Section 3 About this product

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Purpose of the product
Definitions and concepts
General methodology
Comparison to other products/versions
Using with other products
Reference date

Purpose of the product

The Postal Code Conversion File (PCCF) provides a link between six-character postal codes and standard 2006 Census geographic areas such as dissemination areas, census subdivisions and census tracts. It also provides a latitude and longitude coordinate for a point representing the approximate location of the postal code to support mapping.

Definitions and concepts

Not applicable


This version of the PCCF contains a total of 838,559 postal codes (832,163 active, 6,396 retired codes that are not active). This total figure includes 7 postal codes reintroduced since the last release. Postal codes retired before January 1, 2006 are included in a separate file called Retired 2005 (R2005.txt), available with the PCCF. These postal codes are linked to the geographic areas used in the 2006 Census and to latitude and longitude coordinates. This file contains postal code data under license from Canada Post Corporation (CPC). The CPC file from which the active postal code data were obtained is dated October 2010. The PCCF includes all valid postal codes as of October 2010 according to CPC.

Postal codes do not respect census geographic boundaries and so may be linked to more than one standard geographic area, or assigned to more than one set of coordinates. Therefore, one postal code may be represented by more than one record. Postal codes can also straddle provincial boundaries. See the Technical specifications section for more information on postal codes.

Postal code data are available as a national file or as separate provincial/territorial files identified by using Standard Geographic Classification (SGC) codes. See File naming convention in the Technical specifications section.

Table 3.1 provides the number of unique postal codes and total records by province and territory. (Table 4.3 in the Technical specifications section provides counts of postal codes by the first letter of the forward sortation area.)

Table 3.1
Province and territory postal code counts1
Province/territory Unique postal codes Number of records
Newfoundland and Labrador 10,910 22,021
Prince Edward Island 3,307 9,046
Nova Scotia 28,155 57,494
New Brunswick 59,733 110,415
Quebec 212,532 432,822
Ontario 278,028 565,477
Manitoba 24,645 40,979
Saskatchewan 22,164 36,547
Alberta 81,273 170,176
British Columbia 116,282 227,971
Yukon 984 2,055
Northwest Territories 517 1,381
Nunavut 29 87
Total 838,559 1,676,471
1. One postal code crosses a provincial boundary, but it is only reported in the province where the postal code's single link indicator is 1.

Each record in the file consists of the following:

  • six-character postal code
  • dissemination area (DA) identifier: made up of the province/territory code, the census division code and the dissemination area code
  • dissemination block: a basic geographic unit (where possible)
  • latitude and longitude coordinates representing approximate point location for the postal code
  • census subdivision (CSD) name, code and type
  • geographic codes of other higher level standard geographic areas in which the dissemination block/dissemination area is located
  • federal electoral district code – 2003 Representation Order
  • CPC information relevant to each postal code: its birth date, retirement date, type of mail delivery, CPC community name, and various flags: single link indicator, type of representation point, and postal code type.
  • Record level metadata related to the quality such as the quality indicator and the source of geocoding. There is also an indicator showing whether the postal code is linked to a postal installation.

Purchasers of the PCCF also receive supplementary files. Due to the size of the name fields, and because of their repetition, the names are provided in separate files:

  • Census division names file (CD_DR.txt)
  • Federal electoral district names file – 2003 Representation Order (FED03_CEF03.txt)
  • Statistical Area Classification names file (SAC_CSS.txt)
  • Retired 2005 (R2005.txt)

The basic link between the postal code and other standard census geographic areas is made through one or more 2006 Census dissemination blocks. The geographic areas contained on the PCCF are shown on the hierarchy chart (Appendix B).

The PCCF is available as standard packages for Canada, the provinces and territories. Custom orders are available on request. Contact us by e-mail or by visiting our website.

General methodology

The Postal Code Conversion File (PCCF) is updated on a regular basis and is released every six months. The regular maintenance of the file takes all postal code changes continually introduced by Canada Post Corporation (CPC) and finds the corresponding census geographic areas. Every five years, after each census, the PCCF is aligned with the new census geographic areas.

Every month, Statistics Canada obtains files from CPC containing the latest postal codes, address ranges and other attributes such as delivery mode type. Whenever possible, postal code address ranges are linked to a block-face, dissemination block or dissemination area. Municipality maps are also used and, when necessary, contact is made with local authorities to obtain as precise a street and address location as possible. When the block-face or dissemination block cannot be precisely determined, the postal code is coded to a dissemination area(s).

All other postal code links to higher level geographic areas are derived from the block-face, dissemination block or dissemination area.


The PCCF contains multiple records for a postal code when the postal code straddles more than one block-face, dissemination block, or dissemination area. It should be acknowledged that the Canada Post Corporation source data used to create the PCCF contains some postal codes which have links to multiple address ranges. For example, in the October 2010 file received from Canada Post Corporation, 737 postal codes were linked to between 50 and 100 different address ranges, and 449 postal codes were linked to 100 or more address ranges.

Civic addresses are not available for some postal codes such as those associated with rural routes. Many of these postal codes tend to straddle several dissemination areas and often cross boundaries of standard geographic areas such as census tracts or census subdivisions. It is difficult, if not impossible, to identify the precise physical location of a rural postal code.

Community mailboxes are a growing source for multiple records per postal code on the PCCF. In newer urban delivery areas, postal codes are assigned to a community mailbox that may cover partial dissemination blocks, both sides of a street, and different streets within 200 metres of the community mailbox. These situations often result in multiple links being established between a postal code and block-faces, unlike the more traditional urban postal codes, which correspond generally to a block-face.

The single link indicator (SLI) was created to assist users in dealing with postal codes with multiple records. The method used to establish the single link indicator identifies the geographic area with the majority of dwellings assigned to a particular postal code. Users should be aware that only a partial correspondence between the postal code and other geographic areas is achieved when using the single link indicator. It should also be noted that the single link indicator is identified on both active and retired postal codes. Users will find when working with both active and retired postal codes, multiple SLIs will appear for a postal code that has been retired and reintroduced.

Table 3.2 presents the number of postal codes (including retired postal codes) that show multiple links by geographic area.

Table 3.2 
Postal codes with multiple links
Geographic area Number of postal codes
Dissemination block 118,602
Dissemination area 91,403
Census tract 17,414
Census subdivision 7,299
Census division 1,452
Census metropolitan area 174
Province/Territory 1

The address associated with a postal code does not always represent the location where those receiving mail using that postal code actually reside. This is particularly the case in rural areas, where rural route service and post office pick-up are commonly used to deliver mail. The delivery mode type of 'W' (rural) and 'H' (rural route) on the PCCF identify postal codes that are usually considered rural.

A typical rural route address, such as 'RR#6, Georgeville, Québec', does not provide sufficient address information to identify a precise physical location. A rural post office address such as 'PO BOX 4001 STN A VICTORIA BC' is also imprecise and not explicitly attached to the dwellings served by that postal code. Consequently, rural postal codes cannot be used in the same manner as most urban postal codes can to precisely geo-reference a physical location.

Similarly, postal codes with a delivery mode type of 'K' (group of post office boxes) or 'M' (one post office box) may be linked to the location of the postal installation on the PCCF, as opposed to the physical location of customers who rent a post office box. A new variable indicating whether a postal code is linked to a post office location or to where the customers reside is now available in the PCCF.

Comparison to other products/versions

  • The 2006 Census PCCF record layout has changed (i.e., the order of the fields has changed) when compared to the 2001 Census PCCF.
  • The 2006 Census PCCF links to 2006 Census geographic areas, whereas the 2001 Census PCCFs linked to 2001 Census geographic areas.
  • The 2006 Census PCCF has new variables, including: census subdivision unique identifier (CSDuid), dissemination block code, delivery installation (PO), quality indicator (QI), and Source.
  • The PCCF with October 2010 postal codes has more precision in the geocoding when compared to the 2001 Census PCCF. In this version, 723,917 postal codes (or 86.33% of the postal codes) are coded to block-face level. In the September 2006 PCCF, 541,960 postal codes (or 62.89% of the postal codes) were linked to block-face level.

Using with other products

Not applicable

Reference date

The reference date for postal codes contained in this product is October 2010.

The geographic reference date is a date determined by Statistics Canada to finalize the geographic framework for which the census data are collected, tabulated and reported. The geographic reference date for the 2006 Census is January 1, 2006.