Dictionary, Census of Population, 2021
Geographic reference date

Release date: November 17, 2021


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 2021 Census, the geographic reference date is January 1, 2021. The boundaries, names, types and codes of the geographic areas that make up the 2021 Census geographic framework are representative of such information obtained and processed by Statistics Canada, to the best of its knowledge, which has an effective date on or before the geographic reference date for the current census.

Reported in

2021, 2016, 2011, 2006, 2001, 1996, 1991, 1986, 1981, 1976, 1971, 1966 and 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 dissemination, the geographic reference date must be set sufficiently in advance of Census Day to permit all changes to be processed in time. For this reason, the census reports data according to the geographic areas that are in effect on January 1 of census year. The geographic framework may not reflect the actual geographic framework in effect on January 1, 2021 if Statistics Canada never receives, or does not receive by March 1, 2021, the appropriate notification from relevant federal and provincial authorities.

Since the geographic framework is established according to the geographic areas in effect as of January 1, 2021, and census data refer to conditions as they exist on Census Day (May 11, 2021), census data may be reported for geographic areas that have subsequently changed during this period.

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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