For more information contact
Service BC Contact Centre
1-800-663-7867

1996 Census Definitions

The text that follows has been taken from the original published by Statistics Canada. Some terms that refer specifically to types of social and political organization peculiar to other provinces have been removed in the interest of brevity and to avoid confusion. However, census geography that is not included in our presentation, such as census agglomerations and census metropolitan areas, are described here so that users may become familiar with these definitions. Many of the census publications that can be ordered from Statistics Canada will include the complete notes. The definitions of geographic terms and census concepts are presented here in summary form only. Users should refer to the 1996 Census Dictionary (Statistics Canada Catalogue No. 92-351-XPE) for the full definitions and additional remarks related to these concepts and definitions.

Census Agglomeration (CA)

Census Division (CD)

Census Metropolitan area (CMA)

Census Subdivision (CSD)

Census Subdivision Type

Consolidated Census Agglomeration (Consolidated CA)

Consolidated Census Metropolitan Area (Consolidated CMA)

Designated Place (DPL)

Designated Place Type

Enumeration Area (EA)

Federal Electoral District (FED)

Geographic Reference Date

Land Area

Population Density

Postal Code

Primary Census Agglomeration (PCA)

Primary Census Metropolitan Area (PCMA)

Private Dwelling

Province/Territory

Rural Area

Urban Area (UA)

Urban Core, Urban Fringe and Rural Fringe

Census Agglomeration (CA)

A census agglomeration (CA) is a large urban area (UA) (known as the urban core) together with adjacent urban and rural areas (known as urban and rural fringes) that have a high degree of social and economic integration with the urban core. A CA has an urban core population of at least 10,000, based on the previous census. However, if the population of the urban core of a CA declines below 10,000, the CA is retired. Once a CA attains an urban core population of at least 100,000, based on the previous census, it is eligible to become a CMA. As that have urban cores of at least 50,000, based on the previous census, are subdivided into census tracts. Census tracts are maintained for CAs even if the population of the urban cores subsequently falls below 50,000. A CA may be consolidated with adjacent CAs if they are socially and economically integrated. This new grouping is called a consolidated CA and the component CAs are called primary census agglomerations (PCA).

Census Division (CD)

Census Division (CD) is the general term applied to areas established by provincial law which are intermediate geographic areas between the municipality (census subdivision) and the province level. Census divisions represent regional districts and other types of provincially legislated areas.

Census Metropolitan area (CMA)

A census metropolitan area (CMA) is a very large urban area (known as the urban core) together with adjacent urban and rural areas (known as urban and rural fringes) that have a high degree of social and economic integration with the urban core. A CMA has an urban core population of at least 100,000, based on the previous census. Once an area becomes a CMA, it is retained as a CMA even if the population of its urban core declines below 100,000. All CMAs are subdivided into census tracts. A CMA may be consolidated with adjacent census agglomerations (CA) if they are socially and economically integrated. This new grouping is known as a consolidated CMA and the component CMA and CAs are known as the primary census metropolitan area (PCMA) and primary census agglomerations (PCA). A CMA may not be consolidated with another CMA.

Census Subdivision (CSD)

Census subdivision is the general term applying to municipalities (as determined by provincial legislation) or their equivalent (for example, Indian reserves, Indian settlements and unorganized territories). In Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and British Columbia, the term also describes geographic areas that have been created by Statistics Canada in cooperation with the provinces as equivalents for municipalities for the dissemination of statistical data.

Census Subdivision Type

Census subdivisions (CSDs) are classified into various types, according to official designations adopted by provincial or federal authorities. The type indicates the municipal status of a census subdivision.

The following list indicates the abbreviations used for census subdivision types found in British Columbia:

C City
DM District Municipality
IGD Indian Government District
R Indian Reserve
S-E Indian Settlement
SRD Subdivision of Regional District
T Town
VL Village

Consolidated Census Agglomeration (Consolidated CA)

A consolidated census agglomeration (consolidated CA) is a grouping of adjacent census agglomerations (CA) that are socially and economically integrated. Adjacent As are consolidated into a single CA (consolidated CA) if the total commuting interchange between two CAs is equal to at least 35% of the employed labour force living in the small CA. Several As may be consolidated with a larger CA; each pair of As is evaluated for inclusion.

Consolidated Census Metropolitan Area (Consolidated CMA)

A consolidated census metropolitan area (consolidated CMA) is a grouping of one census metropolitan area (CMA) and adjacent census agglomerations (CA) that are socially and economically integrated. An adjacent CMA and CA can be consolidated into a single CMA (consolidated CMA) if the total commuting interchange between them is equal to at least 35% of the employed labour force living in the CA. Several As may be consolidated with a CMA; each CMA-CA combination is evaluated for inclusion.

Designated Place (DPL)

Designated place refers to areas created by provinces to provide services and to structure fiscal arrangements for submunicipal areas which are often within unorganized areas. The concept of a designated place generally applies to small communities for which there may be some level of legislation, but the communities fall below the criteria established for municipal status, that is, they are "submunicipal" or unincorporated areas.

Designated Place Type

In British Columbia only the following is used as a designated place type: IST Island Trust

Enumeration Area (EA)

An enumeration area (EA) is the geographic area canvassed by one census representative. It is the smallest standard geographic area for which census data are reported. All the territory of Canada is covered by EAs.

Federal Electoral District (FED)

A federal electoral district refers to any place or territorial area entitled to elect a representative member to serve in the House of Commons (source: Canada Elections Act, 1990). There are 295 FEDs in Canada according to the 1987 Representation Order and there are 301 FEDs in Canada according to the 1996 Representation Order.

Geographic Reference Date

The geographic reference date is a date determined by Statistics Canada for the purpose of finalizing the geographic framework for which census data will be collected, tabulated and reported. For the 1996 Census, the geographic reference date is January 1, 1996, except for forward sortation areas.

Land Area

Land area refers to the area in square kilometers of the land-based portions of the census geographic areas. Land area is manually calculated using a digital planimeter and paper maps. Only discernible bodies of water found on the maps are excluded. Land area measurements for census subdivisions are aggregated to obtain the land areas for other geographic areas (census metropolitan areas/census agglomerations, primary census metropolitan areas/primary census agglomerations, census consolidated subdivisions, census divisions, economic regions, provinces/territories, and Canada). Measurements are done separately for each of urban areas, designated places and census tracts. Land area data are not available for enumeration areas, federal electoral districts, and forward sortation areas. Measurements for the geographic areas reflect the boundaries in effect on January 1, 1996 (the geographic reference date for the 1996 Census). All measurements are unofficial and are provided for the sole purpose of calculating population density.

Population Density

Population density refers to the number of persons per square kilometre.

Postal Code

The postal code is a six-character code defined and maintained by Canada Post Corporation for sorting and delivering mail. The first three characters of the postal code identify the forward sortation area (FSA). Individual FSAs are associated with a postal facility from which mail delivery originates.

Primary Census Agglomeration (PCA)

A census agglomeration that is a component of a consolidated census metropolitan area or consolidated census agglomeration is referred to as the primary census agglomeration (PCA).

Primary Census Metropolitan Area (PCMA)

A census metropolitan area that is a component of a consolidated census metropolitan area is referred to as a rimary census metropolitan area (PCMA).

Private Dwelling

Refers to a separate set of living quarters with a private entrance either from outside or from a common hall, lobby, vestibule or stairway inside the building. The entrance to the dwelling must be one that can be used without passing through the living quarters of someone else. The dwelling must meet the three conditions necessary for year-round occupancy:

(a) a source of heat or power (as evidenced by chimneys, power lines, oil or gas pipes or meters, generators, woodpiles, electric lights, heating pumps, solar heating panels, etc.);

(b) access to a source of drinking water throughout the year (as evidenced by faucets, drain pipes, wells, water pumps, etc.);

(c) an enclosed space that provides shelter from the elements (as evidenced by complete and enclosed walls and roof, and by doors and windows that provide protection from wind, rain and snow).

The census classifies private dwellings into regular private dwellings, marginal dwellings and dwellings under construction. Regular private dwellings are further classified into three major groups; occupied dwellings (occupied by usual residents), unoccupied dwellings and dwellings occupied by foreign and/or temporary residents. Marginal dwellings and dwellings under construction are classified as occupied by usual residents or by foreign and/or temporary residents. Marginal dwellings and dwellings under construction that were unoccupied on Census Day are not counted in the housing stock.

Province/Territory

Province and territory refer to the major political divisions of Canada. From a statistical point of view, they are a basic unit for which data are tabulated and cross-classified. The ten provinces combined with the two territories cover the complete country.

Rural Area

Rural areas are sparsely populated lands lying outside urban areas.

Urban Area (UA)

Urban areas have minimum population concentrations of 1,000 and a population density of at least 400 per square kilometre, based on the previous census population counts. All territory outside urban areas is considered rural. Taken together, urban and rural areas cover all of Canada.

Urban Core, Urban Fringe and Rural Fringe

The urban core, urban fringe and rural fringe distinguish between central and peripheral urban and rural areas within a census metropolitan area (CMA), primary census metropolitan area (PCMA), census agglomeration (CA) or primary census agglomeration (PCA).

An urban core is a large urban area around which a CMA or a CA is delineated. The urban core must have a population (based on the previous census) of at least 100,000 in the case of a CMA, or between 10,000 and 99,999 in the case of a CA.

The urban fringe is the urban area within a CMA or CA that is not contiguous to the urban core.

The rural fringe is all territory within a CMA or CA not classified as urban core or urban fringe.