Dictionary, Census of Population, 2021
Designated place (DPL)

Release date: November 17, 2021Updated on: February 9, 2022


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 a density of 400 persons per square kilometre). Designated places are created by provinces and territories, in cooperation with Statistics Canada, to provide data for submunicipal areas.

Reported in

2021, 2016, 2011, 2006, 2001 and 1996


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

In cooperation with the provinces and territories, DPLs are updated, added or deleted once every five years in accordance with the criteria that define them.

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

Four new DPL types were added for 2021:

There were 13 population centres from 2016 that were retired for 2021 and qualify to be part of the DPL program. These DPLs are assigned the Retired population centre (RPC) DPL type. Additionally, there were 9 DPLs from 2016 with DPL type of RPC that were deleted from the DPL program for 2021 as they were added back into the population centre program.

Table 1.1 shows the number of designated places by province and territory.

Table 1.6 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 codeDPL codeDPL name
120085Masstown (N.S.)
130085Saint‑Pons (N.B.)
350085McGregor Bay part B (Ont.)

Refer to the related definitions of Census Subdivision (CSD) and Population Centre (POPCTR).

Changes prior to the current census

Two new designated place (DPL) types were added for 2016: Northern settlement (NS) in Saskatchewan and Retired population centre / Centre de population retiré (RPC) in all provinces or territories, where applicable.

The 2011 population centres which no longer met the criteria to be included in the 2016 population centre program were considered for inclusion in the designated place program for 2016. Those retired population centres that qualified to be part of the DPL program were assigned the Retired population centre (RPC) DPL type. Due to the rebasing of population centres for 2016, a total of 38 RPC‑type DPLs were added.

Prior to the 2016 Census, a retired population centre may have been eligible to become a DPL, however, it was assigned a DPL type that was valid within the affected province or territory since the DPL type Retired population centre (RPC) did not exist.

New for 2016, designated places and population centre overlap is permitted.

For 2011, the term 'population centre' replaced the term 'urban area.'

Although designated places (DPLs) were not intended to overlap population centre (POPCTR) boundaries in 2011, there were some exceptions. For example:

In 2011, designated places were no longer required to respect census subdivision boundaries.

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

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 (PRCDCSD) had to precede the DPL code. The DPL part flag identified the number of parts the DPL was divided into as a result of straddling CSDs.

In 1996, Statistics Canada introduced the concept of designated places as a new geographic area 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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