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Data Access


Researchers can apply to access the RDC by submitting an application including a proposal through the Microdata Access Portal (MAP). The proposal needs to include the following information:

  • Answer a research question
  • Data requirements - Please note researchers access only the data specified in the approved proposal
  • Data analysis - The statistical techniques to answer your research question
  • Software request - Researchers are expected to be familiar with the statistical software they are using. Please note the approval of a proposal does not imply approval for any software requested.

Before submitting an application for RDC access, please check whether your research question can be answered using Statistics Canada Public Use Microdata Files (PUMFs) made available through the Data Liberation Initiative (DLI). More information is available below.

Once the proposal has been approved, researchers must obtain a security clearance (Reliability status) including fingerprinting prior to being granted access to the RDC.

How to Apply

Step 1: Draft a project proposal

Step 2: Complete the online application through the Microdata Access Portal (MAP)

  • MAP
  • Guidelines and instructions
  • Please note the different requirements for a peer-review process depending on your status at the University of Calgary

Step 3: Evaluation of the proposal by Statistics Canada Subject Matter Expert for scientific merit and viability.

Step 4: Sign a Microdata Research Contract with Statistics Canada and take the Oath or Affirmation of Office and Secrecy

Step 5: Complete the security screening process including fingerprinting. The RDC will contact researchers with security screening application forms and instructions once the proposal has been approved.

Step 6: Once your project is completed, submit a product/output as specified in the Contract.

  • A list of final products can be found here.
  • A list of projects from the last 12 months can be found here.

Data Available in the RDC

RDC datasets cover research topics including education and human capital; health; immigration; Indigenous peoples; justice; labour market and income; and social trends. These datasets include cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys, one-time collection and multiple cycles, administrative databases and linked datasets.

The confidentiality of respondents is protected through the use of policies and procedures that create a culture of confidentiality within the research community. These datasets provide faculty, staff and students with the ability to conduct secondary analysis effectively using high-quality data contributing to theses, dissertations, journal articles, book chapters, conference presentations and policy reports.

There are over 150 datasets available and the full list of available data can be found here. Please refer to the dataset(s) of interest for a user guide, data dictionary and other relevant documentation to aid in your application and proposal.

Additional Ways to Access Statistics Canada Datasets

The Data Liberation Initiative (DLI)

The Data Liberation Initiative (DLI) is a partnership between post-secondary institutions and Statistics Canada for improving access to Canadian data resources. The University of Calgary is a participating institution of the DLI which grants the University of Calgary affiliated researchers access to a collection of products produced by Statistics Canada.

Notable among the DLI collection is the Public Use Microdata Files (PUMF). They are non-aggregated data which are carefully modified and then reviewed to ensure no individual or business is directly or indirectly identified. Updated years and cycles of PUMF are updated here.

How to access PUMF

PUMF products are listed on the Spatial and Numeric Data Services (SANDS) website and accessed through NESSTAR and ODESI. Please contact SANDS for questions related to the DLI and PUMF.


  • NESSTAR also includes information about what variables are available in the RDC microdata files which can aid in your proposal and application.


  • There are other surveys from Canadian Opinion Research Archive (CORA) and Canadian Dataverses in addition to the PUMF available through the DLI.

PUMF available through SANDS

  • PUMF available through the DLI available to researchers with a University of Calgary affiliation

Below are instructions to access NESSTAR and ODESI if you have university credentials from the University of Calgary, but do not have a university IP address:

SANDS using University of Calgary credentials

  • Spatial and Numeric Data Services
  • Select ‘Data & Statistics’
  • Select ‘Microdata’
  • Select ‘Statistics Canada NESSTAR’ and log in using your University of Calgary credentials


  • Select ‘ODESI’

Comparing Microdata Files and PUMF

Microdata files and PUMF differ in several ways. Microdata files can contain sensitive variables, continuous variables, and granular categories for variables, whereas in PUMF sensitive variables are suppressed, categorical variables might be collapsed, and previously continuous variables are grouped. Microdata is accessed in an RDC, datasets cannot be removed from our secure facility and results are vetted to ensure confidentiality. PUMF are used outside of the RDC and can be downloaded to your personal or work computer. PUMF are beneficial when the researcher has limited time such as an undergraduate student analyzing data for a research paper.

Researchers can access PUMF (depending on its availability) prior to being granted access to the RDC to use the corresponding microdata file. The PUMF may meet the needs of the researchers depending on the research question. Researchers can also use the PUMF to familiarize themselves with the data and documentation which can assist in the proposal and developing syntax in advance of an approved project. RDC access is beneficial when a PUMF does not exist or the PUMF does not contain the required sample or variables needed for analysis.

The Real-Time Remote Access (RTRA) System

The RTRA system is an on-line remote access facility allowing users to run SAS programs, in real-time, against microdata located in a central and secure location. Researchers using the RTRA system do not gain direct access to the microdata and cannot view the content of the microdata file. Instead, users submit SAS programs to extract results in the form of frequency tables. More information about the RTRA system and datasets available can be found here

Other ways to access Statistics Canada data

Unaffiliated researchers and the general public have unrestricted access to aggregated statistics including tables (formerly CANSIM), community and regional profiles, data visualizations and maps.

Additionally, Statistics Canada is a major producer of open data and contributor to the Open Data Portal through the Government of Canada.