Open data in Canada

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Open data in Canada describes the capacity for the Canadian Federal Government and other levels of government in Canada to provide online access to data collected and created by governments in a standards-compliant Web 2.0 way. As of 2016, Canada is ranked 2nd in the world for publishing open data by the World Wide Web Foundation's Open Data Barometer.[1]

A number of efforts have been made to expose data gathered by Canadian governments of all levels in ways that make it available for mashups.

List of Sites[edit]

See - Open Government Across Canada.


Canada's President of the Treasury Board, currently Scott Brison, is the political lead on Canadian open government at the federal level, including open data.

On March 17, 2011, Stockwell Day, then President, announced the launch of the 12-month pilot period for Canada's national open data site.[2] On April 11, 2012, Tony Clement, who had become President since, announced Canada's Action Plan on Open Government, a 3-year plan for open data including:

  • expansion of the number of datasets made available, gathering requirements for the next generation platform, in the first year; and
  • design and implementation of the new portal, improving the level of standardization of data, in the second and third years.[3]

On June 18, 2013 an updated version of the portal was launched, along with an updated Open Government Licence.

In addition to the main portal site, other Federal department sites include:

On October 9, 2014 the government issued the Directive on Open Government, an "open by default" directive for government publications and data.

On November 6, 2014 the government announced the 2nd Action Plan on Open Government,[4] including the following open data commitments:

  • Open Data Canada
  • Canadian Open Data Exchange (ODX)
  • Open Data for Development (OD4D)
  • Open Data Core Commitment

On July 15, 2016, the government released their 3rd action plan, titled the Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership, which continued the commitments on Open Data Canada, the Open Data Core Commitment, and the Open Data Exchange. It added commitments to "Increase the Availability and Usability of Geospatial Data" and release more budgetary, spending, and financial data and information.


  • GeoConnections Discovery Portal - "Enabling discovery and access of Canada's geographical information on the Internet"
  • Community Accounts covers Newfoundland only - "providing users at all levels with a reliable source of community, regional, and provincial data" - but the Senate has endorsed making it Canada-wide.



On May 28, 2013, the Province of Alberta launched the Alberta Open Data Portal with approximately 244 datasets.[5] In August 2015 a new portal was released to the public, adding further content to the datasets including Government of Alberta publications, a blog, descriptions of how both datasets and publications are chosen and published on the portal. As of October 2017, there are 2361 datasets available to the public, including datasets connected to GeoDiscover Alberta.

British Columbia[edit]

On July 19, 2011, the Province of British Columbia launched DataBC, Canada's first provincial open data site.[citation needed] It contains data across a broad spectrum of subjects, access to tools to analyze the data, and a blog featuring data-related posts. Previously the site had been used just to host environmental data as part of the Apps 4 Climate Action contest, Canada's first app development contest. John Anzin was the grand prize winner as the designer of the best Web App in the Apps4Climate Action Apps contest held on September 16th, 2010 at the Vancouver Aquarium, and attended by the Honourable John Yap, Minister of State for Climate Action. The winning App created by John Anzin is named VELO. VELO is a web app for businesses that encourages GHG emissions reduction through measurement and benchmarking internally and against peers. The app allows users to create visuals of an organization’s emissions by numerous parameters, e.g. geography, branch, division, year, etc. Businesses would have the potential to change their practices, which can have far-reaching effects. [6]


In 2011, Ontario’s minister of research and innovation, Glen Murray announced on Twitter that the province had an open data project "being built over the next few months”.[7] Minister Murray indicated "the project is fully funded through MaRS - it is being built over the next few months".[8]

As of November 8, 2012, the Province of Ontario has an open data portal. It launched with 63 files.[citation needed]


The Gautrin Report (Rapport Gautrin, "Gouverner ensemble : Comment le Web 2.0 améliorera-t-il les services aux citoyens?") released May 2, 2012, announced many open government initiatives, including an open data portal.[9]

The open data portal went live June 28, 2012.[10][11]


The number of municipalities adopting open data policies and releasing open data has been steadily increasing since 2008. Cities across Canada such as Edmonton and Ottawa have created various contests for building apps that utilize municipal open data.[12][13]


NOTE: Open data in Canada dates back to the 1970s with the sharing of satellite imagery, the Data Liberation Initiative in the early 1990s, Geogratis and Geobase at the turn of the millennia, the Information Commissioner's call for Open Government, and any number of other civil society actions and events. The following is a partial and recent history/background by politicians.

The governing party in the 40th Canadian Parliament was the Conservative Party of Canada. The consultation paper [14] for the government's Digital Economy Strategy, released May 10, 2010, included the statement that "Governments can help by making publicly-funded research data more readily available to Canadian researchers and businesses".

On September 1, 2010, Canada’s Access to Information and Privacy Commissioners issued an Open Government Resolution,[15][16] but this does not have the force of law. They called for governments at all levels across Canada to endorse open government, and for them to proactively disclose information in open formats (i.e. open data).

On October 18, 2010 Charlie Angus, an NDP MP, introduced a Private Members' Motion M-587 who primary purpose was to support the use of open source in the government, but which also called for "open access to government information".[17]

On October 21, 2010, the Liberal Party of Canada released a party platform document, the Liberal Open Government Initiative. It included a commitment to create a national open data site / on which to "make as many government datasets as possible available".[18]

On October 25, 2010, Green Party blogger Emma Jane Hogbin raised the issue of open data[citation needed] and on November 25, 2010, the Green Party called for a Federal Open Data Policy.[19]

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (ETHI), 40th Parliament, 3rd Session was conducting a study of Open Government. Recorded audio (Windows Media format) and minutes of their meetings are available.

Information and advocacy[edit]

  • The List is where the network discusses how levels of government can and should make civic information and data accessible at no cost in open formats to their citizens. A similar network with a focus on British Columbia is The Open Data Society of British Columbia.
  • is a blog which believes all levels of Canadian governments should make civic information and data accessible at no cost in open formats to their citizens. Data are collected using Canadian tax-payer funds, and use of those data should not be restricted to those who can afford the exorbitant fees.
  • The Lac Carling Congress annually brings together professionals from all three levels of government in Canada with private sector companies. The event focuses on the advancement of electronic delivery of government services in Canada.
  • There have been several ChangeCamps across Canada in 2009 and 2010.
  • There are several citizen advocacy groups throughout Canada that work with governments and institutions to adopt open data policies:
    • Alberta
      • Edmonton: Change Camp Edmonton
    • British Columbia: Open Data Society of BC
    • Ontario
      • Guelph: OpenGuelph
      • Halton: OpenHalton
      • Hamilton: OpenHamilton
      • London: Open Data London
      • Mississauga: Mississauga Data
      • Ottawa: Open Data Ottawa
      • Waterloo Region: Open Data Waterloo Region
      • Windsor: Open Data Windsor
    • Québec: Québec ouvert
      • Gatineau: Gatineau ouverte
      • Montréal: Montréal Ouvert
      • Québec: Capitale ouverte
    • Saskatchewan: saskMAPS


A number of the cities use licences that are arguably not Open Data licences[20] as defined by the U.S. based Sunlight Foundation,[21] and allow for arbitrary and retroactive banning of use. They also do not have versioning of licences and/or datasets.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]