Dictionary, Census of Population, 2016
Geographic reference date

Release date: November 16, 2016


The geographic reference date is a date determined by Statistics Canada for the purpose of finalizing the geographic framework for which census data will be collected, tabulated and reported. For the 2016 Census, the geographic reference date is January 1, 2016.

Reported in

2016, 2011, 2006, 2001, 1996, 1991, 1986, 1981, 1976, 1971, 1966, 1961


Names, boundaries and other attributes of geographic areas change frequently (examples of these changes include municipal amalgamations and annexations, and changes in the name and status of municipalities). Since the geographic framework is used for census data collection, the geographic reference date must be set sufficiently in advance of Census Day to permit all changes to be processed in time. Furthermore, notification of these changes is normally not received from the applicable federal and provincial authorities until after the changes have occurred. For these reasons, the census reports data according to the geographic areas that are in effect on January 1, 2016, provided that Statistics Canada receives the information on the changes by March 1, 2016.

Since the geographic framework is established according to the geographic areas in effect as of January 1, 2016, and census data refer to conditions as they exist on Census Day (May 10, 2016), census data may be reported for geographic areas that have subsequently changed during this period.

The geographic framework established for census purposes may not reflect the actual geographic framework in effect on January 1, 2016, if Statistics Canada never receives, or does not receive by March 1, 2016, the appropriate notification from relevant federal and provincial authorities.

Changes prior to the current census

Prior to 1981, the geographic reference date was set to the same date as Census Day. From the 1981 Census onwards, it has been set at January 1 of the census year, which has improved the timeliness of the release of census products.

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