Every single home, apartment, piece of land, and commercial office space in Canada has a civic number that’s used to identify the exact location of the property so that it’s not confused with others.
The civic number in Canada is the first number in your address line and denotes the building, lot, or office number of the property. Civic numbers are primarily used for mailing and delivery purposes.
Every developed country in the world uses its own civic numbering system to keep track of property. Below, I’ll explain a bit more about why civic numbers are used in Canada, how to find yours (if it’s not visible), and answer a few other commonly asked questions.
Civic numbers identify pieces of property by setting them apart from one another. If you look down your street, you should be able to see all of your neighbours’ civic numbers (unless you live on a secluded plot of land, that is).
Take, for example, a typical residential street that’s lined with cookie-cutter homes. All of the homes on the street should be numbered in either descending or ascending order, depending on which way you’re going down the street.
Typically, even-numbered buildings will be on one side of the street, and odd-numbered buildings will be on the other side of the street (similar to the lockers in your school or gym). This makes it easy on the postman (or your meal delivery driver), as they can categorize the mail by street sides
Your civic number should be easily identifiable, as it’s the first number of your address and comes directly before the street name. Just be sure not to confuse it with your postal code, which is the last number of your address and follows the city and province of the address.
Here are some examples of civic numbers in Canada
- 2150 Boulevard Pie-IX, Montréal, QC H1V 2E2, Canada, Montréal, Québec (‘2150’ is the civic number of this home in Quebec)
- 10402 S 111th St #427, Grande Prairie, AB T8V 8G4 (‘10402’ is the civic number of this apartment building in Alberta)
- 100 City Centre Dr, Mississauga, ON L5B 2C9, Canada (‘100’ is the civic number of this shopping mall in Ontario)
Civic numbers always go before the street name, which means that you should never have any problems identifying the civic number of a given piece of property.
As humans, our species has evolved with an intense desire to categorize and organize things. So, it makes sense that city planners would come up with a clever way of categorizing property to ensure that each is easily identified from the next.
This is especially important when there are multiple pieces of property on a single street.
In olden times, before major roads were built, civic numbers were only found in large cities. Today, however, almost every piece of property in Canada has an assigned civic number.
From a safety perspective, civic numbers are used by first responders to identify a residence. When you call 9-1-1 for paramedics, police, or the fire department, the first thing the operator will ask for is your address.
Today, 9-1-1 dispatchers can often access your phone’s GPS location to determine your location. However, it’s still good to provide the dispatcher with a specific address for verification.
Now, you may be wondering, “Why aren’t civic numbers just listed in a standard 1-2-3-4-5 order?”
Municipalities determine civic numbers by measuring the distance of the building or lot from a specific starting point (often referred to as the “zero point”). Generally, the farther the property is from the zero point, the higher the number it will have.
Conversely, the closer the property is to the zero point, the lower the number it will have.
In the case of circular streets and cul de sacs, buildings will typically be numbered going around the circle in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction.
Each municipality has different rules about numbering. However, here are some standards that are commonly seen in civic numbers in Canada:
- Even and odd numbers are posted on opposite sides of the street
- City blocks along a single street are divided into zones and assigned a multiple of 100 (i.e., 400 block, 600 block, etc.)
- In residential neighbourhoods, multiples of 1,000 are often used to describe the number of kilometres the property is from the starting point (i.e., a street that begins eight kilometres from the neighbourhood’s entry point may feature homes that are numbered beginning with 8,000)
- For commercial properties, the last two digits of a civic number may denote how many office spaces or apartment units can fit within the grid
Civic numbers are determined by city and town municipalities, and therefore they cannot be changed. The chances are that the civic number of your property was there long before you were even born and the number is already an integral part of mailing and address databases.
If municipalities allowed civic numbers to be changed, the results would be chaotic, to say the least.
If you’ve recently purchased or moved into a new property, the civic number may not be visible. This is especially true if you’re purchasing an empty plot of land that doesn’t have its own mailbox yet.
The individual or organization that you’re purchasing the property through should have the civic number, which should be listed on the property deed. This is usually the easiest way to find your civic number.
However, if this option doesn’t yield any results, then you can always contact your local municipal government and speak to the address and zoning office to determine your civic address.
Most Canadian provinces have clear laws stating that property owners must display the property’s civic number on the front side of the property. If you’re renting a unit or home, then it’s your landlord’s responsibility to ensure that civic numbers are posted.
Ultimately, it’s in your own best interest to have your building’s civic number displayed. This will help to prevent your mail and pizza from being delivered to the wrong address. It also ensures that emergency responders show up to the correct location.
Number plaques and stickers can usually be found at your local hardware store and are usually very easy to replace and install.
Here are a few quick tips to increase your civic number’s visibility:
- Use large numbers
- Use reflective stickers for your mailbox
- Place your civic number in a well-lit area
- Ensure your civic number doesn’t get covered by snow & ice
For the most part, civic numbers are fairly simple. Whether you’re looking at a home or a business, your civic number is the first number in your address and is listed directly before the street name.
It’s important to ensure that your civic number is easy to see from the road so that mail, first responders, and delivery drivers can easily find your home or business.
Interested in learning more? Keep on reading to learn about the five types of homes in Canada!