The 2006 Canada census gave lesbian and gay married couples the chance to register their status for the first time – and 7,465 couples did so.

The national survey, carried out every five years, was criticised by gay rights advocates because same-sex married people had to register their status in the “other” box.

Gay marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005.

The country’s statistics bureau considered a range of options to record them on census forms, including the use of non gender-specific terms like ‘spouse’, which was ultimately ruled too confusing.

It is thought that many gay and lesbian married couples ignored the “other” box in protest that they were being treated differently from heterosexuals.

The census was conducted last May and details were released yesterday.

There are 6,105,910 married-couple families, almost 70% of all census families.

45,345 same-sex couples were recorded, a rise of 32% from 2001.

The majority of same-sex couples live in the Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver census areas.

9% of same-sex couples had a child under 24 living at home.

Statistics Canada said it will consult with LGBT groups before the next census in 2011 over the same-sex marriage issue.

The row with gay activists mirrors discussion in the UK about the next census, also in 2011.

In April Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons asking the government to ensure that a question is asked in 2011 about sexual orientation.

Mr Williams, the MP for Bristol West, welcomed National Statistics’ decision to ask a question about civil partnerships, but said that is important to know how many gay people there are in the UK.

Final decisions on the content of the 2011 Census will not be made until the consultation and testing programme is complete and Parliament gives formal approval in 2010.

A White Paper setting out the Government’s proposals is scheduled for the next parliamentary session.