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Quebec Subdivisions

Last modified: 2021-01-02 by rob raeside
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Quebec territorial organization

There are three levels of territorial divisions in Quebec: administrative regions, municipalité régionale de comté (MRC or counties) and municipalities.

Administrative and tourist regions

Quebec is first divided into 17 administrative regions, which however have no elected representatives:

Region 02 has a flag created in 1938 and adopted as regional flag by the municipalities in 1988.

Region 06 had no MRC-level divisions until 2002 ; the flag of the Communauté urbaine de Montréal could then also be considered a regional flag until 2002. The Communauté urbaine de Montréal was dissolved in 2002, and all the municipalities were merged with Montreal; the flag of Montreal can then be considered a regional flag from 2002 to 2006. From 01/01/2006, some former municipalities will be reinstated, so there will no longer be a flag that flies over the whole region.

Region 13 consists of a single city (Laval), so its flag can be considered a regional flag as well.

If you drive around Quebec, you will notice that the region boundaries noted on road signs are slightly different than the list above. This is because road signs indicate tourist regions rather than administrative regions (Administrative Region). The differences between the 17 Administrative Regions and the 20 Toutist Regions are the following:

Gaspésie/Îles-de-la-Madeleine is split in two separate Tourist Regions, and the Gaspésie Tourist Region also includes three MRC from the Bas-Saint-Laurent Administrative Region.

Capitale-Nationale is split into two Tourist Regions: Québec and Charlevoix.

The Administrative Region Estrie forms, along with two MRC of the Montérégie Administrative Region, the Tourist Region called Cantons-de-l'Est/Eastern Townships.

The Tourist Region Abitibi-Témiscamingue includes a few adjacent localities of the Nord-du-Québec Administrative Region.

Côte-Nord Administrative Region is split into two Tourist Regions: Duplessis and Manicouagan.

Originally in 1966 the territory was divided into only 10 Administrative Region. Region 01 starts at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence river and the numbers 02 to 07 increase westward (up the river) until you reach the Ottawa river (the border with Ontario). The three next numbers follow a snake shape: 08 is immediately north of 07, 09 is east of 08 and 10 is the northern most region.

Then in 1987, regions 11 to 16 were cut out from the first ten: 11 from 01, 12 from 03, 13-14-15-16 from 06. Finally, in 1997, 17 was cut out from 04.

The original ten Administrative Regions of 1966 were the following:

  • 01 Bas-Saint-Laurent/Gaspésie
  • 02 Saguenay/Lac-Saint-Jean
  • 03 Québec
  • 04 Trois-Rivières
  • 05 Cantons-de-l'Est
  • 06 Montréal
  • 07 Outaouais
  • 08 Nord-Ouest
  • 09 Côte-Nord
  • 10 Nouveau-Québec

Municipalités régionales de comté (MRC/counties)

At the MRC level, there are 86 MRC proper, 14 municipalities with MRC status (these are the municipality of Îles-de-la-Madeleine and the cities of Montréal, Québec, Gatineau, Sherbrooke, Saguenay, Trois-Rivières, Lévis, Longueuil, Laval, Mirabel, Shawinigan, La Tuque and Rouyn-Noranda) and 3 territories (Administration régionale Kativik, Jamésie and Basse-Côte-Nord). A few MRC have an elected préfet, but most are still an assembly of the elected municipality mayors.

Most of the municipalities with MRC status have a flag, and a few MRC proper also have a flag.


Currently, there are 1110 municipalities (cities, villages, townships, etc.); several have flags. This number will increase to 1141 on 01/01/2006.

The "villages nordiques" are a type of municipality*; more precisely, they are municipalities in the Administration régionale Kativik, the northernmost MRC-level entity, whose population is mainly Inuit. The area is also known as Nunavik, though I think the latter term refers to all lands inhabited by Quebec's Inuit (some live in the James Bay area that is mainly a Cree-populated area).

*Like the Cree villages and the single Naskapi village, they are not considered reserves, because their existence falls under provincial jurisdiction, not under federal.

I found the following list of types of municipalities in Quebec on the Commission de toponymie website (not sure if exhaustive; the numbers are not up-to-date either, but they give a rough idea):

  • Cité (8)
  • Municipalité (795)
  • Municipalité de canton (136)
  • Municipalité de cantons unis (11)
  • Municipalité de paroisse (484)
  • Municipalité de village (240)
  • Municipalité de village cri (16)
  • Municipalité de village minier (0)
  • Municipalité de village naskapi (2)
  • Municipalité de village nordique (19)
  • Ville (324)

Note that "cité/ville" use to reflect the English city/town distinction, but there are no more "cités" left in Quebec; the toponymy commission realized it was not a "proper" translation.

Historical divisions of the territory

Under the French regime, feudal seigneuries were granted. Overall, there existed 245, though some were granted under the British. No flags are known, but many seigneurs had arms granted by the King of France, and modern municipalities often look to these arms for their own symbols. A good reference on the topic of seignorial arms in French Canada is:

Massicotte, édouard Zotique et Régis Roy. Armorial du Canada français volumes 1 and 2. (Introduction by A. Couillard Després, illustrations by Alfred Asselin. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1970. First Edition, Montréal, 1915 et 1918.

Under the British regime, the Saint Lawrence valley was divided up into the governments of Montreal, Trois-Rivières (Three Rivers) and Quebec. Townships were granted in the lands where seigneuries did not exist. Later, townships became a convenient way to divide up the land and they remain today, along with the older seigneuries as permanent reference points. Township was translated into French as canton and there are 1603 of them.

In the mid 19th century, the municipal regime began. The overall number of municipalities increased to a high of around 1700 in the 1950s-60s and has been decreasing since.

Counties were formed around the same period, but eventually it became convenient to separate municipal counties from electoral counties (whose boundary may shift between elections to ensure that each county has a comparable number of voters). The traditional counties (around 70) were replaced by the modern MRC in the late 1970s.

In 1966, 10 administrative regions were created. This number jumped to 16 in 1987 after the government decided to subdivide them further, and to 17 in 1997. A few name changes also occurred, mainly in the 1980s.


There is a Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal and a Communauté métropolitaine de Québec, that both cut through MRC and Administrative Region boundaries. In 2006, there will also be 11 agglomerations created to allow some central municipalities to collect taxes from neighboring municipalities that use their services.
Luc Baronian, 23 April 2005