Indicator: Communities

The forest sector is an important part of the lives of many Canadians. In addition to employment and income, it provides recreational, cultural, traditional and spiritual benefits.

  • About 33% of Canadians live in or adjacent to forested areas.
  • The forest sector is a major source of income in 171 census subdivisions in Canada.Footnote*
  • About 9,700 Indigenous people worked in the forest sector in 2016, which makes it one of the largest employers of Indigenous people in the country.

Forest proximity, forest sector income and forest sector Indigenous employment across Canada are just some of the indicators that together portray how forests influence the lives and communities of Canadians.

Photo of two mountain bikers riding on a boardwalk through a forest.

Why is this indicator important?

  • In communities with a large proportion of workers and revenue linked to the forest sector, social and economic well-being are highly dependent on the economic strength of the sector.
  • Residents in forest-based areas also benefit from a range of environmental services (clean air and water, erosion protection, wildlife habitat) and from opportunities for outdoor recreation. These benefits enhance human health by improving physical, mental and spiritual well-being and reducing stress.

What is the outlook?

  • Regions that depend heavily on the forest sector suffered during the economic downturn in the past decade, but the industry is now recovering.
  • New and diversified opportunities are becoming available across Canada, including in the development of non-traditional products such as bioenergy, bioplastics and green chemicals.
  • The forest sector is expected to continue being important in the coming decades to many Canadians, not just those living in forested, remote and Indigenous communities but also those in urban areas as the industry comes to play a greater role in Canada’s transition to a green, low-carbon economy.
  • Canadian Institute of Forestry. 2003. Policy paper: Forestbased communities. Voice of Forest Practitioners, Mattawa, ON.
  • Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service calculations based on Statistics Canada, 2011 Census of Population, 2011 National Household Survey and Labour Force Survey.
  • Demographic data from the 2016 Census of Population was not available at the time of this report’s publication. Therefore, two of the indicators will await updating in the next edition of The State of Canada’s Forests.
  • A decline in this indicator may reflect either a decline in the fortunes of the forest sector (e.g. if a mill closes, the income from the forest sector goes down) or an increase in diversification of the economy overall (e.g. there may be no changes to forest sector income, but other sources of income increase). As a result, an increasing or a declining trend in the number of census subdivisions having the forest sector as a major economic driver is hard to interpret in the absence of other information.
  • A “forested area” is defined for this indicator as an area with over 60% tree cover.
  • All communities indicators are based on Statistics Canada’s census subdivisions. A “subdivision” is defined as an “area that is a municipality or an area that is deemed to be equivalent to a municipality for statistical reporting purposes (e.g. as an Indian reserve or an unorganized territory).” Since there is no standardized definition of “community” across provinces and territories, adopting the use of census subdivisions ensures consistency in reporting over time.
  • The forest sector is considered to be a major economic driver if it accounts directly for 20% or more of total income (excluding transfer income) in a census subdivision. This differs from the previous definition of “forest dependence,” which was based on more than 50% of total income (including transfer income) being directly attributable to the forest sector.