Government Information & Data

A guide to sources of government information.

Statistics Canada Geography

The main objective of this guide is to explain the types of geographic regions that are commonly used for interpreting Statistics Canada data. The information presented in this guide is associated with the 2016 Census of Population.

In order determine the identifying information for specific geographic regions, you must use the following applications: GeoSuite (2016 version) or GeoSearch (2016 version), both of which are Statistics Canada products. This guide is just a reference with a focus on Nova Scotia, and more specifically, Halifax. 

You can also check some other census geography tools and resources by Statistics Canada.

Simplified Hierarchy of Census Geography

See the complete hierarchy of standard geographic areas for dissemination for the 2016 census.

Economic Regions and Municipalities

Economic Region (ER)

"An economic region (ER) is a grouping of complete census divisions (CDs). Each economic region is assigned a two-digit code. In order to uniquely identify each ER in Canada, the two-digit province/territory (PR) code must precede the two-digit ER code" (Statistics Canada Definition). Economic regions are "a standard geographic unit for analysis of regional economic activity" (Statistics Canada Definition).

Nova Scotia has 5 Economic Regions:

1210: Cape Breton, NS, where 12 is the PR,
or province code and 10 is the ER, or economic region code
1220: North Shore
1230: Annapolis Valley
1240: Southern
1250: Halifax

Halifax ER (1250) in purple, other ERs outlined in red.

 

Census Division (CD)

"A group of neighbouring municipalities joined together for the purpose of regional planning and managing common services (such as police or ambulance services). Census divisions are intermediate geographic areas between the province/territory level and the municipality (CSD). Next to provinces and territories, census divisions (CD) are the most stable administrative geographic areas, and are therefore often used in longitudinal analysis. The census division (CD) code is a two-digit code that is based on the Standard Geographical Classification (SGC). In order to uniquely identify each CD in Canada, the two-digit province/territory (PR) code must precede the two-digit CD code" (Statistics Canada Definition).

Nova Scotia has 18 Census Divisions (CD), which may also be called 'counties' (e.g. Shelburne County):

1201: Shelburne 1207: Kings 1213: Guysborough
1202: Yarmouth 1208: Hants 1214: Antigonish
1203: Digby 1209: Halifax 1215: Inverness
1204: Queens 1210: Colchester 1216: Richmond
1205: Annapolis 1211: Cumberland 1217: Cape Breton
1206: Lunenburg 1212: Pictou 1218: Victoria

Halifax CD (1209) in purple, other CDs outlined in red.

 
Census Subdivision (CSD)

"Census subdivision (CSD) is the general term for municipalities (as determined by provincial/territorial legislation) or areas treated as municipal equivalents for statistical purposes (e.g., Indian reserves, Indian settlements and unorganized territories)" (Statistics Canada Definition).

The census subdivision (CSD) code is a three-digit code that is based on the Standard Geographical Classification (SGC). In order to uniquely identify each CSD in Canada, the two-digit province/territory (PR) code and the two-digit census division (CD) code must precede the CSD code.

Nova Scotia has 96 Census Subdivisions, 26 are classified as Indian Reserves (IRI), 12 as Municipal Districts (MD), 3 as Regional Municipalities (RGM), 28 as Subdivisions of County Municipalities (SC), and 27 as Towns (T). For example, in the Census Division of Halifax (1209), there are 6 Census Subdivisions. The CSD is represented by the last 3 digits of the following numbers:

1209019: Cole Harbour (IRI or Indian Reserve)
1209029: Shubenacadie (IRI)
1209034: Halifax (RGM)
1209037: Beaver Lake (IRI)
1209038: Sheet Harbour (IRI)
1209800: Wallace Hills (IRI)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halifax CSD in purple, other CSDs outlined in red.

Note that Beaver Lake (1209037) and others are located within the Halifax CSD.
These CSDs are classified as Indian Reserves (IRI).

Aggregate Dissemination Area (ADA)

New in 2016: Aggregate dissemination areas (ADA) "cover the entire country and, where possible, have a population between 5,000 and 15,000 based on the previous census population counts. ADAs are created from existing dissemination geographic areas and are formed from census tracts (CTs), census subdivisions (CSDs) or dissemination areas (DAs). ADAs respect provincial, territorial, census division (CD), census metropolitan area (CMA) and census agglomeration (CA) with census tract (CT) boundaries. The intent of the ADA geography is to ensure the availability of census data, where possible, across all regions of Canada.

Each aggregate dissemination area is assigned a four-digit code. To uniquely identify each ADA within Canada, the province/territory (PR) two-digit code and the census division (CD) two-digit code are concatenated and precede the ADA code." (Statistics Canada Definition). 

There are 57 Aggregate Dissemination Areas in the Census Division (CD) of Halifax County (1209). Mount Saint Vincent University is located in ADA 12090057, which breaks down into the two-digit PR code for Nova Scotia (12), the two-digit CD code for Halifax County (09), and the ADA code for the area in which MSVU is located (0057). 

MSVU and area ADA in purple, other ADAs outlined in red.

Dissemination Area (DA)

"A dissemination area (DA) is a small, relatively stable geographic unit composed of one or more adjacent dissemination blocks with an average population of 400 to 700 persons based on data from the previous Census of Population Program. It is the smallest standard geographic area for which all census data are disseminated. Dissemination area boundaries follow roads. DA boundaries may follow other features (such as railways, water features, power transmission lines), where these features form part of the boundaries of census subdivisions or census tracts. Each dissemination area (DA) is assigned a four-digit code. In order to uniquely identify each DA in Canada, the two-digit province/territory (PR) code and the two-digit census division (CD) code must precede the DA code" (Statistics Canada Definition).

Nova Scotia has 1658 Dissemination Areas, while Halifax County (1209) has 601 DAs. Mount Saint Vincent University is located in DA 12090574; this breaks down into the two-digit PR code for Nova Scotia (12), the two-digit CD code for Halifax County (09), and the DA code for the area in which MSVU is located (0574).

MSVU and area DA in purple, other DAs outlined in red.

Dissemination Block (DB)

"A dissemination block (DB) is an area bounded on all sides by roads and/or boundaries of standard geographic areas. The dissemination block is the smallest geographic area for which population and dwelling counts are disseminated. Dissemination blocks cover all the territory of Canada. Only population and dwelling counts are disseminated at the dissemination block level (with the dissemination area being the smallest standard geographic area for which characteristic data are disseminated). To ensure confidentiality, population counts are adjusted for dissemination blocks having a population of less than 15" (Statistics Canada Definition).

Each dissemination block is assigned a three-digit code. In order to uniquely identify each dissemination block in Canada, the two-digit province/territory (PR) code, the two-digit census division (CD) code and the four-digit dissemination area (DA) code must precede the DB code. For Mount Saint Vincent University the DB is 12090574005. This consists of two-digit PR code for Nova Scotia (12), the two-digit CD code for Halifax County (09), the DA code for the area in which MSVU is located (0574), and the DB code for MSVU itself (005). Halifax County (09) has 3512 dissemination blocks. 

Mount Saint University is in purple, while other DBs are outlined in red.

 

Metropolitan Areas and Census Conglomerations

Census metropolitan area (CMA) and census agglomeration (CA)

"A census metropolitan area (CMA) or a census agglomeration (CA) is formed by one or more adjacent municipalities centred on a population centre (known as the core). A CMA must have a total population of at least 100,000 of which 50,000 or more must live in the core based on adjusted data from the previous Census of Population Program. A CA must have a core population of at least 10,000 also based on data from the previous Census of Population Program. When a CA has a core of at least 50,000, based on data from the previous Census of Population, it is subdivided into census tracts. Census tracts are maintained for the CA even if the population of the core subsequently falls below 50,000. All CMAs are subdivided into census tracts" (Statistics Canada Definition).

Each CMA and CA is assigned a three-digit code that identifies it uniquely in Canada. The first digit is the same as the second digit of the province code in which the CMA or CA is located, for Nova Scotia this is PR (12), while the last three digits represent the CMA/CA, for Halifax this is CMA (205). Note that just the last three digits are enough to identify most CMA/CAs. 

Nova Scotia has one census metropolitan areas (CMA) and four census agglomerations (CA):

12205: Halifax (CMA)
12210: Kentville (CA)
​12215: Truro (CA)
12220: New Glasgow (CA)
12225: Cape Breton (CA)

Halifax CMA (12205) in purple, other CAs outlined in red.

Census tracts (CT)

"Census tracts (CTs) are small, relatively stable geographic areas that usually have a population of less than 10,000 persons, based on data from the previous Census of Population Program. They are located in census metropolitan areas and in census agglomerations that had a core population of 50,000 or more in the previous census. Once a census metropolitan area (CMA) or census agglomeration (CA) has been subdivided into census tracts, the census tracts are maintained even if the core population subsequently declines below 50,000. A census tract may be split into two or more new census tracts (usually when its population exceeds 10,000). CT splits are usually done in a way that allows users to re-aggregate the splits to the original census tract for historical comparison" (Statistics Canada Definition).

Each census tract is assigned a seven-character numeric "name" (including leading zeros, decimal point and trailing zeros). To uniquely identify each census tract in its corresponding census metropolitan area (CMA) or tracted census agglomeration (CA), the three-digit CMA/CA code must precede the CT "name." For example, the CT for the area in which Mount Saint Vincent University is located is (2050025.02), the CMA for Halifax is (205), and the CT is (0025.02).

The CMA of Halifax has 98 CTs.

The area including MSVU (2050025.02) is in purple, while other CTs are outlined in red.


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