Canadian postal code

Canadian postal code

Canada provinces map

BC = List of V postal codes of Canada
AB = List of T postal codes of Canada
SK = List of S postal codes of Canada
MB = List of R postal codes of Canada
ON = List of P postal codes of Canada
QC = List of G postal codes of Canada
NB = List of E postal codes of Canada
PE = List of C postal codes of Canada
NS = List of B postal codes of Canada
NL = List of A postal codes of Canada
YT = List of Y postal codes of Canada
NT = List of X postal codes of Canada
NU = List of X postal codes of Canada
width =

Postal codes by province and territory
A Canadian postal code is a string of six characters that forms part of a postal address in Canada. Like British and Dutch postcodes, Canada's postal codes are alphanumeric. They are in the format "A0A 0A0", where "A" is a letter and "0" is a digit, with a space separating the third and fourth characters. An example is K1A 0B1, which is for Canada Post's Ottawa headquarters. According to Statistics Canada, about 850,000 postal codes exist in Canada,cite web
title=Postal Code Conversion File (PCCF), Reference Guide
author=Statistics Canada
accessdate = 2007-11-07
] ranging from A0A in Newfoundland all the way to Y1A in the Yukon.

Canada Post provides a free postal code look-up tool on its website, [cite web
author=Canada Post
title=Postal code lookup - Advanced search
accessdate = 2008-08-23
] and sells hard-copy directories and CD-ROMs. Many vendors also sell validation tools, which allow customers to properly match addresses and postal codes. Hard-copy directories can also be consulted in all post offices.


City postal zones

Numbered postal zones were used in certain Canadian cities by the 1940s. Mail to a Toronto address in zone 5 would be addressed in this format:

:Firstname Lastname:9999 Streetname Avenue:Toronto 5, Ontario

As of 1943, the City of Toronto was divided into 14 zones, numbered from 1 to 15, except that 7 and 11 were unused, and there was a 2B zone. [cite news | title=Urge citizens include zones in addressesWould Speed Delivery of Mail, Postoffice Department Contends | date=26 August 1943 | publisher=The Globe and Mail | page=4 ]

In the late 1960s, the Post Office began implementing a 3-digit zone number scheme in major cities to replace existing 1- and 2-digit zone numbers. [cite news | title=Postal zones going to 3 digits | date=25 September 1968 | page=1 | publisher=The Globe and Mail ] For example, zones numbered from 100 to 799 were assigned throughout Metropolitan Toronto, with a goal of sorting mail addresses into smaller districts. Toronto's renumbering took effect 1 May 1969, accompanied by an advertising campaign under the slogan "Your number is up".cite news | title=Post Office's numbers game shifts to public phase in Toronto area | date=30 April 1969 | first=John | last=Picton | page=B3 | publisher=The Globe and Mail ] The system was introduced during 1968 in Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Montreal, and Windsor. Besides Toronto, the system was to have expanded in 1969 to London, Ottawa, Quebec City, and Vancouver.

With impending plans for a national postal code system, Postmaster General Eric Kierans announced that the Post Office would begin cancelling the new 3-digit city zone system. Companies changed their mail addressing at their own expense only to find the new zoning would prove to be short-lived. [cite news | title=Costs of postal zone changes hit some companies second time | date=4 June 1969 | first=Terrence | last=Belford | page=B4 | publisher=The Globe and Mail ]


As the largest Canadian cities were growing in the 1950s and 1960s, the volumes of mail passing through the country's postal system also grew, reaching billions by the 1950s, and tens of billions by the mid 1960s. Consequently, it was becoming progressively more difficult for employees who hand-sorted mail to memorize and keep track of all the individual letter carrier routes within each city. New technology that allowed mail to be delivered at a faster speed also contributed to the pressure for these employees to properly sort the mail. Canada was one of the last Western countries to get a nationwide postal code system. [cite news
title=Cote denies conflict between ITT contract and personnel exchange with Post Office
publisher=The Globe and Mail
date=4 March 1972
] A report tabled in the House of Commons in 1969 dealt with the expected impact of "environmental change" on the Post Office operations over the following 25 years. A key recommendation was the "establishment of a task force to determine the nature of the automation and mechanization the Post Office should adopt, which might include design of a postal code". [cite news
title=Technical advances in communications will erode Post Office work, report says
publisher=The Globe and Mail
date=6 May 1969
] cite web
title=A Chronology of Canadian Postal History: The Postal Code
author=Canadian Postal Museum
date=16 September 2001
accessdate = 2007-01-07


In February 1970, Communications Minister Eric Kierans announced that a six-character postal code would be introduced, beginning with a test in the City of Ottawa on 1 April 1971. [cite news
title=Postal Code
publisher=The Globe and Mail
date=20 February 1970
] Coding of Ottawa was followed by a provincial-level rollout of the system in Manitoba, and the system was gradually implemented in the rest of the country from 1972 to 1974. The rollout was marked by a large advertising campaign, costing some C$545,000. [cite news
title=6-figure cost to advertise 6-figure code
publisher=The Globe and Mail
date=20 February 1973

The introduction of such a code system allowed Canada Post to easily speed up, as well as simplify, the flow of mail in the country. However, when the automated sorting system was initially conceived, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and other relevant unions objected to it, mainly because the wages of those who ran the new automated machines were much lower than those who had hand-sorted mail. The unions ended up staging job action and public information campaigns, with the message that they did not want people and business to use postal codes on their mail. 20 March 1974 was declared "boycott the postal code day" and the union promised that letters without postal codes would be given preferential service. [cite news
title=For good service, do not use code, postal union says
publisher=The Globe and Mail
date=13 March 1975
] Eventually the unions started being compensated once the automated system was put into use and eventually generating significant revenue for Canada Post. The boycott was called off in February 1976. [cite news
title=Postal union ends boycott of code system
publisher=The Globe and Mail
date=6 February 1976

One 1975 Toronto ad generated controversy by showing a man writing a postal code on the bottom of a thonged woman with the ditty "We're not 'stringing' you along/Use postal codes—you'll 'thing our 'thong'/Don't be cheeky—you've all got 'em/Please include them on the bottom." The ad ran only once before being accused of sexism by NDP MP John Rodriguez. Postmaster General Bryce Mackasey later apologized for it. [cite news
title=MP cites 'sexist' ad, Mackasey apologizes
publisher=The Globe and Mail
date=18 June 1975

Today, mail without a postal code is very uncommon, though it will usually still reach its intended destination.

Components of a postal code

Forward sortation areas

A "forward sortation area" (FSA) is a geographical region where all postal codes start with the same three characters. [cite web | title = NDG Presort Online Training | work = NDG | publisher = Canada Post| url = | accessdate = 2008-09-23 ] The first letter of an FSA code denotes a particular "postal district", which, outside of Quebec and Ontario, corresponds to an entire province or territory. Owing to Quebec's and Ontario's large populations, those two provinces have three and five postal districts respectively, and each has at least one city so large that it has a dedicated postal district ("H" for Montreal Island, and "M" for Toronto). On the other hand, the populations in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are small enough for those two territories to share a postal district. The digit specifies if the FSA is urban or rural. A zero indicates a wide-area rural region, while all other digits indicate urban areas. The second letter represents a specific rural region, entire medium-sized city, or section of a major metropolitan area.

Map of Canadian postal districts.
FSA lists:
A directory of FSAs is provided to the right (below the postal district map), divided into separate articles by postal district. Individual FSA lists are in a tabular format, with the numbers (known as "zones") going across the table and the second letter going down the table. The FSA lists specify one representative community located within each rural FSA. Medium-sized cities may have one dedicated FSA, while larger cities have more than one FSA within their limits. For FSAs that span more than one city, the city which is allocated the most codes in each such FSA is listed. For cities with a small number of FSAs (but more than one), the lists specify the relative location of each FSA in those cities. For cities with a large number of FSAs, applicable neighbourhoods and boroughs are specified.

Local delivery units

The last three characters denote a "local delivery unit" (LDU). An LDU denotes a specific single address or range of addresses, which can correspond to an entire small town, a significant part of a medium-sized town, a single side of a city block in larger cities, a single large building or a portion of a very large one, a single (large) institution such as a university or a hospital, or a business that receives large volumes of mail on a regular basis. LDUs ending in zero correspond to postal facilities, from post offices and small drugstore retail postal outlets all the way up to sortation plants. In urban areas, LDUs may be specific postal carriers' routes. In rural areas where direct door-to-door delivery is not available, an LDU can describe a set of post office boxes or a rural route. LDU 9Z9 is used exclusively for Business Reply Mail. In rural FSAs, the first two characters are usually assigned in alphanumerical order by the name of each community.

LDU 9Z0 refers to large regional distribution centre facilities, and is also used as a placeholder, appearing in some regional postmarks such as the "K0H 9Z0" on purely-local mail within the Kingston, Ontario area.

How many postal codes are possible?

No postal code includes the letters D, F, I, O, Q, or U, as the OCR equipment used in automated sorting could easily confuse them with other letters and digits, especially when they are rendered as cursive handwriting. The letters W and Z are used, but are not currently used as the first letter. This scheme allows for a maximum 3,600 FSAs: with 2,000 possible LDUs in each FSA, there is a theoretical maximum of 7.2 million codes. The practical maximum is a bit lower, as Canada Post reserves some FSAs for special functions, such as for test or promotional purposes, as well as for sorting mail bound for destinations outside Canada. The current Statistics Canada estimate of over 850,000 active postal codes represents about 12% of the entire postal code "space", leaving more than ample room for expansion.

Postal barcodes

When a piece of mail reaches its first major Canada Post sortation facility, a multiline optical character reader system looks at its destination address, translates its postal code into a barcode, and prints that barcode on the faced envelope. For regular-size mail, a UV-fluorescent barcode is applied to the lower-right corner of the envelope; for larger envelopes, a special four-state barcode known as PostBar [cite web
title=United States Patent 5,602,382 - Mail piece bar code having a data content identifier (Assigned to Canada Post Corporation)
date=11 February 1997
accessdate = 2007-01-06
] is applied, which encodes additional relevant information along with the postal code. The four-state barcode is put on a sticker, which is then applied to the envelope either on its lower-right corner, or just above the destination address. The complexity of the symbologies used does not make manual pre-printing of the barcodes practical, especially since the special ink used in the fluorescent barcode is not normally available to the public. However, businesses that want to reduce costs by pre-printing their own barcodes can enter into a licensing agreement with Canada Post, which includes either existing computer software for printing barcodes or the symbology specifications for businesses that wish to develop their own software. Pieces of mail that are hand-sorted instead of machine-sorted are not barcoded. This is usually the case when sender and recipient are geographically close.


"Urbanization" is the name Canada Post uses to refer to the process where it replaces a rural postal code (i.e., a code with a zero as its second character) with urban postal codes. [cite web
title=Bulletin - Rating Territories and Postal Code Changes by Canada Post (No.A - 02/06)
publisher=Financial Services Commission of Ontario
date=6 January 2006
accessdate = 2007-01-06
] The vacated rural postal code can then be assigned to another community or retired. Canada Post decides when to urbanize a certain community when its population reaches a certain level.

anta Claus

In 1974, staff at Canada Post's Montreal office were noticing a considerable amount of letters addressed to Saint Nicholas coming into the postal system, and those letters were being treated as undeliverable. Since those employees did not want the writers, mostly young children, to be disappointed at the lack of response, they started answering the letters themselves. [cite web | last = Daoust| first = Cindy | title = Another million-letter year! | work = News Releases | publisher = Canada Post | date = 2006-01-27 | url = | accessdate = 2008-09-23 ] The amount of mail sent to Santa Claus increased every Christmas, up to the point that Canada Post decided to start an official Santa Claus letter-response program in 1983. Approximately one million letters come in to Santa Claus each Christmas, including from outside of Canada, and all of them are answered, in the same languages in which they are written. [cite web |url= |title=Over one million children write letters to Santa |author=Canada Post |year=2007-01-27 |accessdate = 2008-09-23 ] Canada Post introduced a special address for mail to Santa Claus, complete with its own postal code:


In French, Santa's name translates as "Father Christmas", addressed as:


H0H 0H0 was chosen for this special seasonal use as it reads as "Ho ho ho".]

As the H0- prefix would normally signify "a tiny village in Montreal"—a contradiction in terms—this portion of the postal code allocation is otherwise relatively empty. H0M, assigned to the Akwesasne Indian reserve, is the only other H0- postal code in active use.

Alternate uses

Postal codes can be correlated with databased information from censuses or health registries to create a geographic profile of an area's population. For instance, postal codes have been used to compare children's risk of developing cancer [ [ Study: Socio-economic status and childhood cancers other than leukemia] , "The Daily", Statistics Canada, 8 June 2006. Retrieved on 3 July 2007] and to describe a neighbourhood's entrenched poverty (eg. "Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is Canada's poorest postal code").

As Canadian electoral districts frequently follow postal code areas, citizens can identify their local elected representative using their postal code. Provincial and federal government websites offer an online "look-up" feature based on postal codes. [ [ Find your Member of Parliament using your Postal Code] , Parliament of Canada, Retrieved on 3 July 2007] Although A1A 1A1 [ [ About ZIP Code A1A 1A1] ] is sometimes displayed as a generic code for this purpose, it is actually a genuine postal code in use in the Lower Battery, St. John's Harbour, Newfoundland. [cite web | title = Google Maps | publisher = | url =,+St+John%27s,+NL,+Canada+A1A+1A1&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=35.90509,71.71875&ie=UTF8&ll=47.571198,-52.696352&spn=0.00747,0.017509&z=16&iwloc=addr | accessdate = 2008-09-23 ] Another common "example" code in Canada Post materials, K1A 0B1, is the valid code for Place de la Poste, the Canada Post Place office building in Ottawa, Ontario.

ee also



External links

* [ Canada Post]
** [ Householder Counts and Maps]
** [ National Presortation Schematic] : Includes monthly bulletin detailing postal code changes
** [ Canada Forward Sortation Area (FSA) Map] : Postal code break down.
* [ Doug Ewell's page explaining Canadian Postal Codes]
* [ - A Chronology of Canadian Postal History]

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