Here are Canada’s most remote communities. Do you agree?
Is Yellowknife more remote than Whitehorse? Which is the most remote place in Ontario, or Quebec? How about across Canada as a whole?
Statistics Canada has updated its “index of remoteness,” which attempts to answer those questions – although you might not agree with all of the federal agency’s conclusions.
The index takes every populated community in Canada and gives it a value from 0, meaning the least remote place in the whole country, to 1, which is as remote as it gets. (Normally we don’t use “remote” when referring to places in our reporting, since they’re not remote if you happen to be living there while reading our work, but for the purposes of this article we’ll stick with Statistics Canada’s use of the term.)
Which place do you think scores 0 on the list?
There are 177 Canadian communities with a remoteness index score of less than 0.01, which we can safely define as “not remotely remote.” Many of them are big southern cities and their immediate suburbs.
But enough about the boring end of the list. Let’s head into remote territory.
Firstly, though, we’ll quickly explore how Statistics Canada says it is figuring this out.
Canada’s most remote place
This week’s publication of the updated remoteness index comes with a helpful guide that explains how Statistics Canada reaches its remoteness figure for each community.
To scare you, here’s a key formula statisticians are using to work out remoteness:
If you understand that and want the full mathematical explanation, follow the link above.
If that formula was meaningless to you, here’s a simpler way to explain how Statistics Canada calculates remoteness:
- Take each community with a population in Canada.
- Measure the distance by road from that community to population centres – 1,000 people or more – within 300 km (if there’s no population centre within 300 km, measure the distance to the nearest one).
- Figure out the cost of a one-way trip in a mid-sized road vehicle using Canadian Automotive Association data.
- If it’s a fly-in community, use prices available online to figure out the cost of a one-way trip by air.
In very simple terms, you then add up all the people in the population centres you can easily reach from a community, and divide that by the cost of getting to those population centres. With a bit of extra math at the end, that becomes a remoteness index value from 0 to 1.
Time to reveal the winner of Canada’s Most Remote Place.
It’s… Grise Fiord! Again.
Grise Fiord, an Inuit hamlet on Ellesmere Island, was given the same honour in 2016 and retains the title now that the remoteness index has been updated with 2021 census data.
It is Canada’s northernmost civilian settlement, the result of the forced relocation of some Inuit families by the Canadian government in the 1950s.
Grise Fiord gets a remoteness index value of 1, at the opposite end of the scale from Toronto.
In second place according to Statistics Canada is Resolute, also in Nunavut, with a score (rounded up) of 0.984. Kugaaruk, again in Nunavut, places third with 0.980.
Peawanuck, in Ontario, is in fourth place, scoring 0.969. The top 10 is rounded out by Taloyoak and Kugluktuk in Nunavut, Berens River in Manitoba, Webequie and Wunnumin Lake in Ontario, and Kangiqsujuaq in Nunavik.
What about the NWT and Yukon?
The remoteness index declares the NWT’s most remote community – ranking 12th overall in Canada – to be Colville Lake.
In the Sahtu region, Colville Lake is one of the territory’s smallest communities, has no year-round road access, and is not easily reached from any of the population centres with more than 1,000 people in the NWT, given by Statistics Canada as Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith and Inuvik. (There are other NWT communities with more than 1,000 people but, to be a population centre, a community must also have a population density of more than 400 people per square kilometre).
Ulukhaktok ranks 14th in the overall remoteness list, Nahanni Butte is 16th, Tulita is 17th and Sachs Harbour is 18th.
Yukon’s most remote community is listed as Beaver Creek on the Alaska border, ranked 29th overall in Canada.
The NWT’s capital, Yellowknife, has a remoteness index value of 0.406. That makes it less remote than Terrace, BC according to Statistics Canada, but more remote than Revelstoke.
Yukon capital Whitehorse scores 0.391, meaning it is less remote than Yellowknife. Iqaluit, scoring 0.479, is the most remote of the territorial capitals.
Statistics Canada’s methodology leads to a few conclusions that might raise eyebrows among residents.
Tuktoyaktuk, parked on the Arctic coast of the Northwest Territories and scoring 0.693, is considered less remote than Fort Simpson, a village that forms the largest community in the territory’s Dehcho region and has straightforward highway access to BC and Alberta, which scores 0.782.
Similarly, Tsiigehtchic (0.682) is considered less remote than Fort Liard (0.726), possibly by virtue of the Dempster Highway linking Tsiigehtchic to the population centre of Inuvik. Fort Liard has no qualifying population centre nearby, but might be considered the less remote option if you were trying to reach both communities from either Yellowknife or BC.
Sambaa K’e, for reasons not immediately clear, appears in the index to be slightly less remote than Fort Simpson. Sambaa K’e is a small fly-in community, accessible by winter road for only a short period of the year, that most NWT residents would likely consider harder than Fort Simpson to easily reach.
In a news release, Statistics Canada said the remoteness index is “part of a set of emerging and experimental geospatial concepts and indicators developed by the agency in collaboration with Indigenous Services Canada.”
“Geographic proximity to service centres and population centres is an important determinant of socio-economic and health outcomes,” Statistics Canada stated. “Consequently, it is a relevant dimension in the analysis and delivery of policies and programs.”
You can download the full data as a spreadsheet from Statistics Canada’s website. Index values for more than 5,000 Canadian communities are reported.