Dictionary, Census of Population, 2021
Digital boundary files (DBFs)

Release date: November 17, 2021


Digital boundary files (DBFs) depict the full extent of the boundaries of standard geographic areas established for the purpose of disseminating census data, including the coastal water area. Therefore, boundaries often extend as straight lines into bodies of water.

Reported in

2021, 2016, 2011, 2006, 1996, 1991, 1986, 1981 and 1976


The boundaries of the geographic areas reflect those in effect on January 1, 2021 (the geographic reference date for the 2021 Census of Canada).

The boundaries are generated from the Spatial Data Infrastructure. They extend into bodies of water, rather than follow the shoreline, to ensure that limits are followed and that all land and islands are included for census enumeration. Thus, boundaries may cut through lakes, extend into oceans or follow the approximate centres of rivers.

Digital boundary files (DBFs) are not suitable for land area computations, thematic mapping applications, or other types of analyses requiring the realistic depiction of shorelines and bodies of water, unless the user intends to apply their own shorelines to the boundaries.

The maps in Figure 1.4 show the differences between cartographic boundary files (CBFs) and DBFs.

Refer to the related definitions of Cartographic Boundary Files (CBFs)Road Network File (RNF)Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) and to the Boundary Files, Reference Guide (Catalogue no. 92‑160‑G).

Changes prior to the current census

Not applicable

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