Frequently Asked Questions


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  • What is Canada’s Open Government Portal?

    Canada’s Open Government Portal provides one-stop access to the Government of Canada’s searchable open data and open information, together with open dialogue, as part of the federal government’s commitment to enhance transparency and accountability. We encourage the participation of all citizens to make the portal better. How can we improve? Give us your feedback.

  • Is personal information protected?

    Yes, Canada’s Open Government portal adheres to the definition of personal information as defined in the Privacy Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-21. Therefore, all data and information published here and on related websites is public data that is not sensitive in nature (i.e. not personal or confidential) and does not identify or provide ways to identify individuals unless permitted to be disclosed under the Privacy Act.

  • Will improvements be made to Canada’s Open Government Portal in the future?

    Yes, continuously. We pay attention to user feedback, user testing, consultations, app and dataset suggestions, as well as comments on individual datasets to ensure that our portal meets the community’s needs and expectations.

  • What is the liability of the Government of Canada respecting data use?

    The Government of Canada is not liable for any damage caused by the use of the data, nor for how the data is used.

  • Who is responsible for the governance and maintenance of the data?

    The data published on the Open Government portal is made available by Government of Canada departments, agencies, and Crown corporations. While each of these entities is responsible for managing their own data, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat is responsible for the governance, including guidelines and policies, applicable to the data.

    With respect to the preservation of the data made available on this site, it is generally subject to the rules governing retention and disposition of government information. This includes, but is not limited to, requirements of the Library and Archives of Canada Act and the disposition authorities issues pursuant to it, the Financial Administration Act and the Treasury Board policies adopted pursuant to it, the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

Open Government

  • What is Open Government?

    For the Government of Canada, Open Government means a governing culture that fosters greater openness and accountability, enhances citizen participation in policymaking and service design, and creates a more efficient and responsive government.

  • What is the Open Government Partnership (OGP)?

    The Open Government Partnership describes themselves in the following way: "the OGP was launched in 2011 to provide an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. Since then, "OGP has grown from 8 countries to… 65 participating countries… In all of these countries, government and civil society are working together to develop and implement ambitious open government reforms." For more information visit the Open Government Partnership website.

  • What is Canada’s Action Plan on Open Government?

    Canada’s Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership provides an overview of current and planned activities for advancing Open Government in Canada. These activities are based on the principles, best practices, and accountability mechanisms established by the international Open Government Partnership. The Action Plan was developed in consultation with the public, private sector, civil society, and in collaboration with other levels of government across the country. It targets four key priority areas: Open by Default, Fiscal Transparency, Innovation, prosperity, and sustainable development, and Engaging Canadians and the World.

  • How can I find Open Government events or programs near me?

    We launched an Open Government Across Canada page, which includes an interactive map that displays both Open Government programs and events.

  • What is the Open Government Licence?

    The Open Government Licence allows for commercial and non-commercial reuse of information, with only a few exceptions.

  • What rights come with the Open Government Licence?

    The Licence allows the licencee to copy, modify, publish, translate, adapt, distribute or otherwise use the Information in any medium, mode or format for any lawful purpose. The licencees must, however, identify the source of the data on their derived products.

  • How do I implement the Open Government Licence in my jurisdiction?

    Adopting the Open Government Licence in your jurisdiction will make your data more accessible to a wider group of users, and make it easier for your jurisdiction to work in partnership with other governments across Canada. We have created Open Government Licence Implementation Guidelines to help implement the Licence.

Open Dialogue

  • What is Open Dialogue?

    Open, honest, and sincere engagement and constructive two-way dialogue between the Government of Canada and the interested stakeholders and citizens which results in better policies, programs and services for Canadians.

  • Are comments on the Open Government portal moderated?

    Yes. The comments mailbox is monitored regularly and new comments are posted as soon as possible. No comments are censored unless they meet certain restrictions as outlined in the Rules of Engagement.

  • Will there be future consultations on this site?

    Yes, your feedback and recommendations are central to the development of both the Open Government portal and the Government of Canada’s approach to Open Government. You can find information about past, current, and future Open Government consultations in the Consultations section.

Open Data

  • What is Open Data?

    Open data is machine readable data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share alike.

  • What are datasets?

    Datasets are collections of related sets of information showing relationships between categories and variables. For instance, one of the most popular datasets on the Open Data portal is a table of vehicle models and a set of information about each, including their rated fuel consumption (see: Fuel Consumption Ratings). However, there are many different kinds of datasets available.

  • What are APIs?

    Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are a set of rules and instructions for how software can interact with a dataset. APIs allow flexibility in how information within a dataset is accessed, typically so that users can select only a specific, relevant subset of the information. APIs are usually connected to datasets that are updated in real-time.

  • How can I search for data?

    You may find data on the Open Data portal by using the « Search » box to search via keyword, and/or browse by organization, catalog type, tags, subject, or file format.

    By accessing datasets or tools made available, you agree to the terms of the Open Government Licence – Canada. Please read the Open Government Licence – Canada before accessing any data on this site.

  • What data formats are used?

    Open data formats are intended to be machine-readable and are typically XML-based. Data can also be presented in human-readable formats (XLS) that can be read using spreadsheet software and that permit data extraction to facilitate integration with other data sets. You can find more information about the format specifications under Working with Datasets and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

  • Can I obtain specific datasets?

    If there are particular datasets that you think should be made available please suggest a dataset. We review these requests constantly and work with dataset curators across the Government of Canada to make suggested datasets available.

  • Will there be more public data available in the future?

    Yes, this is just the start. We’re continuously working on releasing new datasets.

  • Are apps available?

    Yes! We have an Apps Gallery which lists apps built by the Government of Canada, and user-submitted apps built using Government of Canada Open Data.

  • I made an app with Government of Canada Open Data. Can I share it through the Open Government portal?

    We encourage you to. There’s a Submit Your App page where you can provide information and links, and once reviewed it will be added to the Apps Gallery.

  • Who ’owns’ the data on Canada’s Open Government Portal?

    The intellectual property rights of the data belong to the Crown and, exceptionally, to third parties. Additional information regarding the conditions governing the use of the data can be found in the Open Government Licence.

  • What metadata elements are used to describe Canada’s open datasets?

    To learn more about the elements used to describe open datasets, review Government of Canada Open Government Metadata Element Set.

Open Maps

About Open Maps

  • What is Open Maps?

    Open maps brings together the Government of Canada’s geospatial data, services, and applications for use by Canadians.

    Through this site, Canadians can explore the wealth of geospatial data that has been collected by many sources including scientists, surveyors, satellites, and marine-based and land-based sensors. It has been processed, interpreted, and structured for use in a variety of applications. 

    Open maps is the result of the Federal Geospatial Platform initiative, a multi-year collaborative effort of 21 departments and agencies that participate on the Government of Canada’s Federal Committee on Geomatics and Earth Observations. The Federal Geospatial Platform seeks to fundamentally change the way geospatial data are managed, shared, and used by the Government of Canada.

    The geospatial data and services found in open maps are made available under the Open Government Licence, and can be used to support your research, application development, or other purposes as allowed under the licence.

  • What is Geographic Data?

    The type of geographic data available in Open Maps is often referred to as "Geospatial data". It is data that can be linked to a location on a map, such as a street address, town, province or any other geographic feature like a coastline, mountain, or river.

    Data linked to location are increasingly important for planning, investment, and management activities. Geospatial data are also playing a growing role in driving productivity and innovation.

  • What is a GIS?

    A GIS is a Geographic Information System. It includes software, applications, and methodologies used to store, manage, analyze, and disseminate geospatial data.

Common Data Formats used in Open Maps

  • What is the difference between vector, raster and tabular data?

    Raster data are images. They can be scanned maps, satellite images, digital elevation models etc. Rasters are made of pixels which can store a single data value, for example a spectral value or an elevation value. Rasters can be geo-referenced for use in a map. They are best used to represent continuous data such as temperature.

    Vector data are represented by points, lines, or polygons with associated geographic coordinates. All vector data has attributes that are available/stored in an attribute table. Vector data can represent items with defined boundaries like roads or buildings, or points such as the location of a city.

    Tabular data are tables. They consist of rows and columns with headings and the cells can be populated with data.

  • How can I open a raster or vector data file if I don't have a GIS software?

    There are multiple freeware options available to view and edit downloaded data. The Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) offers a list of open source GIS software. However, these applications are not supported nor endorsed by the Government of Canada.

    A few free editing and viewing software tools are:

  • How do I connect to a Web Mapping Service (WMS)?

    A WMS is a Web Mapping Service that allows the user to query maps and data from a server. WMS can create map images through HTTP requests. The more commonly used way is to have your Geographic Information System (GIS) software connected directly to the service.

    1. To connect, you need the web address (URL) of the WMS. You can get the URL in your Open Maps dataset of interest by clicking the Access button in the Resources table under Links. This opens an XML file, which may not look useful, but it provides all the necessary information about the web mapping service. In the URL bar, copy the address up to and including the question mark. In this example it is
    2. In your GIS software, follow the software’s instructions to connect to a WMS. Paste in the copied link address when prompted for the WMS URL.
  • How do I connect to an ArcGIS REST service?

    Similar to WMS, you will need a GIS software, and the service URL (as seen above). In Open Maps, right click on the Access link to the ArcGIS REST Service. Select copy link address. In your GIS software, follow the software’s instructions to connect to an ArcGIS REST service. Paste in the link address when prompted for the URL.

  • What is an FGDB/GDB?

    A GDB is a geodatabase, an ESRI data format. There can be Personal Geodatabases or File Geodatabases (FGDB). They are a way to store geographic information in a single file. You can store, query, and manage files in geodatabases. The benefit of a FGDB over a personal geodatabase is that it can hold up to 1TB of data.

    Although geodatabases are an ESRI data format, most other software are now able to access them.

  • How do I view KML/KMZ files?

    KML/KMZ (Keyhole Markup Language) is the data format for geographic information used by Google. They are easy to use by simply dragging and dropping them into Google Earth Pro to view.

    Most GIS software has capabilities to import KML/KMZ files or transform them to other formats (watch out for your attribute tables! They can often become impractical when importing to other software).

  • What is the difference between a Geotiff and a Tiff?

    They are both image files, like jpeg or png, but a geotiff has geographic information imbedded into it.   You can view a geotiff in a map and it will be in the proper location. Many paper maps have been scanned and geo-referenced to make geotiffs in order for them to be used in a GIS. For more information, visit Working with Datasets and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

  • What is the difference between TIFF, PNG, and JPEG?

    TIFF, PNG, and JPEG are the most common image formats you will come across in Open Maps.

    A JPEG file is a compressed image format. There is image degradation due to the type of compression, so be careful what type of documents it is used for. The faster loading speed may not make up for the quality loss.

    A PNG file is also a compressed image file but with less loss of information than a JPEG.

    A TIFF file lets you choose not to have any loss of information or to compress it like a JPEG or a PNG. What you see on the screen with a TIFF is what will be printed. It is the best format for scanned documents.

  • What is a shapefile (SHP)?

    A shapefile (SHP) file is another ESRI specific data format. It has become so widely used that nearly all other software can read it easily. Shapefiles store geographic features like vectors (i.e. points, lines, and polygons) and their attributes. For more information, visit Working with Datasets and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

  • What is a Geopackage (GPKG)?

    GPKGs are an open data format for geographic information, built as an SQLite database container. It supports both raster and vector data. A geopackage is provided as a single file containing data and metadata tables.

  • What is a “ZIP” file and why does this exist in Open Maps?

    A “ZIP” is a folder containing multiple files of different formats. You may come across this as a Resource Format in Open Maps. It means that a dataset is being provided and may contain a geotiff of a map along with the metadata that comes in PDF files and maybe a Readme text file. All this information needs to be filed together as a zipped file so you can download it.

Viewing the Data

  • What is the map shown in the data record?

    This map indicates the extent of data coverage. The red box is covering all of Canada if the data is for all of Canada. If the data is only for a single province, the red box will only cover that province. No data can be accessed or downloaded through this map.

  • How can I view Data on a map?

    Look for the “View on Map” button when searching the open data catalogue. To view multiple datasets on the map, look for the green Add to Map List button following the item description on the search page, and then access your map with the View on Map button at the top of the page. Not all datasets can be viewed on the map viewer, due to missing web services or incompatible file types.

  • How can I add my own data to a map?

    You can import data by using the "add data" feature within the visualizer. To find this function, first press the 

     button to view your current map layers. Then, press the   button to start the "add data" process. Possible file types that can be imported by users include shapefiles, CSV files, or web services. This function will only display this data on the local browser and does not make it available to the broader community through the catalogue.

  • Can I save a map and return to it?

    You can create a map and share it using the  button located in the main menu shown by clicking or by sending an exported image of the map (e.g., .jpeg, .png). You can return to the link at any time and it will include all of the layers that were added, except for any manually imported data. Currently, Open Maps does not have a save function for maps that have been created.

More Information

  • Who do I Contact?

    For Questions about Open Government and Open Maps contact

    Once you located the dataset of interest but need more information, email the contact under Additional Information on the right hand menu of the dataset page.

    For general comments about a dataset, please feel free to Add New Comment at the bottom of the page.

Open Information

  • What is Open Information?

    Open Information is unstructured information that is freely shared without restrictions.

  • How do I search for Open Information?

    You may find information on the Open Data portal by using the « Search » box to search via keyword, and/or browse by organization, catalog type, tags, subject, or file format.

  • Where can I find information on government spending?

    The Government of Canada proactively discloses all contracts awarded over $10,000. These are now aggregated on Canada’s Open Government portal, as a central platform for users to search and access this information. We also launched InfoBase, which is an interactive online database that provides financial and human resources information on government operations.

  • How I find summaries of previous Access to Information Requests?

    You can search, browse, or even download a full dataset of summaries of Completed Access of Information Requests.

  • How do I make an Access to Information Request if I can’t find the information I’m looking for?

    You have multiple options from the Access to Information Form.

Open Data Inventory and Open Government Implementation Plans

  • When will all of the datasets listed in the open data inventory be published?

    Some of the datasets listed in the inventory are already available and can be accessed via the provided links on the data record. For those datasets that have not yet been released, Departments and Agencies will be working to prepare prioritization and release plans to publish all of the remaining datasets. To request the status of a specific dataset, email us at You can help us prioritize the publication of a dataset by using the voting functionality on the inventory, and we will work to release datasets with the most "Likes" first.

  • Which of these datasets will be published first?

    Departments and Agencies will be prioritizing inventoried datasets for release. Some factors that are evaluated when prioritizing data include;

    The dataset contains values that are free from errors in spelling or interpretation,
    The data contains all values (including appropriate metadata) necessary to support its intended use (e.g. can be used to track trends over an extended timeframe or across multiple stakeholders, etc.)
    The data, and any associated resources (e.g. data dictionaries, etc.) is in open and accessible formats.
    The data is, or can be made, publically available.
    Responds to a Public Need
    The data, or a similar resource, has been requested by members of the public.
    The data contains values that reflect the current state of the entity and can be updated at a frequency that aligns the nature of the content and its intended use.
    The data contains values that are collected by a limited number of institutions.

    You can help us prioritize the publication of a dataset by using the voting functionality on the inventory. We will work to release datasets with the most "Likes" first!

  • If a dataset isn’t included in the inventory, how can I ask for it?

    If there are particular datasets that you think should be made available, but are not published on or captured in the open data inventories, please us the suggest a dataset form.

  • What is the difference between the ’Date Published’ and ’Date Released’ fields?

    ’Date Published’ is the date of issuance (e.g., publication) of the dataset. This is when the dataset was first made publically available, which may or may not have been when it was published on

    ’Date Released’ is the date on which the metadata record was released, made available, on the Open Government portal; only if applicable.

  • When will Open Government Implementation Plans from all Government of Canada departments and agencies be published?

    The Open Government Implementation Plans submitted by Government of Canada departments and agencies can be found on our site. We are currently working to facilitate the publication of additional Open Government Implementation Plans. However, if there is a Department or Agency Open Government Implementation Plan that you can’t find, email us and we’ll provide a status update.


  • Who can I contact for assistance?

    If you encounter any difficulties or notice any errors while using the Open Government Portal, or if you require assistance, please Contact Us.

  • How do I report a broken link or corrupted file?

    Let us know about any broken links, corrupt files, or any other technical issues you may be experiencing on the site by using the Contact Us page.

Other Information

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