Commission de toponymie

Introduction

The Commission de toponymie is the public body responsible for managing Québec place names: names of natural geographical features (lakes, rivers, mountains, islands, peninsulas, etc.) and constructed ones (dams, embankments, bridges, etc.); and names of administrative units (wildlife sanctuaries, administrative regions, conservation parks, etc.), inhabited areas (cities and towns, village municipalities, Indian reserves, northern village municipalities, etc.) and roadways (streets, roads, boulevards, range roads, etc.). In short, the Commission has jurisdiction regarding all types of places.

Since 1977, the Commission de toponymie has had the jurisdiction defined in the Charter of the French language, which also lists the Commission’s powers and duties. Briefly, the Commission must catalogue, preserve, officialize and publicize Québec place names. It can advise the government and other agencies of the civil administration on any question relating to toponymy and give names to places that do not have them yet, subject to the jurisdiction that other authorities have over place names.

It was back in 1912 that a Québec public body was first given the mission of managing the names of places in Québec. This management must take into account both the territorial and the cultural aspects of toponymy, aspects which are complementary and reflect the multidisciplinary nature of the field. Not only must the location and the nature of places be expressed as rigorously as possible, but the measures required to preserve and showcase our place name heritage, which is part of our national identity, must also be taken into account. The implementation of the Charter of the French language, supported by a body of policies and standards on the choice and written form of place names, has brought about a sustained emergence of the French face of Québec toponymy for more than a quarter of a century now.

The Commission has been disseminating its acquired expertise for for more than a century, through participation in United Nations work on the standardization of geographical names, through participation in the work of the Geographical Names Board of Canada and through bilateral relations with a certain number of countries—especially France—thereby ensuring that its mission has a significant impact beyond Québec’s borders.

750, boulevard Charest Est, rez-de-chaussée
Québec (Québec)  G1K 9M1

Tel.: 418 643-2817
Fax: 418 644-9466
E-mail: topo@toponymie.gouv.qc.ca

Overview of site

A list of the subjects covered on our site:

  • Bank of place names;
  • Written-form rules;
  • Naming criteria;
  • Terminology and definitions;
  • Naming procedure;
  • Place-name policies;
  • Mission;
  • Publications;
  • Useful links.

Statement of services to the public

I. Mission

The Commission de toponymie is the public body responsible for managing the names of places in Québec. It catalogues, preserves, officializes and publicizes place names, taking into account both the territorial aspects (location, extent and nature of a place) and the cultural aspects (language, origin and meaning of a place name) of toponymy.

II. Main products and services

The Charter of the French language sets forth obligations for the Commission, which provide the basis for the products and services it offers to researchers and the general public:

  • Officialization of place names and advice on place names
  • Dissemination of geographical information:
    1. Via the Internet, with Banque de noms de lieux du Québec, a data bank of official Québec place names that gives the locations to which they apply as well as their origin and meaning, and with electronic files on a wealth of topics of public interest.
    2. Through publications, many of which are free of charge, devoted to place-name-related themes (for example, Aboriginal names, names of buildings, commemorative names).
  • Consultation service: personalized, free and direct (tel. 418 643-2817; e-mail (topo@toponymie.gouv.qc.ca), covering all aspects of place names (standards on the choice and written form of names, their origin and meaning, geographical terminology, jurisdictions involved, etc.).
  • Library: specialized (6 000 volumes), helpful for research on toponymy, genealogy, geography, and history, with a reference and interlibrary loan service.

III. Commitments of the Commission de toponymie

The Commission is committed to providing the best services and the best products its resources permit, courteously and quickly, by disseminating accurate information and protecting the personal information in its possession. The Commission also makes the following commitments:

  • To respond to requests clearly and simply.
  • To acknowledge receipt of requests; give advance notice of meetings; transmit its decisions to interested parties within a reasonable amount of time.
  • To publish an advance notice of intents to change a place name in order to gather the opinions of interested parties, if, in the opinion of the Commission, the name is of definite interest because of its cultural or historical value.
  • With regard to personalized consultations, to ensure a reliable, accurate response immediately or, if research is required, within 48 hours of receipt of the request.
  • To make its Website information available at all times, add to it regularly and provide help to users during office hours.

IV. How to provide your comments to the Commission de toponymie or lodge a complaint about its products or services

The Commission de toponymie is interested in improving its products and services and would like to hear from the people who use them. Provide us with your comments, criticisms or complaints and we will deal with them fairly.

  • About our services:
    Contact the Service Quality Commissioner by filling out the electronic form or by calling 1-855-871-4606
  • About our products:
    Dial 418-643-2817, write to topo@toponymie.gouv.qc.ca or send a fax to 418-644-9466.
  • About a possible violation of the Charter of the French language:
    If you feel that you have witnessed a violation of the Charter of the French language regarding a place name, you may file a complaint with the Office québécois de la langue française, the Québec government agency responsible for applying the Charter.

V. How to obtain products or services from the Commission de toponymie

The office of the Commission de toponymie is located in the city of Québec.

The address and other contact information are given below:

Commission de toponymie
750, boulevard Charest Est, rez-de-chaussée
Québec (Québec)  G1K 9M1


General information, publications and consultations:
Tel .: 418 643-2817    Fax: 418 644-9466
E-mail: topo@toponymie.gouv.qc.ca 
Website: www.toponymie.gouv.qc.ca
Library: 418 646-9609
Office hours: Monday to Friday, 8 :30 a.m. to 12 noon and 1 p.m. to 4 :30 p.m.

Charter of the French language

Legal provisions pertaining to the Commission de toponymie excerpted from the Charter of the French language.

Excerpts pertaining to the Commission de toponymie

Commission established.

122. A Commission de toponymie is established at the Office québécois de la langue française and is incorporated into it for administrative purposes.

Composition.

123. The Commission is composed of seven members, including the chairman, appointed by the Government for not more than five years.

123.1. The members of the Commission remain in office notwithstanding the expiry of their term until they are reappointed or replaced.

Competence.

124. The Commission has competence to propose to the Government the criteria of selection and rules of spelling of all place names and to make the final decision on the assignment of names to places not already named and to approve any change of place names.

The Government may establish, by regulation, the criteria for the choice of place names, the rules of spelling to be followed in matters relating to toponymy and the method to be followed in choosing and obtaining approval for place names.

Duties.

125. The Commission shall:

(a) propose to the Government the standards and rules of spelling to be followed in place names;

(b) catalogue and preserve place names;

(c) establish and standardize geographical terminology, in cooperation with the Office [de la langue française];

(d) officialize place names;

(e) publicize the official geographical nomenclature of Québec;

(f) advise the Government on any question submitted by it to the Commission relating to toponymy.

Powers.

126. The Commission may:

(a) advise the Government and other agencies of the civil administration on any question relating to toponymy;

(b) (subparagraph repealed);

(c) in unorganized territories, name geographical places or change their names;

(d) with the consent of the agency of the civil administration having concurrent jurisdiction over the place name, determine or change the name of any place in a local municipal territory.

Publication.

127. The names approved by the Commission during the year must be published at least once a year in the Gazette officielle du Québec.

Use of names obligatory.

128. Upon the publication in the Gazette officielle du Québec of the names chosen or approved by the Commission, the use of such names becomes obligatory in texts and documents of the civil administration and the semipublic agencies, in traffic signs, in public signs and posters and in teaching manuals and educational and research works published in Québec and approved by the Minister of Education.

Other sections of the Charter.

22.1. In the territory of a municipality, a specific term other than a French term may be used in conjunction with a generic French term to designate a thoroughfare if the term is sanctioned by usage or if its use has unquestionable merit owing to its cultural or historical interest.

24. The bodies and institutions recognized under of section 29.1 may erect signs and posters in both French and another language, the French text predominating.

29.1. English language school boards and the Commission scolaire du Littoral are recognized school bodies.

The Office shall recognize, at the request of the municipality, body or institution,

 (1) a municipality of which more than half the residents have English as their mother tongue;

 (2) a body under the authority of one or more municipalities that participates in the administration of their territory, where each such municipality is a recognized municipality; or

 (3) a health and social services institution listed in the Schedule, where it provides services to persons who, in the majority, speak a language other than French.

The Government may, at the request of a body or institution that no longer satisfies the condition which enabled it to obtain the recognition of the Office, withdraw such recognition if it considers it appropriate in the circumstances and after having consulted the Office. Such a request shall be made to the Office, which shall transmit it to the Government with a copy of the record. The Government shall inform the Office and the body or institution of its decision.

118. Upon publication in the Gazette officielle du Québec of the terms and expressions standardized by the Office, their use becomes obligatory in texts, documents, signs and posters emanating from the civil administration and in contracts to which it is a party, and in teaching manuals and educational and research works published in French in Québec and approved by the Minister of Education.

Place name search

The mandate of the Commission de toponymie, which is defined by the Charter of the French language, includes, principally, the cataloguing, processing and officialization of place names, the publicization of official place names among those who use them, and the preservation of place names in a data bank. The latter, known as Banque de noms de lieux du Québec, is updated frequently and provides accurate information on more than 266 000 names of places in Québec. Location maps to various scales are appended to responses to toponym queries, with the exception of odonym queries (regarding names of roadways).

In addition, for more than 92 000 place names, the meaning of the name is included on the fact sheet just below the map. An asterisk in the search results list indicates that the information exists and is accessible for the name concerned.

Simple search: Recherche

In the above text box, type the word or words of the place name you’re looking for, then click on Recherche. The search engine finds all place names containing the words specified and presents them in order of relevance, beginning with the exact name, if found.

Advanced search

How to find a place and its name using Banque de noms de lieux du Québec

Searching for one or more place names in six steps

  1. At Nom de lieu recherché, enter words that the place name contains, begins with or that form the entire name (required).
  2. At Choisir un regroupement de type d'entités, select the category the place name belongs to  (optional).
  3. At Un type d’entité, enter the type of feature (lake, river, municipality, road, highway)  (optional). You may consult the list of types of features (Voir la liste).
  4. At Sélectionner une région administrative, select the territory for the search. You may consult the list of administrative regions in Québec.
  5. At Indiquer le nom de la municipalité, de la MRC ou de la zec, enter the name of the municipality where the place can be found (optional). You may consult the list (Voir la liste).
  6. Click the search button Soumettre.

English documentation

It's time to put place in its place

Banque de noms de lieux du Québec

Recherche avancée

Abonnement aux chroniques toponymiques

S'abonner aux chroniques toponymiques

Date de la dernière mise à jour : mars 2016

Québec

© Gouvernement du Québec, 2012