Dictionary, Census of Population, 2021

Release date: February 9, 2022


Downtowns (or downtown neighbourhoods) are geographic areas that contain job‑dense areas analogous to the central business district of a census subdivision (CSD), as well as adjacent areas of residential and mixed‑use development. Downtowns are delineated from dissemination blocks and are classified into two groups: primary and secondary downtowns. Each census metropolitan area (CMA) has one primary downtown, located in the historical central municipality (CSD) of the CMA.Footnote 1 Some CMAs can have secondary downtowns located in CSDs without a primary downtown and with a population greater than 100,000 and employment counts greater than 50,000, based on data from the previous Census of Population.

Reported in



Downtowns are an analytical geography not part of the Standard Geographical Classification. For a detailed description of the methodology used to delineate these boundaries, please refer to Defining Canada's Downtown Neighbourhoods: 2016 Boundaries (Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 91F0015M).

Downtowns should be used with caution for non‑statistical purposes.

This geography was developed with input from local specialists (for example, municipal planners) who provided feedback on initial delineations.

Naming and coding convention:

Each downtown is named after the CSD to which it belongs and is assigned a nine‑character numeric code. To uniquely identify each downtown within its corresponding CMA and CSD, the three‑digit CMA code is appended to the two‑digit census division (CD) code and three‑digit CSD code. A digit is added to the end of the code to account for cases where a CSD may have more than one downtown (DT) in the future. As of 2021, there are no CSDs with multiple downtowns.

For example:

CMA-CD-CSD-DT codeDowntown name
001 01 519 1St. John's
505 06 008 1Ottawa

Refer to the related definitions of Census metropolitan area (CMA) and census agglomeration (CA), Census subdivision (CSD), Census division (CD) and Dissemination block (DB).

Changes prior to the current census

Not applicable


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