Established in 1897, the Geographical Names Board of Canada coordinates the naming of geographical names in the country. Originally called the Geographic Board of Canada, it went through several other names before acquiring its current designation in 2000.

Purpose

The Geographical Names Board of Canada is a national body coordinating toponymy in Canada, establishing general principles and standards for naming in the country, and providing authoritative toponymic information. The committee, through its members, has the technical role to record and approve names for official use, and to ensure the records are properly maintained and readily accessible. Internationally, the committee plays an active role, especially through the United Nations, in promoting world standardization of geographical names.

Of increasing importance, particularly from an educational standpoint, is the committee's sociocultural role to preserve and disseminate information on the historical and cultural roots of Canada's toponyms, an integral part of the country's national heritage.

History

In 1897, Canadian government resource scientists and mapmakers, recognizing a need to standardize geographical naming in Canada, discourage duplication and simplify orthography, founded the Geographic Board of Canada. During its early years the board published its decisions in annual reports and sponsored the publication of several studies on the origin and use of geographical names.

In 1948, when the board was renamed the Canadian Board on Geographical Names, a program to publish the Gazetteer of Canada series (i.e. dictionaries of place names) by province and territory was started. The board was reorganized as the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names in 1961, and naming authority was fully transferred to the provinces. In 1979, an agreement between the federal and provincial jurisdictions recognized the shared responsibility for naming in federal crown lands in the provinces. Five years later, through devolution, the two territories also gained responsibility for their own naming programs.

In 2000, the organization was renamed again, becoming the Geographical Names Board of Canada.

See also Place Names.