Cartographic boundary files (CBFs)

Detailed definition

Cartographic boundary files (CBFs) portray the boundaries of standard geographic areas together with the shoreline around Canada. Selected inland lakes and rivers are available as supplementary layers.

Image of cartographic boundary  file


2011, 2006, 2001 (cartographic boundary files)
1996 (digital cartographic files)
1991, 1986, 1981, 1976 (CARTLIBs)


The boundaries of the geographic areas reflect those in effect on January 1, 2011 (the geographic reference date for the 2011 Census of Canada).

Cartographic boundary files are created by integrating Canada's external shoreline with the selected source boundary layer from the Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI). The boundaries extending into water bodies are 'erased' and replaced by the shoreline and offshore islands. The hydrographic features are also from the SDI. Further adjustments are made, such as the feature selection and the ranking of features for scale-dependent mapping.

Cartographic boundary files (CBFs) are intended for thematic mapping and analysis purposes. The positional accuracy does not support cadastral, surveying or engineering applications. CBFs can be used in conjunction with road network files (RNFs), since both products are derived from the same sources, and features are generalized in the same manner. The roads in RNFs provide additional geographic context when used with CBFs. CBFs can be used with Census of Population, Census of Agriculture or other Statistics Canada data. Geographic codes provide the linkage between the statistical data and geographic areas.

The maps in Figure 4 below show the differences between cartographic boundary files and digital boundary files.

Figure 4
Example of a cartographic boundary file and a digital boundary file (provinces and territories)

Figure 4 Example of a cartographic boundary file and a digital boundary file (provinces and territories)

Description for Figure 4

Source: Statistics Canada, 2011 Census of Population.

Refer to the related definitions of digital boundary files (DBFs); road network file (RNF); Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) and to the Boundary Files, Reference Guide (Catalogue no. 92-160-G).

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