The Geographical Names Board of Canada at 125

The Geographical Names Board of Canada is celebrating its 125th anniversary. In Canada the provinces (since 1961) and territories (since 1984) do most of the actual naming (exceptions include Indian reserves, military reserves and national parks, which are done jointly by the relevant federal department and the province). What, then, does the Board do? From the Board’s about page:

Among today’s roles of the GNBC as a national coordinating body are the development of standard policies for the treatment of names and terminology, the promotion of the use of official names, and the encouragement of the development of international standards in cooperation with the United Nations and other national authorities responsible for naming policies and practices.

Coordinating, development, promotion, encouragement: as a former government employee, I’m familiar with those, erm, terms of art. But in a country with literally two major rivers named Churchill, a little coordination is not necessarily just an Important Canadian Government Initiative, if you follow me.

Indigenous Content Added to Climate Atlas of Canada

CBC News reports on the launch of an Indigenous Knowledges component to the Climate Atlas of Canada:

Until now, the interactive atlas did not show climate change projections for Indigenous communities. Only Canadian urban centres were included.

The newly-launched feature provides information about the impacts of climate change on 634 First Nations communities and 53 Inuit communities, while also profiling projects surrounding climate change adaptation and mitigation across the Métis homeland.

The Climate Atlas has a video demo of its Indigenous content. The Atlas’s online map, with Indigenous layers, is here.

Natural Resources Canada Releases Updated World Map

The World (Natural Resources Canada)
Natural Resources Canada

Canada’s federal Department of Natural Resources has released a new wall map of the world, its first since 2005, under an open government licence.

The World is a general reference political map focused on the names and international boundaries of sovereign and non-sovereign countries. The information is portrayed using the Winkel II projection at a scale of 1:29 000 000. The dataset includes international boundaries, populated places, and labelled major hydrographic and physical features.

Because it’s produced by a federal department, the map and the download page are at pains to emphasize that the boundaries, labels and other information is not necessarily representative of the Government of Canada’s position (viz., Persian Gulf and Sea of Japan; disputed boundaries are included, frozen conflicts not so much).

The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada’s Giant Floor Map Comes to PEI

Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada Giant Floor MapRemember the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada’s giant floor map? Measuring eight by eleven metres and created by Canadian Geographic Education (which has a lot of giant floor maps), it notably lacks provincial borders and names. It recently made its way to the University of Prince Edward Island’s education program, which occasioned this story for CBC News.

Previously: The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada’s Giant Floor Map.

Vaccination Rates in Montreal

Interactive maps produced by Radio-Canada from Montreal Public Health data show where vaccination rates on the Island of Montreal are lagging. The Quebec government’s target is to have at least 75 percent of the population vaccinated. Of the 3,000 sectors on the map, 70 percent have reached that goal for the first dose and 3 percent for the second.

These data are useful in terms of where to target mobile clinics and other vaccination outreach programs. I’d love to see this for other cities in Quebec, especially the one nearest to me: Gatineau’s current rate is relatively low (66.4 percent first dose, 51.2 second dose as of this week) and it’d be revealing to see where the uptake is stronger or weaker.

Algonquin Bead Artist to Reinterpret Cold War Maps

The Diefenbunker is a Cold War-era fallout shelter on the outskirts of Ottawa that has since been converted into a museum. Its large floor maps, never used or displayed, are serving as grist for an Indigenous artist in residence, CBC Ottawa reports:

As the new artist in residence at Ottawa’s Diefenbunker Museum, Mairi Brascoupé is blending Cold War-era maps and beadwork to explore the idea of “place” during times of change.

Brascoupé, a member of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, wants to weave her own story by exploring the differences between cultures of Indigenous people and settlers.

She plans to use waterways and traplines in contrast with fallout zones, evacuation plans, and other details of the museum’s maps.

Canadian Passenger Rail in 1955 and 1980

This interactive map, created by Sean Marshall, compares the extent of Canada’s passenger rail network in 1955 with what was left of it in 1980 after decades of service cancellations and line abandonments. By 1980 the various railways’ services had been taken over by VIA Rail; VIA’s network would face the first of a series of cutbacks the following year (there’s a lot less of it extant today), so this map represents the public rail network at its maximum. More about the map from Sean here.

Historical Landslides in Canada

Map: Historical landslides that have resulted in fatalities in Canada (1771-2019)
Excerpt from Andrée Blais-Stevens, “Historical landslides that have resulted in fatalities in Canada (1771-2019),” Geological Survey of Canada, 2020.

The third edition of a map showing landslides that have caused fatalities in Canada since 1771, created over six years by Geological Survey of Canada research scientist Andrée Blais-Stevens, was recently released. The Ottawa Citizen has the story; the map in question can be downloaded in PDF format here (48.7 MB).

A Network Map of Ottawa’s Cycling Network

Hans on the Bike map of the Ottawa-Gatineau cycling network
Hans on the Bike

Hans on the Bike has produced a map of the Ottawa-Gatineau bicycle path network in the style of a Beck-style subway network map. “Is a metro map for cycling useful? I think it has a function in visualizing a network in an easy and pleasing way,” he writes. “In the end it is more a fun project than a bike map avant la lettre.”

Nothing wrong with it as a fun exercise, but can it actually be used? As someone who back in the day biked quite a lot of the Ottawa and Gatineau bike trail network, I can’t use this map. I don’t recognize the path network. Part of it is because many of those paths have names that he doesn’t use; part of it is the conceit of creating “stations”; part of it is that a surface path network that can be entered or exited at any point is not well served by a network diagram. It makes sense to abstract a subway network from the street level, because you’re basically travelling from station to station. You’re not doing that on a bike; you’re in the neighbourhood.

Apple Maps Updates Canada

Apple’s new maps, first announced in 2018, have finally come to Canada: they went live country-wide on 10 December. See coverage from AppleInsider and MacRumors; Justin O’Beirne compares the new maps with the old.

The update also includes Look Around, and not just in a few locations. Elsewhere in the world, Look Around is being rolled out on a city-by-city basis; in Canada it’s far more comprehensive. How comprehensive? I live in a village of 1,600 people not far from Ottawa, and my house is on it. (Based on the state of our gardening, the imagery was taken sometime in 2019, either in late summer or early fall.) Major highways are also included, not just cities. Justin O’Beirne looks at the coverage areas.

Canada is the fourth country to get the new maps: Ireland and the U.K. got them in October.

Approved and Rejected Place Names in Ontario

CBC News explores how places in Ontario receive new names. There are hundreds of thousands of unnamed places in the province, and at the rate new names are being approved by the Ontario Geographic Names Board, it’s likely to stay that way: 85 new names have been approved in the past five years. On the other hand, 54 proposed names were rejected for not failing to meet the rules, which the article digs into:

The Ontario Geographic Names Board is guided by a strict list of naming rules. Submissions can’t have the same name as another nearby feature. Bad words are not allowed, nor are names that could seem like advertisements.

When it comes to people, a name won’t be considered unless that person has been dead for at least five years. Even then, there’s niche criteria. The person needs to have left a legacy either locally, provincially or nationally.

There’s even a rule about not naming something to commemorate a victim of an accident or a tragedy if they didn’t leave some sort of other legacy.

Beaded Maps of Canada and the United States

CBC News reports on a collaborative project to create province-by-province and state-by-state beaded maps of Canada and the United States. “Since March, dozens of Indigenous artists had been taking up a challenge to bead their states and provinces. Their hard work, diversity in beading styles, techniques, and cultural influences can be seen in a final map that was recently unveiled of both countries.” The project was coordinated by CeeJay Johnson of Kooteen Creations.