Following the lead of the United States, Canadian regulators have announced that, beginning , the special telephone number 9-8-8 will be implemented across Canada to provide access to suicide prevention and mental health resources. [Note: Until December 2023, for mental health and suicide prevention resources, call 1-833-456-4566 or text 741741 (adults) or 686868 (youth). Within Québec, call 1-866-APPELLE or text 1-855-957-5353.]
That’s a good thing, which we hope will save the lives of some of the 4,500 Canadians who die by suicide each year. However, there is an odd side effect: any location that has local numbers like 988-xxxx will no longer be able to dial local calls with just the 7-digit number, they will have to dial 10 digits. Most of Canada already dials 10-digit local numbers because of overlays, but there are four area codes that still have 7-digit local calling.
Area code 506 in New Brunswick will change to 10D in January 2023 in preparation for the upcoming overlay there. Area code 709 in Newfoundland and Labrador will change to 10D, effective , even though their overlay has been indefinitely postponed, because there are 709-988-xxxx numbers in Norman’s Bay, Labrador (population: 15). Yellowknife (but not the rest of area code 867!) will also change to 10D on because there are 867-988-xxxx numbers in Yellowknife.
However, the CRTC also announced that the entirety of area code 807 (northwestern Ontario, including Thunder Bay, Kenora, and Fort Severn/ᐗᔕᐦᐅ ᐃᓂᓂᐗᐠ) will lose 7-digit local calling because of the 9-8-8 mandate — despite the fact that there is no 807-988-xxxx prefix currently in use or even planned for activation. That means that, by all rights, 807 should be the last area code in Canada that can still allow 7-digit local calls, at least until the overlay comes … in about twenty years. If Yukon, Nunavut, and the rest of NWT (outside the Yellowknife local area) get to keep 7-digit local calls, why not Northwest Ontario??
Update : The CRTC replied to my request for comment, but their reply did not address the issues I am raising here. I await further clarification. Their reply was, “The explanation for the 10-digit dialing transition can be found in paragraphs 90 to 133 of CRTC Policy 2022-234.” [see link below] Except that paragraphs 90 to 133 do not address the question at all!
Paragraph 53 clearly outlines why 10D is required in area codes that have a 988 prefix, but, again, 807 does not have a 988 prefix. Paragraph 61 states that 10D would “facilitate the process” for future three-digit short codes, but are there any proposals to create any other such short codes? 988 is the first short code proposed since the N11 assignments were finalised around the turn of the millennium. Paragraph 112 again underscores the linkage of 10D to area codes that use 988 as a prefix. There is no dialing conflict between 988 and 7-digit local dialing, so there is no technical reason to require 10D in area code 807.
Update : CRTC staff finally provided a substantive response to my query. In a nutshell, the phone companies in area code 807 supported the move to mandatory 10-digit local dialing, although that support was premised on the notion that all of Canada would move to a uniform dialing scheme, along with the idea that it will streamline the process if any additional 3-digit short codes are proposed at some unknown future date. Tbaytel, a local phone company in Thunder Bay, did not propose exempting 807 from the 10-digit dialing requirement, even though most of area code 867 is exempt. I remain unpersuaded of the wisdom of this move, but it is too late to change it.