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Geographic Units:

Enumeration Area (EA)

Part A – Plain Language Definition

Small area composed of one or more neighbouring blocks, used by Stastistics Canada for distributing questionnaires to households and dwellings (census collection). All of Canada is divided into enumeration areas.

Part B – Detailed Definition

An enumeration area is the geographic area canvassed by one census representative. An EA is composed of one or more adjacent blocks. EAs cover all the territory of Canada.

Enumeration areas are only used for census data collection. The dissemination area (DA) replaces the EA as a basic unit for dissemination.

Censuses: 2001, 1996, 1991, 1986, 1981, 1976, 1971, 1966, 1961


Enumeration area delineation rules are designed to meet census collection requirements and support the standard geographic areas recognized by the census. EA boundaries respect the boundaries of all standard geographic areas, except those of urban areas and dissemination areas. Consequently, EA limits may not always follow visible features.

For efficient and effective questionnaire drop-off and canvassing, EAs are as compact as possible, and the boundaries follow visible features such as streets and rivers when possible. The number of dwellings in an EA generally varies between a maximum of 650 in large urban centres (census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations with census tracts) to a minimum of 125 in rural areas.

Some EAs are delineated for special cases such as large apartment buildings, townhouse communities and collective dwellings. A large apartment building may form more than one EA. When possible, ship EAs are located in the water of their home port.

EA limits may change from census to census. About 60% of the 2001 EAs are identical to the 1996 EA limits. The boundaries of the remaining EAs are different due to dwelling growth, changes to the boundaries of standard geographic areas, including the Representation Order of federal electoral districts, and changes in delineation criteria.

There is a number of significant changes between the 2001 and 1996 Censuses:

EAs are only used as basic units for census data collection. The dissemination area (DA) replaces the EA as a basic unit for dissemination.
EAs are generally larger in areal extent.
EAs in large urban centres (census metropolitan areas and tracted census agglomerations) contain a maximum of 650 dwellings, an increase of 210 dwellings from the 1996 Census.
EA boundaries do not have to respect urban area boundaries.

Each enumeration area is assigned a three-digit code that is unique within a federal electoral district (FED). In order to identify each EA uniquely in Canada, the two-digit province/territory code and the three-digit FED code must precede the EA code. For example:




35 008 251


Province 35: Ontario
FED 008: Toronto–Danforth
EA: 251

48 008 251


Province 48: Alberta
FED 008: Calgary West
EA: 251

Table 1 in the Introduction shows the number of enumeration areas by province and territory.

Enumeration areas are generated using an automated delineation system applied to the National Geographic Base (NGB). This automated process aggregates blocks where there is address register coverage (census metropolitan areas and tracted census agglomerations), and aggregates 1996 EAs where there is no address register coverage (untracted census agglomerations, urban areas outside census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations, and rural areas). The delineation objective is to produce enumeration areas that are compact, accessible by road, respect the required standard geographic boundaries, and meet specified dwelling count and dwelling density criteria.

Refer to the related definitions of Block, Dissemination Area (DA) and National Geographic Base (NGB).

Changes Prior to the 2001 Census:

1. Delineation Process

  Prior to 2001, EAs were used as basic units for census data collection and dissemination. As well, EA boundaries respected urban areas (UAs).
  For 1996, EAs were delineated to respect the Northwest Territories/Nunavut boundary so that census data could be accurately tabulated when Nunavut came to exist on April 1, 1999. As well, the automated EA delineation process was implemented for all Street Network File (SNF) coverage.
  For 1991, the automated EA delineation process was implemented for a portion of SNF coverage.
  Prior to 1991, the EA delineation process was manual.

2. Number of Dwellings

  For 1996, the maximum number of dwellings in large urban centres (CMAs and tracted CAs) was 440.
  For 1991, 1986, 1981 and 1976, the maximum number of dwellings in large urban centres (CMAs and tracted CAs) was 375.

For 1971, 1966 and 1961, the maximum number of dwellings in large urban centres (CMAs and tracted CAs) was 300.

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