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Census geographic units of Canada

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Census divisions by province and territory

The census geographic units of Canada are the census subdivisions defined and used by Canada's federal government statistics bureau Statistics Canada[1] to conduct the country's quinquennial census. These areas exist solely for the purposes of statistical analysis and presentation; they have no government of their own. They exist on four levels: the top-level (first-level) divisions are Canada's provinces and territories; these are divided into second-level census divisions, which in turn are divided into third-level census subdivisions (often corresponding to municipalities) and fourth-level dissemination areas.

In some provinces, census divisions correspond to the province's second-level administrative divisions such as a county or another similar unit of political organization. In the prairie provinces, census divisions do not correspond to the province's administrative divisions, but rather group multiple administrative divisions together. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the boundaries are chosen arbitrarily as no such level of government exists. Two of Canada's three territories are also divided into census divisions.

Census divisions

Nature of Canada's census divisions by province or territory
Province/Territory Second-level divisions Census divisions correspond to second-level administrative subdivisions?
Alberta Rural municipalities No Census divisions consist of groups of municipalities, specialized municipalities, and rural municipalities (these include municipal districts[a], special areas, and improvement districts).
British Columbia Regional districts Yes Census divisions correspond to regional districts.
Manitoba Rural municipalities No Census divisions consist of groups of urban and rural municipalities.
New Brunswick Rural Districts No Since 2023, New Brunswick is using a new municipal format. The new "rural districts" boundaries were roughly based on historical counties, although there is quite considerable differences in the final format.[b]
Newfoundland and Labrador None No Newfoundland and Labrador is not subdivided into second-level administrative divisions.
Northwest Territories Regions Administrative regions No Census divisions mostly correspond to the administrative regions of the Northwest Territories, except for North Slave Admin Region which is split into two census divisions. In addition, the remaining census divisions bear slightly different borders than their territorial counterparts.
Nova Scotia Counties Yes Census divisions correspond to historical counties.
Nunavut Regions Yes Census divisions correspond to the administrative regions of Nunavut.
Ontario Upper-tier municipalities Yes Census divisions consist of "upper-tier" municipalities (counties, districts, regional municipalities, single-tier cities).
Prince Edward Island Counties Yes Census divisions correspond to historical counties.[c]
Quebec Counties Regional county municipalities Yes Census divisions mostly correspond to regional county municipalities or equivalent territories.
Saskatchewan Rural municipalities No Census divisions consist of groups of urban and rural municipalities.
Yukon None Yes Yukon is not subdivided into second-level administrative divisions; thus, Statistics Canada uses the entire territory as a single census division.

In most cases, a census division corresponds to a single unit of the appropriate type listed above. However, in a few cases, Statistics Canada groups two or more units into a single statistical division:

In almost all such cases, the division in question was formerly a single unit of the standard type, which was divided into multiple units by its province after the 2001 Canadian census.

Census consolidated subdivisions


A census consolidated subdivision is a geographic unit between census division and census subdivision. It is a combination of adjacent census subdivisions typically consisting of larger, more rural census subdivisions and smaller, more densely populated census subdivisions.[6]

Census subdivisions


Census subdivisions generally correspond to the municipalities of Canada, as determined by provincial and territorial legislation.[7] They can also correspond to area which are deemed to be equivalents to municipalities for statistical reporting purposes, such as Indian reserves, Indian settlements, and unorganized territories where municipal level government may not exist.[7] Statistics Canada has created census subdivisions in cooperation with the provinces of British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia as equivalents for municipalities.[8] The Indian reserve and Indian settlement census subdivisions are determined according to criteria established by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.[9]

Dissemination areas


Dissemination areas are the smallest standard geographic unit in Canada and cover the entire country.[10] As small areas, they comprise one or more dissemination blocks and have a population between 400 and 700 people.[10]

Specially-defined geographic units


Census metropolitan areas

See template below for links to census metropolitan areas by size.

A "census metropolitan area" (CMA) is a grouping of census subdivisions comprising a large urban area (the "urban core") and those surrounding "urban fringes" with which it is closely integrated. To become a CMA, an area must register an urban core population of at least 100,000 at the previous census. CMA status is retained even if this core population later drops below 100,000.

CMAs may cross census division and provincial boundaries, although the Ottawa-Gatineau metropolitan area in Ontario and Quebec is the only one that currently crosses a provincial border.

The methodology used by Statistics Canada does not allow for CMA-CMA mergers into larger statistical areas; consequently, there is no Canadian equivalent to the combined statistical areas of the United States. Statistics Canada has stated that Toronto, Oshawa and Hamilton could be merged into a single CSA were such an approach utilized.[11] Statistics Canada has described the Greater Golden Horseshoe as the country's largest urban area.[12]

Census agglomerations


A "census agglomeration" (CA) is a smaller version of a CMA in which the urban core population at the previous census was greater than 10,000 but less than 100,000. If the population of an urban core is less than 50,000, it is the starting point for the construction of a 'census agglomeration'.[13]

Census tracts


CMAs and CAs with a population greater than 50,000 are subdivided into census tracts which have populations ranging from 2,500 to 8,000.

Population centres


A population centre (PC), formerly known as an urban area (UA), is any grouping of contiguous dissemination areas that has a minimum population of 1,000 and an average population density of 400 persons per square kilometre or greater.[14] For the 2011 census, urban area was renamed "population centre".[14][15] In 2011, Statistics Canada identified 942 population centres in Canada. Some population centres cross municipal boundaries and not all municipalities contain a population centre while others have more than one.[16]

The population centre level of geography is further divided into the following three groupings based on population:[14]

  • "small population centre" – 1,000 to 29,999
  • "medium population centre" – 30,000 to 99,999
  • "large urban population centre" – 100,000 and greater

Designated places


A "designated place" (DPL) is usually a small community that does not meet the criteria used to define incorporated municipalities or urban areas (areas with a population of at least 1,000 and no fewer than 400 persons per square kilometre), but for which Statistics Canada or a provincial government has requested that similar demographic data be compiled.[17]



A "locality" (LOC) is a historical named location or place. The named location may be a former census subdivision, a former urban area, or a former designated place. It may also refer to neighbourhoods, post offices, communities and unincorporated places among other entities.[18]

Electoral districts


Statistics Canada also aggregates data by federal electoral districts, one purpose for which is the redrawing of district boundaries every ten years. Federal electoral districts are numerically indexed; each district receives a unique five-digit code, with the first two digits being the Standard Geographical Classification code for the province or territory in which the district is located.

See also



  1. ^ While officially designated as a "municipal district", several municipal districts in Alberta have branded themselves as "counties".[2]
  2. ^ New Brunswick's county governments were abolished in 1966.[3] Following administrative reforms in 2023, rural districts were created for the province to provide important local services to residents who had no local government.[4]
  3. ^ Approximately 70% of Prince Edward Island's land mass, home to 30% of its residents, is rural and unincorporated, with no local government services.[5]


  1. ^ Statistics Canada. "Illustrated Glossary: Census Geography". Archived from the original on 2011-05-14. Retrieved 2006-10-11.
  2. ^ "2024 Municipal Codes" (PDF). Alberta Municipal Affairs. June 3, 2024. Retrieved June 14, 2024.
  3. ^ Municipalities Act. SNB 1966(1), c 20. Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick. 22 June 1966. 194. Retrieved 28 June 2024.
  4. ^ "Rural Districts: New Brunswick's reformed local governance system" (PDF). Government of New Brunswick. 4 August 2022. Retrieved 28 June 2024.
  5. ^ Baglole, Harry; Griffin, Diane; MacDonald, Wendy (June 2007). A Study on Prince Edward Island Local Governance (PDF) (Report). p. 1.
  6. ^ "Census consolidated subdivision (CCS)". Statistics Canada. 2012-01-31. Archived from the original on 2013-02-07. Retrieved 2012-02-18.
  7. ^ a b "Census subdivision (CSD)". Statistics Canada. 2010-06-14. Archived from the original on 2012-07-29. Retrieved 2011-08-29.
  8. ^ "Interim List of Changes to Municipal Boundaries, Status, and Names" (PDF). Statistics Canada. April 2011. p. 7&8. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-12-11. Retrieved 2011-08-29.
  9. ^ "More information on Census subdivision (CSD)". Statistics Canada. 2011-04-04. Archived from the original on 2012-01-24. Retrieved 2011-08-29.
  10. ^ a b "2016 Census Dictionary: Dissemination area (DA)". Statistics Canada. 2016-11-16. Archived from the original on 2019-07-10. Retrieved 2019-07-10.
  11. ^ "Defining and Measuring Metropolitan Areas: A Comparison between Canada and the United States". Statistics Canada. 2008-11-17. Archived from the original on 2014-05-20. Retrieved 2014-05-19. ...application of the American combination criteria could result in the consolidation (combining) of the CMAs of Oshawa and Hamilton with the Toronto CMA.
  12. ^ "2006 Census: Portrait of the Canadian Population in 2006: Subprovincial population dynamics". Statistics Canada. Archived from the original on 2015-06-10. Retrieved 2014-07-11. In 2006, nearly half of all Canadians, 13.9 million people, were living in the country's three largest urban areas: the Montréal census metropolitan area, the Vancouver census metropolitan area, and the Greater Golden Horseshoe in southern Ontario.
  13. ^ Sancton, Andrew. "Canadian Local Government: An Urban Perspective" Pp. 74. Oxford University Press, 2011.
  14. ^ a b c "Population centre (POPCTR)". Statistics Canada. 2011-05-05. Archived from the original on 2013-05-22. Retrieved 2011-09-21.
  15. ^ "Preview of Census Products and Services: Highlight tables". Statistics Canada. 2012-04-12. Archived from the original on 2013-07-30. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
  16. ^ Sancton, Andrew (2011). Canadian Local Government: An Urban Perspective. Canada: Oxford University Press. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-19-542756-1.
  17. ^ "2006 Census Dictionary: Designated place (DPL)". Statistics Canada. 2009-11-20. Archived from the original on 2012-05-11. Retrieved 2011-12-22.
  18. ^ "2006 Census Dictionary: Locality (LOC)". Statistics Canada. 2009-11-20. Archived from the original on 2012-06-16. Retrieved 2011-12-23.