The township, introduced into Canada in the late 1700s, is the basic land-survey division of land. Townships of varying sizes were laid out in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but they were essentially superseded by the county structure. In large parts of Québec and Ontario the township was laid out in a general checkerboard pattern; a typical township has about 16 km on each side and is divided into lots and concessions. The basic unit of the township in Québec is a farm of 105 acres (42 ha), whereas the sizes in Ontario vary from 10 acres (4 ha) to 200 acres (81 ha).

The municipal township in Québec is the first order of administration. Each of the Eastern Townships (now called Estrie) forms the principal network of local government of one of the 14 regional county municipalities (MRCs) in the Sherbrooke area of Québec.

The township in Ontario is also the first tier of government administration; groups of townships are united with villages and towns to form a county. Populations of the municipal townships in Ontario vary widely, from less than 200 for Worthington Township in Rainy River District to 40 000 for Kingston Township in Frontenac County. Hundreds of named townships in both Ontario and Québec are unpopulated and are not municipally organized.

In Western Canada, the township describes a square land unit with 10 km per side. Each township has 36 sections, with the basic unit, a quarter section, being 160 acres (64 ha). Townships are numbered north from the 49th parallel. An example of a full land description is Northwest Quarter Section 15, Township 5, Range 6, West of the Third Meridian (NW1/4 Sec 15, Tp 5, R 6, W3). Townships in the Western provinces do not have municipal or administrative structures.