The names of electoral divisions are inherent to the culture and history of their population. They should properly represent the places they designate and play their role as reliable references for the collective memory.
Under the Election Act, the Commission is responsible for assigning a name to each electoral division. The Act stipulates that it should assign the name after consulting the Commission de toponymie du Québec.
Aware of the importance of naming electoral divisions, the Commission de la représentation électorale uses rules to guide it in assessing the names it wishes to assign to the divisions. These rules are mainly drawn upon guidelines from the Commission de toponymie du Québec.
The first rule aims to ensure nomenclature stability, to which the Commission attaches a great deal of importance. Based on the principle of names in use, the Commission believes that names in use make better points of reference than names that are not. According to this nomenclature rule, electoral divisions whose boundaries are unchanged would conserve their name.
The Commission’s second nomenclature rule provides that the name of an electoral division whose territory is changed remains appropriate if the reasons for its name are still valid. For example, the name of an electoral division referring to a geographical site (river, city, mountain, etc.) that lent its name to the electoral division would still be appropriate if the site remains completely or sufficiently a part of the territory.
Thus, according to the second rule of nomenclature, an electoral division whose boundaries are modified would retain its name when the territorial modification does not have the effect of making this name inappropriate.
Finally, the third rule of nomenclature provides the Commission with guidelines for choosing a new name for a completely new division or for a modified electoral division that would require a different name. The guidelines are as follows:
The Commission favours names comprising a single toponym.
The Commission considers that a reference to a major natural geographical entity (lake, river, mountain, etc.) or an important inhabited area (town or city) lying within the boundaries of an electoral division is a primary source of inspiration for designating the electoral division.
The Commission discourages the use of the name of an administrative entity to designate an electoral division in which the entity is found. Should the boundaries of the electoral division change, its new boundaries and those of the administrative entity may no longer match, resulting in frequent name changes.
The Commission considers it relevant to draw upon a community’s history and heritage to designate an electoral division. A name created from such a source must have a link with the electoral division’s territory.
It is possible to safeguard the memory of an important personality by assigning that person’s name to an electoral division. The personality must:
The Commission discourages juxtaposing toponyms since it could lead to the creation of “lists” of communities of belonging. Since such lists may not include every single community, the Commission considers that it is better to avoid using them in the name.
If juxtaposing toponyms is deemed inevitable, the Commission wishes to set a limit of two elements and favour names that have an historical or a heritage tradition. Lastly, where electoral divisions are combined, the Commission considers it acceptable to juxtapose the names of former electoral divisions, providing the former name does not already comprise compound names.
Origin and meaning of electoral divisions names
The Commission produced a paper on the origin and meaning of toponyms for all the electoral divisions of Québec. We invite you to consult this document entitled The 125 electoral divisions – Origin and meaning of toponyms – 2011 electoral map.