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Oshawa
City (lower-tier)
City of Oshawa
Downtown Oshawa
Downtown Oshawa
Coat of arms of Oshawa
Coat of arms
Official logo of Oshawa
Logo
Nickname(s): "Canada's Motor City"
Motto: Prepare To Be Amazed
Location of Oshawa within Durham Region.
Location of Oshawa within Durham Region.
Country Canada
Province Ontario
Region Durham Region
Incorporated 1850
Area
 • City (lower-tier) 145.68 km2 (56.25 sq mi)
Elevation 106 m (348 ft)
Population (2011)
 • City (lower-tier) 149,607 (Ranked 31st)
 • Density 1,027.0/km2 (2,660/sq mi)
 • Metro 356,177
Demonym(s) Oshawian
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC−5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern (EDT) (UTC−4)
Area code(s) 289 / 905
Website oshawa.ca

Oshawa (2011 population 149,607; CMA 356,177) is a city in Ontario, Canada, on the Lake Ontario shoreline. It lies in Southern Ontario, approximately 60 kilometres east of Downtown Toronto. It is commonly viewed as the eastern anchor of the Greater Toronto Area and of the Golden Horseshoe. It is the largest municipality in the Regional Municipality of Durham. The name Oshawa originates from the Ojibwa term aazhaway, meaning "the crossing place" or just "(a)cross".

Oshawa’s roots are tied to the automobile industry, specifically the Canadian division of General Motors Company, known as General Motors Canada. Founded in 1876 as the McLaughlin Carriage Company, General Motors of Canada's headquarters are located in the city. The automotive industry was the inspiration for Oshawa's previous mottos: "The City that Motovates Canada", and "The City in Motion". The lavish home of the carriage company's founder, Parkwood Estate, is a National Historic Site of Canada, and a backdrop favoured by numerous film crews, featured in many movies including 54, Billy Madison, Chicago, and X-Men.

Once recognized as the sole "Automotive Capital of Canada", Oshawa today is an education and health sciences hub. The city is home to three post-secondary institutions (Durham College, Trent University Durham and University of Ontario Institute of Technology) and to Lakeridge Health Oshawa, Lakeridge Health and Education Research Network (LHEARN Centre) and the Oshawa Clinic, the largest, multi-specialty medical group practice in Canada. Key labour force sectors include advanced manufacturing, health technology, logistics, energy and IT.

Downtown Oshawa is identified as an Urban Growth Centre in the Government of Ontario's Places to Grow initiative. More than 5,000 people work and more than 2,400 university students study in the downtown core. The downtown is a prominent centre for entertainment and sporting events (Regent Theatre and General Motors Centre), food (50+ restaurants and cafes ) and culture (The Robert McLaughlin Gallery and Canadian Automotive Museum). Oshawa is home to a Regional Innovation Centre and offers start-up facilities for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Co-working offices are also located in the downtown.

History

Historians believe that the area that would become Oshawa began as a transfer point for the fur trade. Beaver and other animals trapped for their pelts by local natives were traded with the Coureurs des bois (voyagers). Furs were loaded onto canoes by the Mississauga Indians at the Oshawa harbour and transported to the trading posts located to the west at the mouth of the Credit River. Around 1760, the French constructed a trading post near the harbour location; this was abandoned after a few years, but its ruins provided shelter for the first residents of what later became Oshawa. Most notably, one of the fur traders was Moody Farewell, an early resident of the community who was to some extent responsible for its name change.

In the late 18th century a local resident, Roger Conant, started an export business shipping salmon to the United States. His success attracted further migration into the region. A large number of the founding immigrants were United Empire Loyalists, who left the United States to live under British rule. Later Irish and then French Canadian immigration increased as did industrialization. Oshawa and the surrounding Ontario County were also the settling grounds of a disproportionate number of 19th century Cornish immigrants during the Cornish emigration which emptied large tracts of that part of England. As well, the surveys ordered by Governor John Graves Simcoe, and the subsequent land grants, helped populate the area. When Col. Asa Danforth laid out his York-to-Kingston road, it passed through what would later become Oshawa.

In 1822, a "colonization road" (a north-south road to facilitate settlement) known as Simcoe Street was constructed. It more or less followed the path of an old native trail known as the Nonquon Road, and ran from the harbour to the area of Lake Scugog. This intersected the "Kingston Road" at what would become Oshawa's "Four Corners." In 1836, Edward Skae relocated his general store approximately 800 m east to the southeast corner of this intersection; as his store became a popular meeting place (probably because it also served as the Post Office), the corner and the growing settlement that surrounded it, were known as Skae's Corners. In 1842, Skae, the postmaster, applied for official post office status, but was informed the community needed a better name. Moody Farewell was requested to ask his native acquaintances what they called the area; their reply was "Oshawa," which translates to "where we must leave our canoes". Thus, the name of Oshawa, one of the primary "motor cities" of Canada, has the meaning "where we have to get out and walk". The name "Oshawa" was adopted and the post office named accordingly. In 1849, the requirements for incorporation were eased, and Oshawa was incorporated as a village in 1850.

Oshawa's Factories (HS85-10-22386)
Oshawa Factories, 1910

The newly established village became an industrial centre, and implement works, tanneries, asheries and wagon factories opened (and often closed shortly after, as economic "panics" occurred regularly). In 1876, Robert Samuel McLaughlin, Sr. moved his carriage works to Oshawa from Enniskillen to take advantage of its harbour and of the availability of a rail link not too far away. He constructed a two-storey building, which was soon added to. This building was heavily remodelled in 1929, receiving a new facade and being extended to the north using land where the city's gaol (jail, firehall & townhall) had once stood. The village became a town in 1879, in what was then called East Whitby Township. Around 1890, the carriage works relocated from its Simcoe Street address to an unused furniture factory a couple of blocks to the northeast, and this remained its site until the building burnt in 1899. Offered assistance by the town, McLaughlin chose to stay in Oshawa, building a new factory across Mary Street from the old site. Rail service had been provided in 1890 by the Oshawa Railway; this was originally set up as a streetcar line, but c. 1910 a second "freight line" was built slightly to the east of Simcoe Street. This electric line provided streetcar and freight service, connected central Oshawa with the Grand Trunk (now Canadian National) Railway, and with the Canadian Northern (which ran through the very north of Oshawa) and the Canadian Pacific, built in 1912-13. The Oshawa Railway was acquired by the Grand Trunk operation around 1910, and streetcar service was replaced by buses in 1940. After GM moved its main plants to south Oshawa in 1951, freight traffic fell and most of the tracks were removed in 1963, although a line to the older remaining "north" plant via Ritson Road remained until 2000.

Start of the car industry

Col. R. S. McLaughlin and "Billy" Durant signed a 15-year contract in 1907, under which the McLaughlin Motor Car Company began to manufacture automobiles under the McLaughlin name, using Buick engines and other mechanical parts. Buick was merged into General Motors shortly after, and in 1915 the firm acquired the manufacturing rights to the Chevrolet brand. Within three years, the McLaughlin Motor Car Company and the Chevrolet Motor Car Company of Canada merged, creating General Motors of Canada in 1918 with McLaughlin as President. The factory expanded rapidly, eventually covering several blocks. The popularity of the automobile in the 1920s generated rapid expansion of Oshawa, which grew in population from 4,000 to 16,000 during this decade, and of its land area. In 1924, Oshawa annexed the area to its south, including the harbour and the community of Cedardale. This growth allowed Oshawa to seek incorporation as a city, which took place 8 March 1924.

With the wealth he gained in his business venture, in 1916 McLaughlin built one of the most stately homes in Canada, "Parkwood". The 55-room residence was designed by Toronto architect John M. Lyle. McLaughlin lived in the house for 55 years with his wife and they raised five daughters. The house replaced an older mansion, which was about 30 years old when it was demolished; the grounds of the earlier home had been operated as Prospect Park, and this land was acquired by the town and became its first municipal park, Alexandra Park. Parkwood today is open to the public as a National Historic Site. Tours are offered.

Strike: 1937

On 8 April 1937, disputes between 4000 assembly line workers and General Motors management led to the Oshawa Strike, a salient event in the history of Canadian trade unionism. As the weight of the Great Depression slowly began to lift, demand for automobiles again began to grow. The workers sought higher wages, an eight-hour workday, better working conditions and recognition of their union, the United Auto Workers (Local 222). The then-Liberal government of Mitchell Hepburn, which had been elected on a platform of being the working man's friend, sided with the corporation and brought in armed university students to break up any union agitation. These much-derided "Hepburn's Hussars" and "Sons of Mitches" were never needed as the union refused to be drawn into violent acts. The union and workers had the backing of the local population, other unions and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation party, and on 23 April, two weeks after the strike started, the company gave in to most of the workers' demands, although — pointedly — it did not recognize the union.

Church near Parkville Estate, Oshawa.
A historic church in Oshawa

Post-war

In 1950, the city annexed a portion of East Whitby Township west of Park Road. Some of this area had been developed during the 1920s boom period, although it was not within the boundaries of the city. The opening of the Oshawa Shopping Centre (now the Oshawa Centre) fewer than two kilometres west of the "four corners" in 1956 struck a blow to Oshawa's downtown from which it has never been able to recover. The shopping centre was built on land which had been an unproductive farm; when its owner gave up on agriculture, this released a very large area of land for the construction of a mall. The Oshawa Centre is the largest shopping mall in Ontario east of Toronto. The opening of what later became Highway 401, then known as Highway 2A, shortly after World War II sparked increased residential growth in Oshawa and the other lakeshore municipalities of Ontario County, which led to the creation of the Regional Municipality of Durham in 1974. Oshawa was amalgamated with the remaining portions of East Whitby Township and took on its present boundaries, which included the outlying villages of Columbus, Raglan and Kedron. Much of Oshawa's industry has closed over the years; however, it is still the headquarters of GM Canada and its major manufacturing site. Current industries of note include manufacturing of railway maintenance equipment, mining equipment, steel fabrication, and rubber products. Oshawa is also recognized as an official port of entry for immigration and customs services.

Climate

Similar to all of southern Ontario, Oshawa has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfb) with vast, but not extreme, seasonal temperature differences.


Transportation

401 Oshawa
Highway 401 in Oshawa.
Oshawa GO Station
Oshawa Train Station

GO Transit trains connect the city with Toronto, Hamilton and points between. GO Transit buses provide service from Oshawa along the Highway 401 and Highway 2 corridors in Durham Region and to Toronto and York Region. GO Transit bus service is also provided from Oshawa Train station to Clarington and Peterborough via the downtown bus terminal. The Oshawa Station is owned by the national rail carrier Via Rail, which operates a service along the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor. Other services from the station include GO Buses, and the regional transit system Durham Region Transit provides local bus service. It replaced Oshawa Transit on 1 January 2006.

The province announced in June 2016 an extension of the GO train service from Oshawa to Bowmanville, including extending the train network by nearly 20 kilometres and building four new stations. The new GO rail service is expected to begin by 2023-24. The four new stations will be at Thornton Road in Oshawa, Ritson Road in Oshawa, Courtice Road in Courtice and Martin Road in Bowmanville.

Private intercity buses are provided by Greyhound Canada (to Toronto, Port Hope, Cobourg and Belleville, and to Peterborough and Ottawa, and Can-Ar daily to/from Lindsay and Toronto.

Rail freight is carried on the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways which traverse the city.

Other than Highway 2, which reverted to local jurisdiction (King Street and Bond Street) in 1998, the city had no provincially maintained highways until the original section of Highway 401 opened in 1947 (as Highway 2A). The highway originally terminated at Ritson Road, and was extended east through the remainder of the city to Newcastle in 1952. Oshawa was the only city that Highway 401 was built directly through, rather than bypassing. This resulted in the demolition of several streets and hundreds of homes in the 1930s and 1940s.

Highway 407, a tolled 400-series highway, opened to Harmony Road in Oshawa on June 20, 2016, including a tolled north–south link to Highway 401 known as Highway 412. A further extension will push the highway further east to Highway 35 / Highway 115 in Clarington by 2020, with a second link to Highway 401 known as Highway 418.

The Port of Oshawa is a major stop for the auto and steel industries as well as winter road salt handling and agricultural fertilizer. A marine rescue unit (COMRA) is also stationed at the port. A regional airport with on-site customs and immigration authorities also services the City (see above). On 21 May 2009, Canadian Transportation Minister John Baird announced that the status of Oshawa's port would be changed from a harbour commission to a full-fledged Port Authority. The creation of a federal port authority has caused some controversy as there are others who wish to see the port transferred to municipal ownership and recreational use.

The closest international airport is Toronto Pearson International Airport, located 75 kilometres west by road in Mississauga.

Demographics

Historical populations
Year Pop. ±%
1841 1,000 —    
1871 3,185 +218.5%
1881 3,992 +25.3%
1891 4,063 +1.8%
1901 4,394 +8.1%
1911 7,436 +69.2%
1921 11,940 +60.6%
1931 23,439 +96.3%
1941 26,610 +13.5%
1951 41,545 +56.1%
1961 62,415 +50.2%
1971 91,587 +46.7%
1981 117,519 +28.3%
1991 129,344 +10.1%
1996 134,364 +3.9%
2001 139,051 +3.5%
2006 141,590 +1.8%
2011 149,607 +5.7%
Population by ethnicity
Canada 2006 Census Population  % of Total Population
Ethnicity group
Source:
White 126,355 90.1
Black 4,260 3.0
South Asian 1,905 1.4
First Nations 1,525 1.1
Chinese 1,330 0.9
Métis 775 0.6
Filipino 755 0.5
Latin American 710 0.5
Mixed visible minority 520 0.4
West Asian 505 0.4
Other visible minority 425 0.3
Southeast Asian 280 0.2
Arab 255 0.2
Korean 215 0.2
Japanese 205 0.1
Total population 140,240 100
Ethnic origin
(multiple responses included)
Population Percent
Canadian 117,010 39.86%
English 97,125 33.09%
Scottish 63,380 21.59%
Irish 59,740 20.35%
French 32,085 10.93%
German 22,380 7.62%
Dutch (Netherlands) 15,085 5.14%
Italian 13,985 4.76%
Polish 11,490 3.91%
Ukrainian 11,035 3.76%

According to the 2011 census, the population of Oshawa is 149,607, up from 141,590 (5.7%) in the 2006 census. In 2001, 49.3% of the population was male and 50.7% female. Children under five accounted for approximately 6.5% of the resident population of Oshawa. This compares with 5.8% in Ontario, and almost 5.6% for Canada overall.

In mid-2001, 10.4% of the resident population in Oshawa were of retirement age (65 and over for males and females) compared with 13.2% in Canada, therefore, the average age is 35.8 years of age comparing to 37.6 years of age for all of Canada.

In the five years between 1996 and 2001, the population of Oshawa grew by 10.2%, compared with an increase of 6.1% for Ontario as a whole. Population density of Oshawa averaged 328.0 people per square kilometre, compared with an average of 12.6, for Ontario altogether.

According to the 2006 census, the Oshawa Census Metropolitan Area, which includes neighbouring Whitby and Clarington, has a population of 330,594.

The information regarding ethnicities at the left is from the Canadian Census. The percentages add to more than 100% because of dual responses (e.g. "French-Canadian" generates an entry in both the category "French" and the category "Canadian".) Groups with greater than 10,000 responses are included.

In 2006, 8.1% of the residents were visible minorities, 37.4% of whom were Black Canadians.

Religious profile

Oshawa is home to the Canadian headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist church, which for many years maintained a college here, and now operate a high school and elementary school.

According to the 2011 Census English is the mother tongue of 86.7% of the residents of Oshawa. 2.2% of the population have French as their mother tongue, which is one of the highest proportions within the GTA. Polish is the mother tongue of 1.3% of the population, with Italian trailing at 1.0%.

Cultural assets

  • Artsforum Magazine (a not-for-profit magazine of arts and ideas)
  • Cinechats Film Series (a not-for-profit community education collaboration between the Durham Council for the Arts, Artsforum Magazine, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and Durham College, which brings the finest films in the world—including several North American premieres—to audiences in the Eastern Greater Toronto Area)
  • Durham Council for the Arts (the region's oldest arts council, established in 1963, a charitable organization devoted to supporting and promoting artistic, cultural, and intellectual excellence throughout Durham Region)
  • Canadian Automotive Museum
  • Durham Philharmonic Choir
  • Oshawa Horseless Carriagemen
  • County Town Singers
  • Oshawa Civic Band
  • Oshawa Art Association
  • Ontario Philharmonic (regarded as one of Canada's finest regional orchestras)
  • Ontario Regiment RCAC Museum
  • Oshawa Fiesta Week
  • The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
  • Oshawa Downtown Murals
  • Oshawa Little Theatre
  • Oshawa Opera
  • General Motors Centre
  • Legends Centre (North Oshawa Recreation Centre)
  • Heritage Oshawa (sponsors an annual Doors Open event)
  • Oshawa Community Museum & Archives
  • Parkwood Estate
  • Dancyn Productions (A Not-For-Profit Theatre Company)
  • Durham Shoestring Performers
  • Regent Theatre (a designated heritage building owned by UOIT, but used for performing arts programs on weekends and evenings)
  • Camp Samac
  • Durham Community Choir
  • Driftwood Theatre
  • Oshawa Public Library
  • Oshawa Camera Club

Recreation

Oshawa has parks, walking trails, conservation areas, indoors and outdoor public swimming pools, community centres, and sports facilities. Lakeview Park stretches along the coast of Lake Ontario, complete with a sandy beach. Also, the McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve and Second Marsh Wildlife Area offer protected marshland areas with interpretive trails and viewing platforms. Oshawa's parks and trail system encompasses almost 410 hectares of parkland and more than 27 kilometres of paved trails. Oshawa has more than 130 parks, more than 110 playgrounds, nine splash pads, eight ice pads and three skateboard parks.


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