also give a snap shot of how Canadians fared during COVID-19.

“There is income data that is collected from the census that refers to the calendar year 2020 which everybody knows is the year in which the pandemic had its greatest effect," said Bowlby.

Information will be collected between now and the end of July, but the results from the census won't be released until early next year. Statistics Canada said the census is being conducted in a safe manner and your answers are confidential. 

Bowlby says participation is mandatory and you're obligated to answer the census questions. Statistics Canada expects more than 90 per cent of Canadians to fill out the census right away without any issues. 

If you don't fill it out you could have someone come to your door this summer to ask you the census questions in person.