Since confederation, one of the functions of the government of Canada has been to provide a national system of surveys. From the Dominion Lands Surveyors, who helped open the west, to the present, Canada has always relied on a consistent national survey system as an integral part of the national infrastructure. In 1909, the Geodetic Survey of Canada was created by an order-in-council and given a mandate to determine the positions (and elevations) of points throughout the country with the highest attainable accuracy.
The primary role of the Geodetic Survey Division (GSD) today is to maintain, continuously improve, and facilitate efficient access to what is now known as the Canadian Spatial Reference System (CSRS). The result is a national coordinate system which serves as a reference for all mapping, charting, navigation, boundary demarcation, crustal deformation, and other georeferencing needs.
While continuing to serve ongoing requirements for survey control, the growing demands of Global Positioning System (GPS) users in particular have resulted in a new focus for the Division, a focus on supporting positioning from space. The Canadian Active Control System (CACS) was established during this decade in order to provide users of GPS with access to the national standard for positions. A real-time capability under development, is expanding that access. In 1994, development of the Canadian Base Network (CBN) was started to provide a high accuracy network of ground monumentation compatible with the increased precision available from GPS.
Gravity and Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) are key elements of the activities. While gravity observations satisfy geophysical needs, they also serve as the basis for defining the geoid model. And the geoid model, in turn, contributes to the vertical component of the reference system so that ellipsoidal GPS heights can be converted to orthometric elevations for practical uses. Finally, VLBI establishes the stable fiducial reference frame for the entire system, fixed with respect to deepest space, and contributes to the evaluation of crustal motion.
In developing and carrying out geodetic activities, the Division collaborates with scientific agencies such as the International GPS Service for international standards and with stake holders such as the provinces both for national standards and for delivery of services to clients. Contracts are let to industry for operational requirements, and research and development initiatives are often directed toward universities or industry. The result is a Canadian Spatial Reference System that is evolving rapidly with the integration of technologies of computers, communications and satellites, to meet the diverse positioning needs of the Canadian people.