Canada Lands Survey System

Boundaries and the Canada Lands Survey System (CLSS)

Boundaries are ubiquitous.  All peoples across all cultures mark the boundaries of their parcels on the ground.  These boundaries can serve economic, social or security purposes.  The Canada Lands Survey System (CLSS) provides the framework and infrastructure for defining, demarcating and describing such boundaries of Canada Lands and of private lands in the North.

Enabling Efficient Property Rights

Boundaries and systems of property rights are intertwined.  Such systems answer four questions:

1) Who has the right (person, family, corporation)

2) What type of right exists (lease, licenses, fee-simple)?

3) How much is the right worth?  What is its value? (either monetary or cultural)

4) Where is the right? THIS is the role of boundaries and the CLSS

However, that is only half the equation.  The management of property rights is of equal importance.  This includes transferring and mortgaging of rights, subdividing the land and land use planning.  Land use planning, by definition, requires parcels and boundaries, to ensure separation between dwellings for fire protection, turning radii for emergency vehicles, no development on areas prone to erosion or other natural hazards, and appropriate buffers to environmentally sensitive areas.  All of these things require parcels and boundaries to be effectively managed.

Elements of the Canada Lands Survey System (CLSS)

While describing the ‘where’ of anything might not seem a particularly complex notion, it actually entails quite a bit.  The following six elements are the foundation of the CLSS:

Legislation sets out the jurisdiction and governance for the survey system. The Canada Lands Surveys Act and the Canada Lands Surveyors Act set the foundation for the CLSS and stipulate that all cadastral surveys on Canada Lands be performed under instructions of the Surveyor General and that the instructions apply if incorporated in other legislation, such as the Land Titles Acts in the North.

Standards ensure a level of quality for the legal surveys and survey products. The Surveyor General maintains National Standards for the Survey of Canada Lands.

Regulation of the profession provides a mechanism to ensure surveyors are meeting standards. The Association of Canada Lands Surveyors (ACLS), a self-regulating body, is responsible for licensing Canada Lands Surveyors and regulating all professionals surveying on Canada Lands.

Ground-based parcel fabric provides the basis upon which additional surveys can be built and from which cadastral mapping and land information systems can be derived. The surveys are referenced to a common coordinate system to facilitate the integration of spatial information. For Canada Lands, information on monuments in the ground is contained within the documents of the Canada Lands Surveys Records.

Survey Records are the legal survey documents (plans, field notes, reports, diaries) that reflect the work done on the ground.  The Canada Lands Surveys Records provide a mechanism to ensure safekeeping of and access to legal survey documents for Canada Lands.

Linkage with a land registry system is necessary to associate property rights with the parcels of land.  The CLSS supports some 20 different land registry systems including the Indian Lands Registry System (ILRS) and the Land Titles offices for each of the three Territories.