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Introduction to the geography universe

The geography universe defines terms related to geographical concepts, infrastructure, products and services. The following summary denotes changes made to the geographic program for the 2006 Census. For further details, refer to the individual definitions of terms.

1. Geographic areas

Census data are disseminated for a number of standard geographic areas. These areas are either administrative or statistical. Administrative areas are defined, with a few exceptions, by federal, provincial and territorial statutes. Statistical areas are defined by Statistics Canada as part of the spatial frame for disseminating census data. Figure 20 shows the hierarchy of all standard geographic units for dissemination and Table 1 shows the number of geographic units by province and territory.

2. Updates for 2006

  • Improved coverage and quality of the digital geographic infrastructure

The National Geographic Database (NGD) is a joint Statistics Canada / Elections Canada initiative to develop and maintain a national road network file which serves the needs of both organizations. Since 2001, the focus of the NGD has been on improving the quality and currency of its road network coverage. The result of this effort is a significant expansion of road names and civic address ranges, as well as the addition of water feature names. The NGD also contains separate reference layers comprising physical and cultural features such as water features, railway lines and power transmission lines.

These improvements and expansions have been incorporated into Geography Division's Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI). The result is that users of 2006 Census geography products such as road network files, boundary files and reference maps can geographically reference census data more accurately than before.

  • Standard geographic areas

The dissemination block (DB) is a new term for the 2006 Census. It was called 'block' in 2001.

As of March 2003, census agglomerations (CAs) are no longer required to have an urban core population of 100,000 to be changed to the status of a census metropolitan area (CMA). Instead, a CA assumes the status of a CMA if it attains a total population of at least 100,000 of which 50,000 or more live in the urban core. This new rule effectively lowers the entry threshold.

A major review of census subdivision (CSD) bilingual names was undertaken for the 2006 Census. This review results in six CSDs adopting bilingual names: Beaubassin East / Beaubassin-est (N.B.), Grand Falls / Grand-Sault (N.B.), French River / Rivière des Français (Ont.), Greater Sudbury / Grand Sudbury (Ont.), The Nation / La Nation (Ont.) and West Nipissing / Nipissing Ouest (Ont.). Furthermore, the number of CSD types increased from 46 in 2001 to 55 in 2006.

For 2006, designated places (DPL) are required to respect census subdivision (CSD) boundaries.

The 2003 Representation Order of federal electoral districts (FED) replaces the 1996 Representation Order, increasing the number of FEDs from 301 to 308.

  • Adjustment of population counts

Statistics Canada is taking additional measures to protect the privacy of all Canadians and the confidentiality of the data they provide to us. Since the 2001 Census, some population counts are adjusted in order to ensure confidentiality.

Total population counts are rounded to a base of 5 for any dissemination block (DB) having a population of less than 15. Population counts for all standard geographic areas above the dissemination block level are derived by summing the adjusted DB counts. The adjustment of DB counts is controlled to ensure that the population counts for dissemination areas will always be within 5 of the actual values. The adjustment has no impact on the population counts of census divisions and large census subdivisions. Dwelling counts are unadjusted.

  • New and discontinued geography products

Digital boundary files (DBFs), which were discontinued in 2001, are reinstated for the 2006 Census.

Skeletal road network files (SRNF) have been discontinued.

The Geographic Attribute File, which assigns each 2006 Census dissemination block to all higher geographic levels and was last released in 1991, has also been reinstated for the 2006 Census.

The Dissemination Area Reference Maps, by Census Divisions, for areas outside Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, have been discontinued and replaced with the Dissemination Area Reference Maps, by Census Subdivisions, for areas outside Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations.

The Internet continues to be used as the primary method of disseminating the full digital suite of geography products. New for 2006 are improved navigation for the search and download of reference maps, a new and improved GeoSearch2006 interactive web mapping application, free road and boundary files, and the availability of many products, including GeoSuite and Geographic Attribute File, through electronic commerce.

3. Census geography products and services

Geography products include reference and data products, as well as spatial and attribute products. In addition, a variety of services are available, including custom mapping, custom data extraction and the development of custom geography products.

Reference maps are published to show the boundaries, names and codes of the standard geographic areas. Cartographic boundary files (CBFs) are appropriate for small- to medium-scale thematic mapping. Digital boundary files (DBFs), which show the full extent of geographical areas including the coastal water area, are also available. Both types of boundary files are available for most standard geographic areas. Road network files (RNFs), which include roads, road names and address ranges, are now available annually at no charge. The CBFs and RNFs enable users with geographic information systems (GIS) or other mapping software to produce their own maps or do geographic analysis.

The Custom Area Creation Service allows users to define their own geographic areas for census data tabulations. Households and associated data are geographically linked to the corresponding block-face or dissemination block representative point. Census data for user-defined areas are then retrieved by aggregating the representative points within each user-defined area.