Canada Launches Data Portal

Canada Launches Data Portal

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The Canadian government launched a national open government data portal.

Ottawa, 17 March 2011

(by Ton Zijlstra)

The Government of Canada launched the pilot project for an online Open Data Portal today. Minister Day, President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, today launched the pilot project. This is a promising step, as until now the open government data efforts were largely visible on the local level only, such as Vancouver's open data motion two years ago. With this portal the federal government level takes a very important step on the same path that Canadian cities have explored in the past few years.

Texts from the press release:

The Open Data Portal is available at, and forms a one-stop shop for federal Government data, providing data that can be downloaded free of charge. The pilot phase will take place over a 12-month period, during which the government will continue to increase the number of datasets available.

The Open Data Portal is part of the Government of Canada's efforts to drive innovation and economic opportunities for all Canadians. "We want to continue to make Canada one of the best places to do business by ensuring that Canadian entrepreneurs, researchers, academics and voluntary organizations have access to government data in useful formats to help foster innovation, job creation and community services for Canadians," said Minister Day.

This pilot portal will initially bring together more than 260,000 datasets from the following ten participating departments available to all Canadians: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Citizenship and Immigration Canada; Environment Canada; Department of Finance Canada; Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Library and Archives Canada; Natural Resources Canada; Statistics Canada; Transport Canada; and the Treasury Board Secretariat.

Longtime open data proponent and Vancouverite David Eaves, who conducted the press conference of the launch of together with Minister Day, shares both praise and criticism for the pilot in his weblog posting "Canada launches – what works and what is broken"

The biggest positive thing is, says Eaves, that the portal now exists and public bodies have a place they can release their data. The biggest negative thing is "In a word: the license."

"The license on is deeply, deeply flawed. Some might go so far as to say that the license does not make it data open at all - a critique that I think is fair. I would say this: presently the open data license on effectively kills any possible business innovation, and severally limits the use in non-profit realms."

According to David Eaves three elements in the license text are problematic, which he describes in detail in his blogposting, but are too long to reproduce here. He also points out that similar elements do not exist in any other license that accompany national data portals elsewhere in the world. Eaves expresses hope that over time, as is the way with beta's and pilots, this will be improved through dialogue between the Canadian government and the Canadians re-using the data in the portal.

UPDATE: In a twitter message, David Eaves says "Just heard from TBS president Stockwell Day: the "disrepute to or prejudice the reputation of Canada" clause will be struck from the license." So one of the three issues he sees with license is already being addressed.

David Eaves