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Designated place (DPL)

Part A - Short definition:

Usually a small community that does not meet the criteria used to define municipalities or population centres (areas with a population of at least 1,000 and no fewer than 400 persons per square kilometre). Designated places are created by provinces and territories in cooperation with Statistics Canada.

Part B - Detailed definition:

A designated place (DPL) is normally a small community or settlement that does not meet the criteria established by Statistics Canada to be a census subdivision (an area with municipal status) or a population centre.

Designated places are created by provinces and territories, in cooperation with Statistics Canada, to provide data for submunicipal areas.

Census years:

2011, 2006, 2001, 1996


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

  • an area less than or equal to 10 square kilometres
  • a boundary that respects the block structure from the previous census, where possible
  • an area that does not overlap the area of a population centre.

For 2011, the term 'population centre' (POPCTR) replaces the term 'urban area' (UA).

Those 2006 urban areas which no longer meet the criteria to be included in the 2011 population centre program will be considered for inclusion in the designated place program for 2011. Furthermore, designated places will not be permitted to overlap population centres.

For 2011, the DPL of Cowichan 1 (DPL 59 0321) in British Columbia overlaps the POPCTR of Duncan (POPCTR 0243). In an effort to minimize data suppression for this area, this DPL represents a formerly discontiguous Aboriginal community which has been combined to form a single discontiguous census subdivision (CSD).

Designated places are no longer required to respect census subdivision boundaries. Where a designated place straddles one or more census subdivision limits, DPL parts will be created.

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 6 shows the types of designated places, their abbreviated forms and their distribution by province and territory.

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

PR code DPL code DPL name
12 0085 Masstown (N.S.)
13 0085 Saint-Pons (N.B.)
35 0085 McGregor Bay part B (Ont.)

Refer to the related definitions of census subdivision (CSD); place name (PN); population centre (POPCTR) and rural area (RA).

Changes prior to the current census:

In 2006, the criteria that small communities were required to respect in order to become a DPL included:

  • a minimum population of 100 and a maximum population of 1,000. The maximum population limit may have been exceeded provided that the population density was less than 400 persons per square kilometre, which was the population density that defined 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 respected the block structure from the previous census, where possible
  • a boundary that respected census subdivision (CSD) limits.

The final two criteria were 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 respected 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 kept its existing name, with 'part' added to it, such as part A, part B, and was assigned its own unique code.

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.

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