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More information on Postal code

Censuses:

  • 2006, 2001, 1996 (100% data)
  • 1991, 1986 (20% sample)

Remarks:

Structure of the postal code

The form of the postal code is 'ANA NAN', where A is an alphabetic character and N is a numeric character. The first character of a postal code represents a province or territory, or a major sector entirely within a province (Table 11).

Table 11 First character of the postal code and corresponding province, territory or region

The first three characters of the postal code identify the forward sortation area (FSA). FSAs are associated with a postal facility from which mail delivery originates. The average number of households served by an FSA is approximately 8,000, but the number can range from zero to more than 60,000 households. This wide range of households can occur because some FSAs may serve only businesses (zero households) and some FSAs serve very large geographic areas.

Each postal code is associated with one or more mail delivery points. The average number of households served by a postal code is approximately 19, but the number can range from zero to 10,000 households. This wide range of households occurs because some postal codes may serve only businesses (zero households) and some postal codes serve large geographic areas.

Table 1 in the Introduction shows the number of postal codes and forward sortation areas by province and territory. They are provided by Canada Post Corporation and are valid as of May 2006.

Postal codes captured from census questionnaires

The postal code is captured for all households from the address information provided by the respondent on the front page of the census questionnaire on May 16, 2006. The respondent's postal code is accepted whether or not it is the same as the postal code assigned by Canada Post Corporation to that address. The postal code of a household is validated and processed using the following criteria:

  • The respondent's postal code is validated against a reference file at the census subdivision level. Priority is always given to accepting the postal code that is most likely to have been active and in use on Census Day. However, postal codes that may have been retired by Canada Post Corporation within the last six months but continue to be used may be accepted in some cases.
  • In cases where a postal code is not provided or where the postal code is not valid, an imputation process assigns a valid postal code.

The postal code provided by respondents may not be the same as the postal code of the dwelling in which they live. For example, they may denote the postal code of their mailing address, such as a post office location (as in the case of general delivery) or a business location. Consequently, some respondents' postal codes may fall outside the FSA in which their dwelling is located.

Users should proceed with caution if postal codes are used as a proxy for standard geographic areas. Postal codes do not necessarily respect the boundaries of standard geographic areas (e.g., the same postal code can fall in two or more census subdivisions).

For more detailed information, refer to the Postal Code Conversion File Reference Guide.

Changes prior to the current census:

Not applicable.