About Canadian Subject Headings (CSH)

1. Canadian Subject Headings: History and background

Canadian Subject Headings (CSH) is a list of access points in the English language, using controlled vocabulary, to express the subject content of documents on Canada. The scope of CSH is mostly limited to the Canadian cultural, economic, historical, literary, political and social experience, with few subject headings in other fields of study. While the headings in CSH are only in the English language, they have French language equivalents in Répertoire de vedettes-matière (RVM), published by the Bibliothèque de l'Université Laval. Refer to the section of this document French language equivalents for more information on links to that list of subject headings.

Inaugural efforts at a separate list of subject headings for Canadian topics not adequately covered in the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) began in 1968. The first edition produced by the National Library of Canada came out in 1978 followed by further print editions in 1985 and 1992 and regular supplements. CSH on the Web was launched in October 2000 using authority records for CSH from AMICUS, the National Library of Canada's database of bibliographic and authority records. In April 2019, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) began maintaining CSH from within OCLC’s integrated library management system, WorldShare Management Services (WMS). LAC no longer maintains a separate search site for CSH, but makes copies of the complete CSH file in MARC21 freely available via FTP to libraries and other organizations, to load into their own systems. Subscribers to WorldShare are also able to consult the CSH file.

2. Relationship to Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)

CSH is designed to be used in tandem with LCSH. CSH follows the same principles for the structuring of the headings and most of the same policies as LCSH. Headings that are divergent from what would be permitted in LCSH are often based on some policy in LCSH adapted for CSH. For example, Italian Canadians is based on LCSH's Italian Americans and the term "Provincial" substituted where the user may find "State" in LCSH. Differences in headings or policy in CSH are sometimes necessary to provide appropriate subject access to materials on Canada. However, it is the aim of Library and Archives Canada to minimize those instances. Decisions to diverge intentionally from the LCSH pattern have been taken only after a thorough investigation and weighing of the available options.

3. Types of headings included in CSH

CSH includes three main types of headings: topical headings, shown when appropriate in the format [topic]—Canada, Canadian [topic] or [topic], Canadian; geographic headings of the format [place]—[topical, form or chronological subdivision] where it is the practice of LCSH to express topics in that way; and non-jurisdictional geographic headings related to Canada, that is regions, rivers, parks, lakes, etc. There are a small number of name, name-title and uniform title headings, where it is helpful to show the relationship between these headings and topical headings in the same field.

3.1. Subject areas emphasized

The subject areas emphasized are topics such as Canadian history, Canadian literature, Canadian government, Canadian geography, social and economic history, the Canadian legal system, Canada's approach to second languages, bilingualism and multiculturalism, and aboriginal or native peoples. Headings in the fields of science or technology are usually not found in CSH as the terminology and concepts are rarely unique to Canada and can be found in LCSH.

Some categories of headings justify special mention here:

3.2. Geographic headings

CSH includes name headings for the provinces and territories to show applicable subdivisions and to provide instructions to set the context for the use of these names as subject access points. There are also headings for some historical entities and a variety of regions. A recent change in CSH is the inclusion of headings for parks, historic sites, rivers, lakes, and other physical features not formerly included except as examples.

Refer to the section of this document Geographic headings: Details for further information on these types of headings.

3.3 Name, Name-title and Uniform title headings

A small number of name, name-title and uniform title headings are included to show their use as subject access points when there are related topical or geographical headings. This includes:

  1. major treaties of historical significance to Canada, e.g. Treaty of Paris (1763); headings for NAFTA, Canada. Treaties, etc. 1992 Oct. 7; Mexico. Treaties, etc. 1992 Oct. 7; and United States. Treaties, etc. 1992 Oct. 7
  2. headings for the various statutes and agreements which have figured in Canada's constitutional history, e.g. Canada. Constitution Act, 1867; Canada. Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; Meech Lake Constitutional Accord (1987)
  3. headings needed to show relationships between a heading for a corporate body and a topical or geographical heading, for important topics, e.g. Canada. Canadian Armed Forces and Canada —Armed Forces
  4. a small number of instances of a topical heading for a type of entity as well as headings for specific entities of that type, e.g. Political parties—Canada and Liberal Party of Canada.

3.4. LCSH headings in CSH

A large number of LCSH headings important in the subject areas emphasized in CSH had previously been included in the CSH database. These headings were set in a Canadian context, usually by expressing them in the format [topic] —Canada, or [topic], Canadian, e.g. Transportation—Canada; Short stories, Canadian; or by including scope notes to set the Canadian context for the heading, e.g. Elections—Canada; or by giving references from Canadian terminology, e.g. Governmental investigations—Canada UF (Used for) Royal commissions—Canada. Some of these headings help place headings in CSH within a broader term/narrower term framework. These LCSH headings were not migrated from AMICUS to the new WorldShare environment.

4. Types of headings with differences between CSH and LCSH

This section discusses key areas where there are differences between CSH and LCSH. Some of the headings in CSH are found only in this list of subject headings and have no matching heading in LCSH or are in some way different from the equivalent heading in that list.

4.1 Headings with a language aspect

In fields such as literature where language is important, CSH shows the language aspect of the heading through a qualifier for the language, such as (English), (French), or (Italian), e.g. Canadian fiction (English); Almanacs, Canadian (French); Authors, Canadian (Ukrainian). This approach differs from LCSH practice for Canadian literature but is an adaptation of its practice for the literature of some countries.

Another difference with LCSH is CSH's approach to the study and teaching of languages other than one's first language. LCSH regards the learners of other languages as "foreign speakers" whereas the term "second language" is common in Canada. Examples of such headings in CSH are: French language—Study and teaching as a second language; English language—Textbooks for second language learners; French language—Computer-assisted instruction for second language learners.

4.2 Headings for ethnic groups

CSH headings for ethnic groups within Canada are constructed differently from LCSH and differently from those headings where language is the key aspect. As an example, CSH covers with two different headings the topics for which LCSH would use Italians—Canada: (1) Italian Canadians for works discussing Canadian citizens of Italian ancestry; and (2) Italians—Canada for works on Canadian residents of Italian nationality who are not yet citizens, or who are not permanently domiciled in Canada. Other headings for topics related to ethnic groups follow similar patterns: e.g. Somali Canadians; Portuguese Canadian women; Black Canadians in business; Art, French-Canadian. For French-speaking Canadians in general, CSH has Canadians, French-speaking, instead of LCSH's French-Canadians. CSH extends Canadians, English-speaking to include all people of that group. The same approach extends to headings such as Students, French-speaking Canadian.

4.3 Indigenous peoples

The collective heading in CSH for Canada's aboriginal or native peoples is Native peoples—Canada. This heading is used for works discussing Indians or First Nations, Inuit and Métis together. This use of the term "native" extends to specific topics on native peoples, e.g. Native art—Canada; Native peoples—Legal status, laws, etc.—Canada. In 2019, Library and Archives Canada started a review of CSH headings and started to develop replacements based on the term "Indigenous" for occurrences of the word "Indian" or "aboriginal" in preferred headings. The formulation Indians of North America—Canada might be found as a non-preferred 4XX heading. The term "Indian" remains a legal term in Canada, though these peoples are often called "First Nations". Occasionally the CSH heading for a particular aboriginal group or tribe differs from LCSH when needed to provide appropriate access for Canadian users, e.g. Wyandot Indians.

4.4 Chronological headings and subdivisions

CSH provides a greater number of chronological subdivisions due to a finer breakdown of time periods, as well as periods in some instances where none exist in LCSH, for the historical development of Canada and its provinces, territories and major regions. In addition to the heading Canada and the headings for the provinces and territories, chronological subdivisions are also found under the headings Atlantic Provinces, Maritime Provinces, Northwest, Canadian, and Prairie Provinces. The subdivisions are listed under the following topical subdivisions: —Church history; —Civilization; —Economic conditions; —Economic policy; —Foreign relations; —History; —History, Military; —History, Naval; —Politics and government; —Religion; —Social conditions; and —Social life and customs. Chronological subdivisions are not provided under names of cities, towns, etc., though the user is free to use centuries as free-floating subdivisions if appropriate, e.g. Montréal (Quebec)—History—20th century.

Chronological subdivisions are also included under Canadian literature; Authors, Canadian; Canadian immigration literature; Indians of North America—Canada—Government relations; and Indians of North America—Wars—Canada. Subdivisions are no longer provided under headings for readers and grammar textbooks, nor under the subdivision —Description and travel, except for —Early works to 1800 which can follow —Description and travel.

Free-floating subdivisions for centuries such as —19th century and —20th century may be used under any heading where allowed by the policies of LCSH unless other subdivisions are printed.

There are many headings in CSH for specific events that contain dates. In these headings the dates are either separated by commas or in parentheses, following established practices.

4.5 Other topics with Canadian terminology

Sometimes a heading in CSH differs from the heading in LCSH because of different terminology used in Canada. For example, CSH has Redistribution (Election law)—Canada instead of Apportionment (Election law)—Canada; and Cabinet ministers—Canada instead of Cabinet officers—Canada. It is sometimes judged adequate to introduce the Canadian terminology through a reference or scope note, rather than a different heading.  

5. Structure of the headings

Subject headings in CSH take the form [topic]—Canada when appropriate. The headings can also be subdivided by provinces and territories and further subdivided by local place names, or subdivided by other geographic regions, e.g. Decorative arts—Quebec (Province); Festivals—Ontario—Toronto; Geology—Rocky Mountains, Canadian (B.C. and Alta.). If the heading is not structured as [topic]—Canada, instructions about geographic subdivision are given in a note such as "May be subdivided geographically for collections by authors from one particular area", which is routinely provided under headings for literary topics, or "May be subdivided geographically by foreign region or country only" under headings such as Economic assistance, Canadian.

When there are topical subdivisions shown, for some subdivisions, the subdivision —Canada or other geographic subdivision immediately follows the first or main element or part of the heading and is then followed by the topical subdivision. With other subdivisions the order is reversed, the topical subdivision precedes the geographic subdivision. The order of the subdivisions is based on policies in LCSH. Thus, Actors—Canada—Biography and ActorsEmploymentCanada are both correct. In the second example where the geographic subdivision does not immediately follow the main part of the heading, a USE reference leads from Actors—Canada—Employment to the valid heading Actors—Employment—Canada. This means that the user more easily sees at a glance every subdivision potentially applicable to the main heading Actors—Canada.

Some headings are not appropriate in the form [topic]—Canada, since the topic already implies something innately Canadian or is a named event or lacks specific geographic significance or the heading is properly expressed in the form Canadian [topic] or [topic], Canadian, e.g. Black Canadians; Métis; CEGEPs (Educational institutions); Ipperwash Incident, Ont., 1993-   ; Shaking tent ceremony (Algonquian rite); Short stories, Canadian.

6. Identifying headings that are authorized in CSH, but not in LCSH

In the MARC record: For headings authorized in CSH, but not in LCSH, 008 field, character position 11 (Subject heading system/thesaurus) contains value "k" (Canadian Subject Headings). This means the heading is found in CSH but is not a valid LCSH. Headings that are valid in LCSH contain value "a" (Library of Congress Subject Headings) in 008 field, character position 11.

Equivalent LCSH headings are contained in a 7XX field with 2nd indicator "0". For example, the CSH record for Cabinet ministers—Canada contains the valid CSH heading in field 150 and the equivalent LCSH heading in field 750:

150   ##$aCabinet ministers$zCanada
750   #0$aCabinet officers$zCanada

Note: A heading is considered authorized in CSH, but not LCSH, if the main part of the heading such as Canada—History—War of 1812, is in CSH, but not LCSH, but the subdivision that follows is valid in LCSH, e.g. —Monuments. Thus Canada—History—War of 1812—Monuments is identified as "[CSH]". Conversely, a heading is also considered authorized in CSH, but not LCSH, if the main part of the heading such as Indigenous peoples—Canada, is an LCSH, but the subdivision that follows, e.g. —Band membership, is not valid in LCSH. Thus Indigenous peoples—Canada—Band membership is identified as "[CSH]". This same practice extends to chronological subdivisions.

7. Subdivisions

Like LCSH, CSH makes use of what are called pattern headings. The subdivisions shown under these headings can be used with other appropriate headings in the category noted below inside the parentheses. A note in the authority record signals this for the user. The list of subdivisions in CSH is not intended to be comprehensive. Users should refer to LCSH or the Library of Congress' Subject Headings Manual for other applicable subdivisions. The pattern headings are:

Actors—Canada (occupational groups)
Art, Canadian (art headings, including art genres)
Authors, Canadian (particular groups of literary authors, e.g. novelists, poets)
Canada (all headings for jurisdictions or particular geographic entities and regions)
Canada—Armed Forces (particular Canadian military services)
Canada—History (topical headings for which the general free-floating topical and form subdivisions are appropriate)
Canada—History—War of 1812 (wars, rebellions, etc.)
Canada—Officials and employees (public service or government functionaries of all kinds)
Canada. Parliament (particular chambers, i.e. House of Commons and the Senate; provincial and territorial legislative bodies)
Canadian literature (literature in a particular language and/or in a particular literary genre)
English language; French language (languages)
Indians of North America—Canada (Canadian native or aboriginal peoples including particular groups or tribes)
Italian Canadians (Canadian ethnic groups)
Labor laws and legislation—Canada (legal topic headings)
Prime ministers—Canada (headings for groups of statesmen, politicians, etc.)
Public buildings—Canada (types of buildings)
Saint Lawrence River (particular bodies of water)
University of Alberta (particular educational institutions)

A small number of subdivisions are unique to, or have been modified for CSH: 

—Asian-Canadian authors (and similar terms)
—Band membership
—Computer-assisted instruction for second language learners
—Ethnic language press
—Films for second language learners 
—Native authors
—Population—Ethnic groups
—Pronunciation by second language learners
—Residential schools
—Sound recordings for second language learners
—Speeches in Canadian Parliament
—Speeches in [name of province] Legislature
—Study and teaching as a second language
—Textbooks for second language learners  

8. Scope notes and instructions

Scope notes follow the same principles as those in LCSH. A large number of scope notes and instructions have been provided in CSH, with these goals:

  1. to explain the use or meaning of headings
  2. to compare one heading to another heading or headings, or to specific instances of a general topic in fields such as literature and art
  3. to set headings in their Canadian context 
  4. to explain geographic subdivision
  5. to signal what types of subdivisions may be added
  6. to give instructions on topical vs. form headings
  7. to explain how to form other headings of the same type.

Generally the scope note is provided at the most general heading in a specific subject area. Notes of the type "Note under ..." or "Example under ..." (MARC 681 field) in records direct the user to the information they need. For example, the record for Canadian literature provides a comprehensive scope note for all literary topics. Records for other headings for literary topics such as Canadian fiction; Canadian literature (Hungarian); and Hockey stories, Canadian have notes such as "Note under Canadian literature", or "May be qualified by language; cf. instructions under Canadian literature", that lead the user back to the information under Canadian literature. It is important to follow such instructions for the proper interpretation and usage of CSH. 

9. References: the relationship between headings

CSH records include coding which can be used to generate a thesaurus display. At present, such a display is not provided by Library and Archives Canada. References in a thesaurus display typically use the same format as in LCSH, aside from the addition of EQ = Equivalent. Thesaurus displays use several symbols: NT = Narrower term; BT = Broader term; RT = Related term; UF = Used for; USE; SA = See also. References in MARC records are found in MARC fields 4XX, 5XX, 7XX, 260 and 360.

The following are some details of interest in CSH:

In general, NT and BT set the heading into a hierarchical structure, although in CSH, the hierarchy may be different than in LCSH, CSH being a shorter list of headings. For example, LCSH has:

Performing arts festivals
BT Art festivals
Art festivals
BT Festivals
whereas CSH has
Performing arts festivals—Canada
BT Festivals—Canada
In this example, the LCSH heading Art festivals—Canada, while valid in catalogues using both CSH and LCSH as subject heading systems, is not included in CSH because it does not have any special Canadian significance and is unnecessary for the reference structure there.

CSH follows a different practice than LCSH for BTs for headings for geographic entities, because of the practice of showing headings in the form [topic] —Canada. Other libraries adding CSH records to their catalogues can insert whichever BT is most appropriate for their catalogue. Thus CSH displays:

Arrow Lakes (B.C.)
BT Lakes—Canada
Arrow Lakes (B.C.)
BT Lakes—British Columbia
as LCSH would display.

CSH avoids orphan headings (headings without a reference from an appropriate broader term or related term), by always adding a BT or RT reference, unless the heading is a subdivision or extension of another heading. Examples of potential orphan headings where a reference was added are:

CANDU reactors
BT Nuclear reactors—Canada

Hudson's Bay blankets
RT Fur trade—Canada

CSH tends to have a greater number of related term references than the usual practice in LCSH since many of the relationships in LCSH may not be present, and the editors have tried to provide all possible links that may occur to the user interested in Canadian topics.

CSH has a plentiful number of USE references. They are preceded by an asterisk (*) in the Search Results screen, e.g. *Academy awards, Canadian (Motion pictures) which leads to Genie Awards. The user may be directed: 

  1. from unused terminology or synonyms or rearrangements of the word order to the accepted heading
  2. from cancelled headings to the new accepted heading
  3. from Canadian terminology to an LCSH heading accepted for CSH 
  4. from a term starting with the word "Canadian" or the term "Canada—[topic]" to the accepted heading
  5. from "[topic]—Canada", when that term is not used in the accepted heading.

Sometimes the reference leads to a complex "see" note, e.g.:

Alcohol use—Canada (MARC 150 field)
USE subdivision Alcohol use under ... (MARC 260 field)

Provincial ... (Note: This includes the territories.) (MARC 150 field)
Discussions of those topics which, due to Canada's federal structure, may be treated at either the federal or the provincial level are ...(MARC 680 field)

Other times the reference leads to a general note, e.g.:

Historical materials (MARC 150 field)
For general works describing and interpreting past vents...(MARC 680 field)

Other terms with this type of general note are: Catalogs (Lists); Correspondence; Dictionaries; Expeditions; Guides; Handbooks; Illustrative materials; Indexes (Lists) and Pictorial materials.

Some headings also include SA (general see also) references (MARC field 360). These are usually in the format "SA names of particular..." or "SA subdivision ... under ...", followed by specific examples that show how to construct similar headings, e.g.:

SA names of particular battles...

Canoes and canoeing—Canada
SA subdivision Boats under native peoples...

10. Geographic headings: Details

Headings for regions of Canada and some historical entities are included, for example, Red River Settlement; New France; Acadia; Atlantic Provinces; Saguenay Region (Quebec); Eastern Townships (Quebec); Ontario, Southwestern; Alberta, Northern; Lower Mainland (B.C.); Kitikmeot Region (Nunavut). Scope notes aid the user where there may be some question as to the definition of these headings. CSH also includes headings for non-jurisdictional geographic entities and physical features such as rivers, lakes, parks and historic sites.

Most geographic headings in CSH can be used as subdivisions unless otherwise noted. Geographic subdivision is by current jurisdiction. What are called first order jurisdictions (one of the provinces or territories) are interposed between the main part of the heading and the name of the local place or entity to which the topic is limited, unless that place is located in two or more jurisdictions, in which case the local subdivision is assigned directly. The headings Atlantic Provinces; Maritimes Provinces; Prairie Provinces; Canada, Eastern; Canada, Western; Canada, Northern; and Canada, Central may be used as subdivisions directly under topical headings without interposing —Canada.

In general, CSH follows practices outlined in the Library of Congress' Subject Headings Manual when constructing headings for non-jurisdictional geographic names, for geographic qualifiers and geographic subdivision; and concerning the use of earlier names vs. current names. Decisions on spelling and the choice among variant forms of name are based on forms of names approved by the Geographical Names Board of Canada on its Web site Canadian Geographical Names DataBase and the Commission de toponymie du Québec on its Web site TOPOS sur le Web. Information from other authoritative reference sources may also be considered if the name is not found in those databases. This occasionally may result in a heading different from LC's for a feature that crosses the Canada-U.S. border, e.g. Pend-d'Oreille River; Red River (Minn. and N.D.-Man.).

The heading Canada serves as a pattern heading for headings for geographic names, so subdivisions there can be used under provinces, territories, names of regions, physical features, counties, rural municipalities, cities, towns, city sections, etc., unless noted otherwise or inappropriate.

11. French language equivalents

CSH is a list of subject access points in the English language; however, the authority records contain links to French language equivalents which allow the user to search on equivalent French language headings, from Répertoire de vedettes-matière (RVM), and be led to the record for the equivalent heading in CSH.

In a MARC record: The RVM equivalent is contained in a 7XX field with 2nd indicator "6". For example, the CSH record for the heading Cabinet ministers—Canada:

150   ##$aCabinet ministers$zCanada
750   #6$aMinistres$zCanada

Lists of English and French equivalent subdivisions are found on the Subdivisions page.

12. Spelling; capitalization; punctuation; abbreviations

All topical headings included in CSH conform to LCSH spelling conventions if the heading is borrowed from LCSH or based on an LCSH heading or policy. In scope notes and instructions, however, spelling conventions in Canadian English have been followed. This may result in variant forms of the same word; e.g. "Catalogs" and "Catalogues"; "Theaters" and "Theatres". References are made from terms using Canadian spelling. Bibliographic works and reference sources are consulted to aid in spelling decisions for other headings found only in CSH.

Refer to the section of this document Geographic headings: Details for information on the spelling of geographic names.

Capitalization, punctuation and abbreviations follow policies outlined in LC's Subject Headings Manual.

13. New headings and changes to headings

New headings are added to CSH or revisions made, as required, for new bibliographic works, or to reflect policy changes in LCSH or at Library and Archives Canada that affect CSH. While new headings are primarily based on cataloguing done at Library and Archives Canada, suggestions from outside users are also welcomed. Please send suggestions to: BAC.Normesdecatalogage-Cataloguingstandards.LAC@canada.ca

In researching new headings, appropriate reference sources are consulted, both in print and on the Web. If justified, experts in specific fields are consulted. Library and Archives Canada adds source information for new headings, contained in MARC field 670.

Authority records for CSH were created and maintained in the AMICUS database of bibliographic and authority records until March 2019. Starting in April 2019, CSH is maintained in WorldShare Record Manager.

LAC makes copies of the CSH file in MARC21 freely available via FTP to libraries and other organizations, to load into their own systems. If you are interested in obtaining these files, please contact LAC.

Date modified: