Section 1: About the DLI

  1. An Introduction to the DLI
  2. The DLI Community
  3. DLI Reports

An Introduction to the DLI

The Data Liberation Initiative (DLI) is a partnership between post-secondary institutions and Statistics Canada for the purpose of improving access to data resources. Over the years the focus of the DLI program has evolved from purchasing access to major Canadian datasets collected by Statistics Canada to providing training services and the continuous support required for the proper understanding and usage of an ever expanding research collection. The products and services provided by the DLI continue to enable faculty and students to use real Canadian data in their studies and research. DLI Contacts from member institutions are part of a professional network that enables them to support research and teaching at their institution. DLI contacts at member institutions are themselves supported through regular training within a community of data librarians and a Statistics Canada reference service resource.

What services are provided?

  • The DLI listserv, a specialised research service for DLI contact members seeking responses to statistical and data-related questions (See Section 3 for more information).
  • DLI membership provides annual regional workshops that offer the latest information about Statistics Canada and DLI products and services. The workshops teach practical data skills with enhanced theoretical knowledge about data literacy (See Section 3 for more information).
  • Webinars on Statistics Canada surveys and products are regularly scheduled for DLI contacts to attend.
  • Publishes the DLI Update: a newsletter geared towards DLI contacts, which serves to educate participants on issues related to the DLI community and provides useful tips to help with DLI activities (See Section 4 for more information).

What data is available?

The DLI offers access to

  • All current and historical public-use microdata files (PUMF) from Statistics Canada
  • An enhanced line of Census products
  • Aggregated data on subjects such as justice and education
  • All standard geographic files and databases.
  • Postal CodeOM data products
  • Discharge Abstract Database (DAD) Research Analytic Files from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI)

See Section 6 and Section 7 for more information regarding accessing the DLI Collection.


When the cost of Statistics Canada data increased in the 1980's, researchers, students and instructors at Canadian post-secondary institutions made increased use of American, British and even Chinese data. This cheaper foreign data did not always reflect the Canadian situation, and there were often gaps in the data. Furthermore, many academic institutions had not provided the technical support scholars needed to handle complex data files.

To help buffer the increased costs associated with purchasing data, a consortial agreement between Statistics Canada and Canadian academic institutions was created to acquire and share the 1986 Census PUMF. The successful experience led to the creation of the DLI as a pilot project in 1996.

It was estimated that about 25-30 institutions would take up the offer to join the pilot project. To everyone's surprise, 50 institutions joined almost immediately. That meant that over 40 institutions had signed on to a program for which they had no physical infrastructure and very few human resources or data related expertise.

Over the years, the DLI program has continued to play an important role in the promotion of data and statistical literacy. This includes increasing its educational outreach to the DLI community and beyond, while also providing valuable feedback to Statistics Canada on the relevance of its data to Canadian society.

Continuum of Access

Statistics Canada has numerous dissemination channels to make its data and statistics available to Canadians. The Continuum of Access Model (see below) helps users identify the various levels of data access at Statistics Canada, of which the DLI is one avenue. The model uses cost, the conditions attached to the terms of use, and the content of the statistical information as it applies to the various dissemination channels.

Open Statistics Restricted Data
  Statistics Canada Website Data Liberation Initiative (DLI) Product sales and customized tabulations Real Time Remote Access Program (RTRA) Research Data Centres (RDC)
Source: Statistics Canada
Who can access: General public Post-secondary academic students, faculty and staff Individuals or organizations Researcher or project team Approved researchers
Conditions: Statistics Canada Open Licence DLI Licence Agreement and associated licences
Restricted to teaching, research and statistical purposes
Contract between Statistics Canada and individual or organization RTRA Agreement and Open data licence SSHRC peer review and deemed Statistics Canada employee status
Conditions: Electronic standard data products and publications Standard data products, Public use microdata files, Postal CodeOM data products, and other Tables from confidential files that are specially processed by Statistics Canada for a fee Various social survey and administrative datasets Confidential microdata files and administrative datasets
Mode of access: Available on Internet Electronic File Transfer (EFT) service;
Online data portals
Custom tabulation distributed to client Electronic File Transfer (EFT) service In a secure Research Data Centre

The Data Liberation Initiative offers member institutions access to Statistics Canada's complete PUMF collection under one licence agreement. Membership in the DLI also includes access to a special collection of data files and products, including multiple year sample files from the Discharge Abstract Database (DAD) from the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI) and the Postal CodeOM data products.

The DLI Community

The Statistics Canada DLI

The DLI team at Statistics Canada provides training and support which includes but is not limited to: dedicated research services for members seeking responses to statistics and/or data-related questions; technical support; and administrative assistance in the planning of training needs for DLI member institutions.

Contact information for the DLI team is available on The Statistics Canada DLI section web page. You can also reach the DLI team by sending an email directly.

DLI member institutions

The Participating institutions and their contacts section of the DLI website provides a full listing of the Canadian post-secondary institutions that are members of the DLI and their local contacts.

The DLI External Advisory Committee (EAC)

The Data Liberation Initiative is guided by its External Advisory Committee. The Committee's mandate, as outlined in its Governance Structure, is two folds:

  1. To promote a culture of data use in Canadian post-secondary educational institutions.
  2. To facilitate access to Canadian public data in support of teaching and academic research.

The DLI program will undertake many initiatives to achieve these objectives. The initiatives are outlined in the DLI Strategic Plan for discussion at the External Advisory Committee meetings.

The EAC meets annually and is composed of representatives appointed from DLI member institutions, Statistics Canada, and external organizations. For a complete listing of DLI EAC members, visit the External Advisory Committee (EAC) section of the DLI website.

The DLI Professional Development Committee (PD)

The DLI Professional Development Committee (PD), which reports to the EAC, is responsible for the ongoing development of a data services curriculum for post-secondary staff supporting the DLI at their institution. This is achieved through a number of forums, such as the annual regional DLI training workshops, a quadrennial national training day, and other special training events. The annual training sessions are held across Canada for members of the four geographic areas: Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario and West.

The DLI Professional Development Committee's Training Structure provides an overview of the responsibilities and structure of the committee. The DLI Training Principles document describes the pedagogical foundations of the DLI Training Program and DLI Training Funding and provides information on regional training workshops. These documents are found on the DLI's Electronic File Transfer (EFT) site or may be requested from the DLI team.

Regional Training Coordinators

Two regional training coordinators for each of the four regions sit on the DLI Professional Development Committee and are responsible for:

  1. Identifying training needs within their region;
  2. Communicating these needs to the PDC both for the purpose of budgeting for training and for coordinating national training activities;
  3. Arranging local training events; and
  4. Designing their local region's training program.

For a current listing of Committee members, see the DLI Website page Professional Development Committee.

DLI Reports

DLI Annual Reports

The DLI provides an annual overview of the program's activities including organizational changes, governance, membership, finances, training, and projects. These documents are found on the DLI's Electronic File Transfer (EFT) site or may be requested from the DLI team.

Minutes of the External Advisory Committee

The Minutes of the EAC provides a summary of the discussions that took place during the annual meetings of the External Advisory Committee and are found on the DLI's Electronic File Transfer (EFT) site or may be requested from the DLI team.