A brief historical background is necessary in order to understand the scope and challenges associated with the 1993 cadastre reengineering project. Quebec cadastre 1 was initiated in the second half of the 19th century, in the midst of the organization of the territory in municipalities and parishes. The 1860 Law on the registration of real estate properties mandated uniformity in the practices of registration of real estate properties and graphical representation of properties on a map. Thus, from 1866 to 1900, a vast cadastral operation took place during which about 1500 maps representing cadastres for parishes, villages, counties, cities, etc. were created, representing about 700,000 parcels of land. Each parcel of land is assigned a number, which provides the description of the parcel and its association with property titles. This number is used to identify property rights associated with the real estate.
The cadastral unit has three components: a map, a reference book, and an index of real estate properties. The map is a graphical representation of all real estate properties located on a given territory; each is assigned a plot number.2 Each map is accompanied by a reference book that contains a brief description of the plot, its measurements, its owner, and neighboring plot numbers.3 The index is a real estate card filed by the plot number. The card contains information on all transactions regarding the plot, in particular, it includes information on property. Actually, the real estate index is a document allowing a quick search on all the deeds concerning a plot.
In order to correct errors or to modify plots' information by subdivisions or mergers, owners must provide the exact map and reference book of the modifications and take into consideration the numbers of the official cadastre. These update procedures have generated an archive of about 330,000 parcel maps with their reference books. These maps correspond to the division of about 1.8 million plots. In addition, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources, of all 3.3 million real estate properties in Quebec, 850,000 properties have not been surveyed and registered in the cadastre, 750,000 have errors, and 1.7 million are correctly registered! 4
1 The term "cadastre" refers to an official register of the quantity, value, and ownership of real estate used in apportioning taxes.
2 Most public places, streets, roads, etc. are represented without being assigned a number.
3 Although many surveyors included measurements on the plans, no law required this practice either on the plan or in the reference book.