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GeoSearch 2016

Access GeoSearch 2016

Interactive mapping tool for 2016 Census data, analytical reports and maps. Search by placename or postal code, or zoom to the location of interest. 

Great tool for identifying codes for different Census geographic levels.

Comparison of common Census geographic units

Statistics Canada uses several approaches to dividing Canada geographically for the Census. It does not use 6-digit postal codes. Instead, Census areas are based upon:

  • legal boundaries (e.g. Census Division, Census Subdivision, Health Region)
  • urbanization level  (e.g. Census Metropolitan Area, Census Tract)
  • electoral boundaries (e.g. Federal Electoral District)

The tabs above are arranged from largest to smallest area. Quotations in the tabs are taken from the Illustrated Glossary

For a visual of how the areas relate to each other, see Statcan's Hierarchy of Standard Geographic Units.

Every geographic unit has a unique number.

Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) or Census Agglomeration (CA)

An urban area "consisting of one or more neighbouring municipalities situated around a major urban core." A CMA/CA may cover the same geographic area as a Census District (CD).

  • CMA is a large urban area; minimum population = 100,000, with at least 50,000 living in the urban core. CMA's are further divided into Census Tracts.
  • e.g. Vancouver CMA = Greater Vancouver

note: the Vancouver CMA has the same boundaries as the Vancouver Census District (CD), which is the Greater Vancouver Regional District.

  • CA is a small urban area; minimum urban core population of at least 10,000. CA's with a core population of over 50,000 are further divided into Census Tracts.
    • e.g. Penticton is a CA

Image source: Statistics Canada. (2017). Census Metropolitan Area. Illustrated Glossary. Retrieved from

Census Division (CD)

A regional district (in BC). It is a "group of neighboring municipalities joined together for the purposes of regional planning and managing common services (such as police or ambulance services)." A legal entity, created by provincial governments.

  • e.g. Vancouver CD = Metro Vancouver (Greater Vancouver Regional District)

A CD may (but does not always) cover the same geographic area as its corresponding CMA/CA.

  • e.g. the Vancouver CD covers the same area as the Vancouver CMA

Image source: Statistics Canada. (2017). Census Division. Illustrated Glossary. Retrieved from

Census Subdivision (CSD)

A city. It is an "area that is a municipality or an area that is deemed to be equivalent to a municipality." A legal entity,

  • e.g. Vancouver CSD = City of Vancouver

image of Census Subdivision (CSD)

Image source: Statistics Canada. (2017). Census Subdivision. Illustrated Glossary. Retrieved from [highlighting added]

Aggregate Dissemination Area (ADA) 

"The aggregate dissemination area (ADA) is a new dissemination geography created for the 2016 Census. ADAs 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."

Census Tract (CT)

Roughly equivalent to a neighbourhood. It is an "area that is small and relatively stable. Census tracts have an average of 4,000 people, with a range from 2,500 to 8,000." They are only found in urban centres [CA's or CMA's] with an urban core population of 50,000 or more. Every CT has a 6-digit number.

  • e.g. Kwantlen's Surrey campus is located in CT 0185.22
You can find CT maps in three ways:

1. Search Census Profiles by postal code, then "map"

2. Use GeoSearch 2016

3. Look at a PDF Reference Map of the area

image of Census Tract

Image source: Statistics Canada. (2017). Census Tract. Illustrated Glossary. Retrieved from

Dissemination Area (DA)

A small area "composed of one or more neighbouring dissemination blocks, with a population of 400 to 700 persons." All of Canada is divided into dissemination areas. This is the smallest area for which statistics are publicly released.

You can find DA maps in two ways:

1. Use GeoSearch 2016

2. Look at a PDF Reference Map of the area

Image source: Statistics Canada. (2017). Dissemination Area. Illustrated Glossary. Retrieved from

Dissemination Block (DB)

An area "equivalent to a city block bounded by intersecting streets." These areas cover all of Canada. This is the smallest geographic area measured by the Census. Statistics at this level are only available at secure Research Data Centres.

Maps: Use GeoSearch 2016

image of Dissemination Block (DB)

Image source: Statistics Canada. (2017). Dissemination Block. Illustrated Glossary. Retrieved from

Postal Code

A geographic entity created by Canada Post to represent where people receive mail, not where they live.

components of Canadian postal code

Image source: Denelson83 on Wikimedia Commons [Public domain]

Statistics Canada does not release Census data by 6-digit postal code. Although you can search the Census Profiles by Postal Code, the results will be for the closest matching Dissemination Area, which is larger. The boundaries will not match.

If you are willing to put in a lot of work, you can do more sophisticated matching of postal codes to Census geographic areas for large numbers of postal codes. You will need to use Statistics Canada's Postal Code Conversion File (PCCF) or Postal Code Conversion File Plus (PCCF+) to 'translate' 6-digit postal codes into the closest Census boundaries. Due to Canada Post licence restrictions, the PCCF is only available upon request from KPU's Data Librarian. For more info on the PCCF and PCCF+, see this guide from Queen's University Library.

Maps: Not available. Canada Post only produces FSA and "Letter Carrier Walk" maps.


Forward Sortation Area (FSA)

The first 3-digits of a postal code are called the Forward Sortation Area (FSA) code, e.g. V3W. 

FSA's are smaller than a city (Census Subdivision), but larger than a Census Tract.

You can view Census Profiles and selected Census Data Tables by Forward Sortation Area (FSA) which matches the boundaries for the first 3 characters of a postal code. You can display FSA boundaries when you are searching for Data Tables using the "Browse by Map" option. [INSERT DROP-DOWN DISPLAY OF SCREENSHOT]

Helpful guides to Census geography

How to locate Statcan maps, data and geographic ID's for small areas