The Canada Geographic Information System (CGIS) is generally acclaimed as the first operational GIS in the world. Its development started in 1963 to support Canada’s most comprehensive and ambitious land resource survey programs: the Canada Land Inventory (CLI). The Canadian government recognized that land use problems and conflicts due to indiscriminate settlement had to be addressed through objective land use planning, taking into account the capability of the land and the needs of society.
The CLI was launched to provide a comprehensive survey of land capability for agriculture, forestry, wildlife (ungulates and waterfowl), fisheries, recreation, and present land use. Within a period of 10 years, 2.6 million km2, mainly settled lands, were mapped with about fifteen thousand 1:50,000 scale maps, twelve hundred 1:250,000 and 1:1,000,000 scale maps and about 2,000 analytical reports produced.
The CGIS was developed to store these maps and support planners with national, provincial, regional, and local land use analysis. Roger Tomlinson, generally considered the “father of GIS,” was instrumental in the development of the CGIS and the unique cooperation between the federal vision and private sector innovation leading to a revolutionary approach in digital mapping.