Date and time notation in Canada

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The standard date and time format in Canada is ISO 8601, or [YYYY]-[MM]-[DD]T[hh]:[mm]:[ss]. Although different calendar date formats are found in Canada, both in French and in English, the Treasury Board of the Government of Canada has mandated the use of the ISO 8601 date format to eliminate calendar-date errors in information transfer.[1] As a consequence, The Canadian Standards Association has implemented the ISO 8601 specification through national standard CSA Z234.5:1989.[1]

Where confusion could be a problem, such as in banking, additional instructions for the end-user may be offered.[2] Bank cheques must include date field indicators showing which of the three formats is being used; spaces or dashes are permitted as separators on date-formatted cheques, but not slashes.[2]


Since the Canadian Standards Association adopted the ISO 8601 yyyy-mm-dd (e.g., 2009-12-31) date format, it has become widely used and it even appears as the default date format in newer releases of Microsoft Windows. Other older date formats are still used informally and in conversation. For example, the traditional Canadian civil format is dd/mm/(yy)yy (e.g., 31/12/(20)09) and is common particularly within the federal government. The MM/dd/(yy)yy (e.g., Dec 31, (20)09) date format, with the month specified by name, is also common because of the influences from the United States, and because of the way Canadians say dates in English (e.g., "January 1st, 2014). In more casual use, the three different date formats can cause ambiguity. For example, this all-numeric date format "01/02/03" can be 3 different expanded date forms. It can be DMY "01 February 2003", MDY "January 02, 2003", and some might even think it could be ISO 8601 (YMD) for "2001 February 03", even though the ISO standard always uses four digits for the year. When trying to resolve the ambiguity, the day within the month can be used if it is greater than 12. The provider of the date may provide a clue. For example, a date of '12/12/04' is more likely to be M/D/Y from McDonalds which is an American-based company. A date of '12-12-04' from Tim Horton's is more likely to be 'D-M-Y'.[3]

Passport applications[4] and tax returns[5] use YYYY-MM-DD. Nearly all English newspapers use MDY (MMM[M] D, YYYY).[6] The default date format used by Microsoft Windows for Canada for all-numeric dates is YYYY-MM-DD, although older systems may show DD/MM/YYYY.

ISO 8601 requires that dates should display leading zeros for any numbers below 10. The separator is always a hyphen unless another display option is clearly shown, as in bank cheques. Less structured (i.e. non-data) literary uses may display leading zeros (e.g., 09 December 2009) or may not (e.g., 9 December 2009) for numbers below 10. They may also include the weekday name. The DMY expanded date form would look like "Thursday, 31 December 2009" and the MDY expanded date form would look like "Thursday, December 31, 2009". There may also be abbreviations for words in any date format (e.g., 2009-Dec-31, Thu). Weekday name and month abbreviations are usually the first three or four letters of the word (Weekday abbreviated names: Sun, Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat—Months: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec). Both English-Canadian and French-Canadian calendars mostly show Sunday as the first day of the week.


See also: Time in Canada

In Canada, similar to the United States, the ISO-24-hour clock is used in health care settings, such as hospitals, as well as by airlines, environmental services, railways, bus lines, ferry services, and the military. The 12-hour clock is commonly used in ordinary daily life by the English-speaking population, and the option still appears in Windows file systems. French speakers, however, use the 24-hour clock.


  1. ^ a b "TBITS 36: All-Numeric Representation of Dates and Times – Implementation Criteria". Treasury Board of Canada. 18 December 1997 (ACIM Endorsement date). Retrieved 2012-03-17.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ a b "Cheque Specifications". Canadian Payments Association. Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  3. ^ Today, people are more exposed to the ISO 8601 date format as a result of the certainty required by technology. The ISO 8601 date format is an easy date format to understand because it always starts from the biggest unit first (the year) and has the smallest unit last (the day), hence 2009-12-31. The format always includes a 4-digit year, so it is free from ambiguity. It is favoured in data processing because it collates naturally: By default in ascending date, however reversing the order is straightforward as well.
  4. ^ "Canadian passport renewal application" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  5. ^ "Canadian Income Tax Form" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  6. ^ " website, with links to newspapers in many Canadian cities". Retrieved 2012-03-17.