Canada is divided into ten provinces and three territories. Each of these entities may have different types of subdivision, used for various purposes.
Statistics Canada, the Canadian census organization, has created a Standard Geographical Classification (SGC). The SGC is a hierarchical
set of regional divisions. Provinces and territories are top-level divisions, and have two-digit codes. On the second level are census
divisions, also with two-digit codes. Census subdivisions, with three-digit codes, are on the third (lowest) level. To identify an area
completely, the hierarchical codes are concatenated from left to right. For example,
35 09 021 represents the census
subdivision of Perth, Ontario. The
35 identifies Ontario, the
09 identifies Lanark county, and the
Census divisions and subdivisions are subject to change every five years. In some cases, these changes simply reflect changes to the corresponding administrative divisions. In other cases, they may be made for the convenience of the census.
Canada has an official database of place names called the Canadian Geographical Names Data Base (CGNDB). Each place in the CGNDB is located in a province or territory, and most of them are further localized by "Location". These "Locations" are province subdivisions.
To make sense of the subdivisions of provinces and territories, it is necessary to look at each province separately.
Alberta has nineteen census divisions, numbered from 1 to 19. The SGC code for each division is the division number, left-filled with a zero
if necessary to make two digits. Prefix
48 to get a four-digit code. In the CGNDB, Alberta's "Locations" are section, township,
and range. Those are the survey units used when the province was first homesteaded and farmed. They form a coordinate system in which the
smallest unit, a section, is one square mile. Alberta's area is over 250,000 square miles, so there could be a very large number of these
The census divisions of British Columbia are called regional districts. They are incorporated, like the counties in the eastern provinces, and accordingly they are administrative divisions. The "Locations" used in the CGNDB are called land districts. They are not incorporated, but are considered geographic divisions. There are more land districts than regional districts. A few of the names are the same, but in general, the land districts are neither subsets nor supersets of the regional districts.
Maps: Census divisions and economic regions .
HealthNet/BC has prepared a proposed Place Data Standard that describes many types of geographical subdivision of British Columbia, with lists of divisions.
Manitoba has twenty-three census divisions, numbered from 1 to 23. The SGC code for each division is the division number, left-filled with a
zero if necessary to make two digits. Prefix
46 to get a four-digit code. In the CGNDB, Manitoba's "Locations" are section,
township, and range. Those are the survey units used when the province was first homesteaded and farmed. They form a coordinate system in
which the smallest unit, a section, is one square mile. Manitoba's area is about 250,000 square miles, so there could be a very large number
of these geographic subdivisions.
New Brunswick is divided into counties. The counties are subdivided into civil parishes. They are also census divisions, and are used by the CGNDB as "Locations". Some road maps or atlas maps show county lines.
|Saint John||1,582||79,302||Saint John|
Newfoundland and Labrador has ten census divisions, numbered from 1 to 10. The SGC code for each division is the division number,
left-filled with a zero if necessary to make two digits. Prefix
10 to get a four-digit code. In the CGNDB, Newfoundland
and Labrador's "Locations" are (electoral) districts. There are some differences from the present-day electoral districts, leading me
to suspect that CGNDB prepared the database at some time in the past, and didn't update for redistricting.
Maps:Census divisions and economic
This genealogical site offers a set of historical districts of Newfoundland. Genealogists have a need to identify places with respect to districts that don't vary from decade to decade. Apparently, no government-defined districts meet this need in Newfoundland.
The 1996 census, before the partition of Nunavut, showed Northwest Territories divided into five regions: Baffin, Fort Smith, Inuvik, Keewatin, and Kitikmeot. Baffin, Keewatin, and Kitikmeot correspond to the area that became Nunavut, so I've listed Fort Smith and Inuvik as the regions of NWT. The CGNDB, however, uses the districts of Franklin and Mackenzie as "Locations" within NWT. Inuvik apparently includes the northern part of Mackenzie and all of Franklin. The CGNDB may simply have failed to update to the new regions.
|Fort Smith||610,456||30,225||Fort Smith|
Nova Scotia is divided into counties. They are also census divisions, and are used by the CGNDB as "Geo Locations". Some road maps or atlas maps show county lines.
Maps: Counties and economic regions .
Nunavut inherited three regions from Northwest Territories when the two territories split. They may not be in force any more. Morris Fisher points out that Nunavut is now divided into six planning regions . I don't normally count planning regions as administrative subdivisions: they're too easily changed. If there is evidence that the planning regions are getting elected governing bodies, I will reconsider this ruling.
The correspondence between the old regions and the planning regions is as follows. Baffin region is about the same as North Baffin, South Baffin, and part of Akunniq. Keewatin approximately matches the new Keewatin and Sanikiluaq planning regions. Kitikmeot corresponds to West Kitikmeot and the larger part of Akunniq. (The map of the new planning regions is very rough, so there may be more overlaps than mentioned here.)
Maps: Regions ; Census divisions . The Nunavut Settlement Area (not quite the same as Nunavut Territory) is described by metes and bounds and a related map . Here is another metes-and-bounds description. A private site has several maps in different styles.
The census divisions of Ontario are counties, districts, district municipalities, metropolitan municipalities, regional municipalities, and united counties; on the next level are boroughs, cities, municipalities, municipal townships, separate towns, towns, and villages. Some road maps or atlas maps show county lines.
The united counties may cause some confusion. Haldimand-Norfolk is an example. In 1850, Haldimand county was split from Norfolk county. In 1974, Haldimand and Norfolk counties merged to form Haldimand-Norfolk regional municipality. On January 1, 2001, the latter was split once again into Haldimand and Norfolk counties, approximately along the original county line. Other cases include Niagara county, which formerly consisted of Lincoln and Welland counties; Prescott and Russell united counties, Leeds and Grenville united counties, and Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry united counties. The original counties that were amalgamated to form these units of government still manifest themselves in many ways.
The CGNDB appears to use counties and districts as they stood in 1950. Toronto is shown as part of York, Lincoln and Welland are shown separately, and so on (see Change history below). However, the CGNDB uses the components of united counties: for example, some places in Leeds and Grenville county are listed under Leeds, and others under Grenville.
|Algoma||d||50,039||127,269||Sault Sainte Marie|
|Leeds and Grenville||uc||3,390||90,235||Brockville|
|Lennox and Addington||c||3,030||37,243||Napanee|
|Parry Sound||d||11,230||38,423||Parry Sound|
|Prescott and Russell||uc||2,003||67,183||L'Orignal|
|Rainy River||d||18,845||22,997||Fort Frances|
|Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry||uc||3,302||107,841||Cornwall|
|Thunder Bay||d||135,900||158,810||Thunder Bay|
Prince Edward Island is divided into counties, which are further subdivided into lots and royalties. The counties have been unchanged since colonial times. They are also census divisions, and are used by the CGNDB as "Locations". Some road maps or atlas maps show county lines.
Maps: County outline map .
Quebec is divided into counties. Three of them have the special status of communautés urbaines (metropolitan municipalities). The census divisions are the counties. In the CGNDB, the "Location" is usually reported as two names, separated by a comma. The first name appears to be the name of a municipalité or MRC (county regional municipality). These are apparently subdivisions of counties. The second name is the county. Some road maps or atlas maps show county lines. There have been quite a few changes to the counties over the years, right up to the present.
|Minganie - Basse-Côte-Nord||100,132||12,845|
|Sept-Rivières - Caniapiscau||90,514||40,730|
Maps: County outline map .
Saskatchewan has eighteen census divisions, numbered from 1 to 18. The SGC code for each division is the division number, left-filled with
a zero if necessary to make two digits. Prefix
47 to get a four-digit code. The divisions have changed very little since 1941. In
the CGNDB, Saskatchewan's "Locations" are section, township, and range. Those are the survey units used when the province was first
homesteaded and farmed. They form a coordinate system in which the smallest unit, a section, is one square mile. Saskatchewan's area is
about 250,000 square miles, so there could be a very large number of these geographic subdivisions.
Yukon does not have any geographic or administrative divisions. It has only one census division, consisting of the entire territory. The
division's SGC code is
60 01, where
60 represents Yukon as a territory and
01 represents Yukon as a census
division. Its HASC is
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