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“Unlocking a Treasure Chest” Webinar Q&A

Thank you to everyone who logged on for the Unlocking a Treasure Chest of data webinar on March 24th. It was a great opportunity to connect with Community Map and Living Atlas of the World - Canada existing participants and those new to the program. 

You can access the webinar recording here and presentation here

We’ve had a tremendous response to this session and some great questions from our engaged audience. We didn’t have a chance to address all questions live, so as promised we put together a Q&A that covers the group’s questions. 


Q: How do you ensure the data in the Living Atlas and Community Map is accurate and reliable for use?

A: Our team reviews every piece of contributed data and its sources to determine its reliability.  We generally give more merit to data published by reputable organizations; however, we welcome and will review data from any source. If we are uncertain about the data or provider, we will contact them directly for more information. While our goal is to provide reliable data, we rely on contributors to provide accurate information and cannot 100% guarantee its accuracy.

Q: How current is the data found on the imagery layer (and all layers)?

A: The data available in the vector basemaps is the most recent version, as we receive from the provider.  How current certain data is may vary by layer. 

To find out the age of imagery in a particular area on our imagery basemap, click here.

This link will provide you with not only the age of the imagery but its source and resolution. We are working on a similar function for vector basemaps in Canada.

Q: Is the data stored in ArcGIS Online registered under Canadian or American data security legislation?

A: The data in ArcGIS Online resides in Azure and Amazon data centres in the US.  Click here for more information on security.

Q: If we are not Community Map program participants but are using a basemap, will it still be updated?

A: Yes. The basemap is created and updated and made available for everyone to use, even if they don’t contribute.

Q: Is there a difference between the imagery published by Esri Inc. (U.S.) and what is published by Esri Canada?

A: No, it is the same.

Q: If a province and municipality submit the same layer of data, which source will take precedence?

A: We will analyze and compare the two data sets to see which is more current and complete and will use the better version.  Typically, we find similar datasets have different strengths, making it difficult to choose which one is better.

Q: How is the Community Map used for predictive analytics?

A: The Community Map program is focused on building an up-to-date basemap. The map can be used as a reference for any predictive analytics that you do, but data cannot be extracted for predictive analysis purposes at this time.

Q: Do you need an organizational account to publish to The Living Atlas?

A: No. Anyone with an account can publish and nominate items to the Living Atlas.

Q: Would you accept local databases for program layers?

A: We try to focus the Living Atlas items for Canada on national or provincial wide topics. We can make exceptions if the local topic is of a wider interest. In any case, users will still be able to access your data whether or not it is part of the Living Atlas.

Q: Are basemaps available in French?

A: We strive to make our maps bilingual according to Federal government guidelines. This means using official French and English names where appropriate. In some cases, we will show two names (e.g. New Brunswick / Nouveau Brunswick). That being said, we rely on our data providers to provide us with the appropriate names for all their features. If you see language issues or shortcomings in the map, please let us know.

Q: Please share the full list of available data layers

A: The following layers are available through the Community Map and Living Atlas programs:

Transportation Features  

  • Railroad  
  • Road Centerline (classified roads with names and highway numbers)  
  • Trail  

Administrative & Political Boundaries  

  • Administrative Boundary Line (town or city boundary)  
  • County or Region Boundary (if applicable)  
  • Provincial Boundary (if applicable)  
  • International Boundary (if applicable)  
  • Indian Reserve Boundary (if applicable)  

Physical Features  

  • Waterbody (lakes)  
  • Waterline (rivers)  
  • Water Label (can be associated with waterbodies or waterlines)  
  • Wetlands  
  • Vegetation (forested or treed areas)  
  • Trees (point layer showing tree locations)  
  • Spot Elevation (selected elevation points)  
  • One Metre Contours (or the best that you have)  
  • Landform & landmarks (point, line or polygon layer containing names of physical features – e.g. mountain names)  


  • Owner Parcel (outlines only)  
  • Address Points  
  • Building Footprint  

Cultural / Landuse / Manmade Features  

  • Neighborhood & Neighborhood Label  
  • Parks (Federal, Provincial & Municipal) & Park Labels  
  • Urban / Built-up Area  
  • Airport extent & runway  
  • Landuse  
  • Points of Interest (e.g. prominent local features, names of large buildings, schools, local landmarks)  
  • Parking Lot  


  • Imagery 


Q: Can information from the Living Atlas be used as part of a shapefile? or in the ArcMap?

A: Access to items in ArcMap or ArcGIS for individual use is dependent on the item owner. Each owner can adjust the settings for each of their items. Some owners wish to publish their data but not make it downloadable. If there is a specific layer you want to download but do not have access to, you will need to contact the item owner for permission.

Q: Are the vector basemaps tiled?

A: Yes, vector basemaps are tiled. For more information watch this video on vector tiles.

Q: How do I add the Community Map to my basemap dropdown in ArcGIS Pro?

A: Click here to read the blog post on this topic.

Q: Can I use the Living Atlas community basemaps with ArcMap?

A: Vector basemaps do not function in ArcMap. To access vector basemaps on a desktop application you will need to use ArcGIS Pro. The raster basemaps are still available but these are no longer updated.

Q: Can we constrain the basemap to a Lambert conformal projection? 

A: You can use the basemaps in ArcGIS Pro in whatever projection you choose. Currently you cannot change the projection in ArcGIS Online. We are working on caching a Lambert Conformal C

About the Author

Paul Heersink is a cartographer and Production Manager of Esri Canada’s Community Maps Program: an initiative that is aiming to build a seamless topographic basemap using contributor data. He has over 15 years of cartographic experience, working in both the public and private sectors. Paul has always been interested in mapping and drew his own atlas at the age of 10. He took a detour in his career through the fields of psychology and social work before returning to cartography.

Profile Photo of Paul Heersink