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Core, fringe and rural area

Part A - Short definition:

Not applicable

Part B - Detailed definition:

The terms 'core,' 'fringe' and 'rural area' replace the terms 'urban core,' 'urban fringe' and 'rural fringe' for the 2011 Census. These terms distinguish between population centres (POPCTRs) and rural areas (RAs) within a census metropolitan area (CMA) or census agglomeration (CA).

A CMA or CA can have two types of cores: the core and the secondary core. The core is the population centre with the highest population, around which a CMA or a CA is delineated. The core must have a population (based on the previous census) of at least 50,000 persons in the case of a CMA, or at least 10,000 persons in the case of a CA.

The secondary core is a population centre within a CMA that has at least 10,000 persons and was the core of a CA that has been merged with an adjacent CMA.

The term 'fringe' includes all population centres within a CMA or CA that have less than 10,000 persons and are not contiguous with the core or secondary core.

All territory within a CMA or CA that is not classified as a core or fringe is classified as rural area.

Census years:



While every CMA and CA has a core, it may or may not have a secondary core, a fringe or a rural area. See Figure 12.

Population counts for population centres are published according to the class of population centre, regardless of whether they are inside or outside of a CMA or CA. Population centres are classified into one of three groups, depending on the size of their population:

  • small population centres, with a population between 1,000 and 29,999
  • medium population centres, with a population between 30,000 and 99,999
  • large urban population centres, with a population of 100,000 or more.

Refer to related definitions of census metropolitan area (CMA) and census agglomeration (CA); population centre (POPCTR) and rural area (RA).

Changes prior to the current census:

Prior to 2011, the terms 'urban core,' 'secondary urban core,' 'urban fringe' and 'rural fringe' were used.

Beginning in 2001, the concept of the secondary urban core was used to describe the urban core of a CA that merged with an adjacent CMA.

Beginning in 1996, the term 'urban core' replaced the term 'urbanized core.' The term 'urbanized core' was used from 1971 to 1991.

Prior to 1996, this concept was known as CMA/CA parts.

Beginning in 1986, primary CMAs (PCMAs) and primary CAs (PCAs) were delineated within some CMAs and CAs. Because of this change, some urban areas that were urban fringes of 1981 CMAs or CAs became urban cores of 1986 PCMAs or PCAs.

For 1976 and 1971, the urbanized core was further broken down into the 'largest city' and 'remainder.'

For 1966 and 1961, the urban part of the CMA was divided into the 'metropolitan area – urban' (continuous built-up area) and the 'metropolitan area – outside urban' (non-continuous built-up area); the remaining rural part was known as 'metropolitan area – rural.'

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