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More information on Designated place (DPL)


2006, 2001, 1996


The criteria that small communities or settlements must meet in order to become a designated place (DPL) include:

  • a minimum population of 100 and a maximum population of 1,000. The maximum population limit may be exceeded provided that the population density is less than 400 persons per square kilometre, which is the population density that defines an urban area
  • a population density of 150 persons or more per square kilometre
  • an area less than or equal to 10 square kilometres
  • a boundary that respects the block structure from the previous census, where possible
  • a boundary that respects census subdivision (CSD) limits.

The final two criteria are new for 2006, the last of which was established to eliminate the need to maintain DPL parts. To ensure that DPLs created in 2001 or earlier respect 2006 CSD boundaries, DPLs straddling CSD boundaries were split to create independent DPLs. To maintain historical comparability and ease the transition into this new criteria, each new independent DPL keeps its existing name, with ‘part' added to it, such as part A, part B, and is assigned its own unique code.

The areas recognized as designated places may not represent all places having the same status within a province or territory.

Table 1 in the Introduction shows the number of designated places by province and territory. Table 9 shows the types of designated places, their abbreviated forms and their distribution by province and territory.

Table 9 Designated place types by province and territory, 2006 Census

Each designated place is assigned a four-digit code. In order to uniquely identify each DPL in Canada, the two-digit province/territory code must precede the DPL code. For example:

PR code
DPL code
DPL name
Masstown (N.S.)
Saint-Pons (N.B.)
McGregor Bay part B (Ont.)

Refer to the related definitions of census subdivision (CSD); locality (LOC) and urban area (UA).

Changes prior to the current census:

In 2001 and earlier, designated places were not required to respect census subdivision (CSD) boundaries. As a result, a number of DPLs straddled two or more CSDs. To identify these DPLs and the CSDs that they straddled, the seven-digit SGC code (PR-CD-CSD) had to precede the DPL code. The DPL part flag identified the number of parts the DPL is divided into as a result of straddling CSDs.

In 1996, Statistics Canada introduced the concept of designated places as a new geographic unit for data dissemination to respond to the increasing demand for population counts and census data according to 'submunicipal' or unincorporated areas. The concept generally applied to small communities for which there may have been some level of legislation, but they fell below the criteria established for municipal status.

Between 1981 and 1991, Statistics Canada had facilitated the retrieval of census data by delineating these submunicipal areas at the enumeration area level only. The number of areas delineated expanded from fewer than 50 northern communities in Manitoba in 1981, to more than 800 areas across Canada by 1996.