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Indicator: Communities

Canada’s forests are a rich source of economic, cultural, and environmental benefits for people across the country. These benefits are important to people and their communities in both rural and urban Canada.

  • About 31% or 11 million Canadians live in or adjacent to forested areas.
  • There are about 300 census subdivisions across Canada that rely on the forest sector for jobs and income.
  • About 2% of Canada’s population (700,000 people) live in these forest-reliant communities.
  • Approximately 70% of Indigenous people in Canada live in or near forests, and about 11,600 Indigenous people were employed in the forest sector in 2016.

Proximity to forests, community reliance and Indigenous employment in Canada’s forest sector are examples of the importance of forests to people and their communities across Canada.

Why is this indicator important?

  • When a community relies heavily on the forest sector for jobs and income, any adverse economic events affecting the sector affects not only forest sector employees, but all members of the community.
  • Forests provide more than just economic benefits. Forests are often central to the health and well-being of the people who live in forest-reliant communities, providing many environmental services and recreational activities.

What is the outlook?

  • Given the nature of the Canadian forest sector, some of the economic activity will always be located near the resource, away from urban areas. As a result, the forest sector will continue to be an important source of jobs and income for communities across Canada, including remote ones.
  • Efforts to diversify forest products manufacturing will strengthen the sector and provide opportunities for Canadians, particularly those who live in rural areas.
  • Strong demand for Canada’s forest products will create new and diverse opportunities for people in forest-reliant, rural and Indigenous communities, as well as for people in other communities who benefit from living near forests and participating in the forest sector.

What reporting frameworks does this indicator support?

A pulp and paper mill in the foreground with the community of Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador in the background.
A pulp and paper mill in the community of Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Sources and information
  • Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service. Calculations based on Statistics Canada, 2016 Census of Population and Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service, North American boreal zone map shapefiles.
    • This year, the Canadian Forest Service adopted a new method for identifying communities that rely on economic activity from natural resource sectors. The method is based on the sector dependence index (SDI), a well-established approach to assess the relative importance of a given sector to local economies. In addition to considering the share of total income generated from the forest sector, we used the SDI to establish if the forest sector provides a high number of jobs (relative to the average Canadian community). We also established if there are many other sectors that are also a source of jobs for local residents.
    • Last year, we reported that the forest sector was a major source of income for 105 census subdivisions in Canada. This year we followed this new method to report that 300 Canadian communities rely on the forest sector for a significant share of economic activity.
    • “Adjacent” (in “Canadians who live in or adjacent to forested areas”) is not defined by a specific distance from a forested area, but through analyses. Forested area data are laid over Statistics Canada dissemination areas (DA). If any portion of a DA contains forested land, the entire population of that DA is considered to live in or adjacent to forests.
      • Statistics Canada defines a dissemination area as a “small area composed of one or more neighbouring blocks, with a population of 400 to 700 persons.” A DA is a “relatively stable geographic unit” and “the smallest standard geographic area for which all census data are disseminated.” All of Canada is divided into dissemination areas.
    • The forest sector communities indicator is based on Statistics Canada’s census subdivisions. A “subdivision” is “the general term for municipalities (as determined by provincial/territorial legislation) or areas treated as municipal equivalents for statistical purposes (e.g. Indian reserves, Indian settlements and unorganized territories).” Since there is no standardized definition of “community” across provinces and territories, using census subdivisions allows for a consistent approach in reporting over time.
    • Employment data from Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census of Population: This value refers to the number of people “employed,” not “in the labour force” (which includes those people “unemployed”).
    • GIS-based analyses used the BOREAL and B_ALPINE layers.
  • Statistics Canada. 2016 Census of Population (special extraction, April 20, 2018).
    • Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service calculations for Indigenous employment are based on Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census of Population.
      • These values refer to the number of people “employed,” not “in the labour force,” which includes those “unemployed.”
      • “Indigenous” refers to people who are First Nations (North American Indian), Métis or Inuk (Inuit). “Indigenous” also refers to people who are Registered or Treaty Indians (that is, registered under the Indian Act) and/or those who have membership in a First Nation or Indian band.
Photo credit
  • Overlook of pulp and paper mill in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. Photo by ArchonCodex/iStock by Getty Images.

Table of contents — The State of Canada's Forests Report

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