Dictionary, Census of Population, 2016
Introduction to the geography universe

Release date: November 16, 2016

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 2016 Census. For further details, refer to the individual definitions of terms.

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 1.1 shows the hierarchy of all standard geographic areas for dissemination and Table 1.1 shows the distribution of geographic areas by province and territory.

Adjustment of population counts

Statistics Canada is committed to protect the privacy of all Canadians and the confidentiality of the data they provide to us. As part of this commitment, some population counts of geographic areas are adjusted in order to ensure confidentiality.

Counts of the total population are rounded to a base of 5 for any dissemination block 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 dissemination block counts. The adjustment of dissemination block 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. Population counts of federal electoral districts will be within 5 of the actual values. Dwelling counts are unadjusted.

Figure 1.1
Hierarchy of standard geographic areas for dissemination, 2016 Census

Figure 1.1 Hierarchy of standard geographic areas for dissemination, 2016 Census

Description of Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1 is a graphical representation of the hierarchical relationship between the standard geographical areas used for the dissemination of the 2016 Census of Canada. Each geographic area is represented in the hierarchy by a box, which is appropriately labelled with the area name as well as its related acronym. Where applicable, the labels are formatted in two rows. The top row contains the acronym of the geographic area appearing in bold font and the second row contains the full name of the geographic area in regular font.

In total, there are 21 boxes stacked both horizontally and vertically. Boxes that represent administrative areas are shaded grey. The boxes that represent statistical areas are white.

The position of each geographic area in the hierarchy shows how it is related to other areas. Most geographic areas can be subdivided or aggregated to form other geographic areas. The lines joining the boxes in the hierarchy show that there are relationships between the geographic areas. When two boxes are not joined together by a line, then no relationship exists between those geographic areas. A solid line indicates a direct relationship between two areas. A dashed line indicates that two areas are connected using a point-in polygon process. A dashed and dotted line (dash dot dash dot, etc.) indicates a best fit relationship between two geographic areas.

In general, there is a 'one-to-many' relationship of geographic areas as you move from the top to the bottom of the hierarchy diagram, and a 'many-to-one' relationship as you move from the bottom to the top.

The box centered at the top of the hierarchy represents the highest level of geography, Canada, which is shaded grey to indicate that it is an administrative area. Directly below the Canada box is the geographical regions of Canada (6) which is white. A solid line joins the Canada box to the geographical regions of Canada box.

Directly below the geographical regions of Canada box is the province or territory box (13). The province or territory box is connected to three other administrative areas on the left, including federal electoral district (FED) (338), designated place (DPL) (1,629) and forward sortation area (1,646). It is also connected to two statistical areas on the left, census agricultural region (CAR) (72) and economic region (ER) (76).

Each of these boxes, with the exception of the forward sortation area, is connected to one box or another that rolls down to be ultimately linked with the lowest level of dissemination geography, the dissemination block (DB) (489,905) box, which is a statistical area. The forward sortation area is only connected to the postal code (OM: postal code is an official mark of Canada Post Corporation) (855,842), an administrative area which has no further connections.

The DPL and the FED are connected directly to the DB, indicating that no other level of geography exists between them. The CAR and ER are also directly linked to the census division (CD) (293) in which is connected first to the statistical area of the census consolidated subdivision (CCS) (1,768), which is further connected to the administrative area of the census subdivision (CSD) (5,162). The CSD is linked directly to the dissemination area (DA) (56,590), which is another statistical area. The DA is linked directly to the DB.

The CD is also directly connected to the aggregate dissemination area (ADA) (5,386), which is a new statistical area. The ADA is linked directly to the DA.

The Canada box is linked to one large statistical area box on the right, called the Statistical Area Classification (SAC). The SAC box is the most complicated box in the hierarchy since it encompasses four other statistical areas that make up all of Canada. These are categorized under two larger subcategories that indicate whether the area is part of a census metropolitan area/census agglomeration (CMA/CA) or is outside of a CMA/CA (non-CMA/CA).

The CMA/CA category is divided into two boxes, the CMA (35) and the CA (117). The CA box is further subdivided into two other categories to indicate that CA can be broken down into areas with census tracts (CT) (14) and areas without CTs (103).

The non-CMA/CA category is also divided into two boxes, the census metropolitan influenced zones (MIZ) and the territories.

Below the SAC is a box that is subdivided into four stacked boxes that list the categories of population centres (POPCTR) in Canada. These include, from top to bottom, large urban population centre (30), medium population centre (57), small population centre (918) and rural area. The CMA/CA boxes are directly linked to all categories of POPCTR, while the non-CMA/CA is directly linked only to the small population centre and rural area boxes. This complete set is linked directly to the DB.

Below the DB, there are three other geographic areas that are not used for disseminating data. Instead, they are linked to the DB to provide reference and/or geocoding information of census data. The place name (PN) (51,072), which is a representative point, is linked to the DB by a dashed line, indicating linkage using a point-in-polygon process. The blockface (4,326,050), also a representative point, is linked directly to the DB. The census subdivision from the previous census (5,253) is linked to the DB by a dashed-dotted line, which indicates a best-fit linkage.

Table 1.1
Geographic areas by province and territory, 2016 Census

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