Toponyms, or geographical names, are used by us all every day - to describe our surroundings and to tell others where we have been or where we plan to go. When we use maps we expect the names to help us identify features of the landscape, and perhaps even to throw light on the local history of an area.
In Canada, since 1897, names on official, federal government maps have been authorized through a national committee, now known as the Geographical Names Board of Canada (GNBC).
The GNBC is comprised of 27 members. Its Chair is appointed by the Minister of Natural Resources Canada. Each of the provinces and territories is represented, so also are various federal departments concerned with mapping, archives, defence, translation, Indian reserves, national parks and statistics. As well, the Chairs of two advisory committees (one on toponymy policy and research, the other on automation and delineation) serve as full members of the GNBC.
Contacts for GNBC members (federal, provincial, and territorial).
The GNBC's Secretariat is provided by Natural Resources Canada. In concert with the GNBC Chairs and the representatives of the various federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions, it handles all routine toponymic matters relating to Canada, on behalf of the GNBC.
The Secretariat coordinates the information to be included in the automated and graphic name records for national use, arranges for the meetings of the GNBC and its various committees, organizes workshops and seminars, and undertakes the production of GNBC publications. It has an important role in encouraging the official use of names and in stimulating the development of standard policies. It provides a focus for contacts with other national names authorities and promotes international cooperation with the United Nations and other organizations concerned with the global standardization of names.
Contact The Secretariat at Natural Resources Canada.
Guiding principles for geographical naming
- Summary (1999 edition)
- Details (1999 edition)
- Principles and procedures for geographical naming [PDF, 657.4 kb, viewer] (2001)