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Orillia, (2006 population 30,259 ; CA population 40,532 — 39th largest Canadian city in terms of population) pronounced ōrĭl'ēə, is a city located in Simcoe County in Southern Ontariomarker, Canadamarker, between Lake Couchichingmarker and Lake Simcoemarker, 135 kilometres north of Torontomarker.

History and geography

The village of Orillia was incorporated in 1867 (sharing the same birthyear as Canadamarker), became a town in 1875, and was designated a city in 1969. The city of Orillia is located on the shores of two connected lakes: Lake Simcoemarker and Lake Couchichingmarker. Both lakes are part of the Trent-Severn Waterway. Travel north on Lake Couchiching, then through three locks and the only marine railway in North America leads to Georgian Baymarker on Lake Huronmarker. Travel south-east across Lake Simcoe, through many locks (including two of the highest hydraulic lift locks in the world) eventually leads to Lake Ontariomarker. From either of these Great Lakesmarker one can connect to the St. Lawrencemarker and thence to the Atlantic Oceanmarker.

The human history of the region extends back several thousand years: in the "Narrows", a small waterway that connects Lake Couchichingmarker and Lake Simcoemarker, there is marine archaeological evidence of ancient fishing weirs used by Huron and Iroquois people to trap fish over 4,000 years ago. Also, there are several archaeological sites in the surrounding area that provide evidence of trading, fishing, and hunting camps that were visited for hundreds of years by Amerindians.

Also of historical note, the famed French explorer Samuel de Champlain visited the area that would later become Orillia in the early 1600s. Ecole Samuel de Champlain, a local francophone elementary school, is named in his honour. A monument to Samuel de Champlain can also be found in Couchiching Park, and is a National Historic Site.

In Stephen Leacock's 1912 book Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, Orillia was used as the basis for the fictional town known as "Mariposa", although Leacock stated that the fictional town could really be any town. The book was based on Leacock's experiences in the town and the city has since the book's release attempted to mimic the fictional location in as many ways as possible. The Stephen Leacock Museum, located in Orillia, is a National Historic Site.

William E. Bell's 1989 novel Five Days of the Ghost was also set in Orillia, with many readers recognizing popular local spots, including the Guardian Angels Catholic Church, the Samuel de Champlain statue in Couchiching Park as well as Big Chief Island in the middle of Lake Couchichingmarker.

Orillia was the first municipality in North America to introduce daylight saving time and had the first municipal hydro electric transmission plant in North America.


The first recorded use of the name to describe the region, which until then had no officially sanctioned designation, was in 1820 when the name was given in Yorkmarker, Upper Canada by then Lieutenant-Governor Sir Peregrine Maitland, Maitland was a veteran of the Britishmarker campaign against the French in Spainmarker, called the Peninsular War, during the Napoleonic Wars where he served under the command of Wellington.

While there are no records clearly indicating the reason for the name Orillia, the most common explanation holds that the name originates in the Spanish, "orilla," which can mean the shore of either a lake or river. The Spanish pronunciation sounds much like, "oreeya," and since the word itself is spelled almost identically to Orillia, without the second, "i," it has come to be commonly accepted as the source word for the city's name. Further backing the theory of a Spanish origin are the names of surrounding communities and landmarks, which include Oro for gold, Mariposa for butterfly, and Mono for monkey. Historical documents contain a second spelling of the name which was never officially recognised, Aurelia, which when pronounced sounds similar to the name and is considered a clerical error.


According to the 2006 Canada Census, Orillia has a population of 30,259 living in an area of 28.61 square kilometres. The city has experienced moderate growth, with a population increase of over 1,000 residents (3.9 percent) since the 2001 census. The median household income in 2005 for Orillia was $46,722, which is below the Ontario provincial average of $60,455.


Economic activity in Orillia is a mix of manufacturing, government services, customer service and tourism. The largest employer in the area is Casino Ramamarker, located in the nearby reserve land of the Chippewas of Rama First Nationmarker. Manufacturing operations in the city include CCI Thermal Technologies (industrial heaters and heating components), [Dorr-Oliver Eimco (industrial equipment), Kubota Metal Corporation (petrochemical industry components), Parker Hannifin (moulded rubber products), Pliant Corporation (components for the packaging industry), Smiths Aerospace Components (aerospace industry machining) and TI Group Automotive Systems (automotive components). Call centre Tele Tech Canada also employs approximately 850 people.

Otaco seating, which operated from the early 1900s, announced it was closing its doors in September 2007. In late July 2009, Parker Hannifin announced that they were shutting down their operations in Orillia at the end of the year.

G.W.B. Rope & Twine, which was one of the foremost North American producers of braided rope from 1973-1985, was also the inventor of the automotive grocery or cargo restraint net. The net was introduced with the launch of the Ford Taurus at Christmas 1985, and shortly thereafter the company was sold and became Polytech Netting Industries, which employed several hundred people until moving to Mexico in 1996-7. "G.W.B. Rope and Twine’s" Founders, Gordon W. Brown and family, launched "G&B Ropes" in 1990. (Their son Sean Brown worked with G&B Ropes until it transferred ownership around 1998. Sean Brown then assisted in the development of Orillia's newest rope-making business, Redpoint Ropes.)

Large public-sector employers include the headquarters for the Ontario Provincial Police, which is located in Orillia. The Huronia Regional Centre, formerly an asylum that later became an institution to house disabled people, was one of the areas largest employers for many decades, until the de-institutionalization movement of the 1980s and 1990's.

Recreation and culture

Orillia is known as the "Sunshine City", taking the moniker from the Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock. Many local businesses also use "Mariposa" in their names. The city council actively restricts the construction of large buildings downtown and seeks to maintain a certain "small town" look with regard to signs and decorations.
Stephen Leacock House museum in Orillia
Many tourists and boaters are attracted to the city each year because of its waterfront park and its position as a gateway to Lake Country, cottage country in Muskoka, Algonquin Provincial Parkmarker, and other natural attractions. The city's waterfront has an extensive lakeshore boardwalk, a large park with two beaches, several playgrounds, an outdoor theatre, a touring ferry, and a children's' train.

The city of Orillia also is home to a large number of retirement homes (currently 9, with 4 more under construction). As such, it is often characterized as a "retirement community", although less than 18% of the city's population is actually over 65 (see below).

Orillia is home to an annual Perch Fishing Festival. Perch are netted, tagged, and released into the local lake, to be caught for prize money. This event also includes a large social gathering consisting of a "perch fry". Other popular annual festivals include the Leacock Festival, Blues Festival, Jazz Festival,Scottish Festival, and Beatles Festival (newly added to the city in September 7)

The Port of Orillia holds an annual "Christmas in June", which includes a boat decorating contest and turkey buffet, every June 24. Also, boat and cottage shows are held in June and August.

Orillia is the original and current site of the popular Mariposa Folk Festival.

The Royal Canadian Legion sponsors a yearly Scottish Festival at Couchiching Beach Park and Centennial Park in July each year. Marching banks from around the country participate.


English public education in Orillia is provided via the Simcoe County District School Board, which has nine elementary and three secondary schools in the city. The secondary schools are Orillia District Collegiate & Vocational Institute, Twin Lakes Secondary and Park Street Collegiatemarker Institute. There is also an Alternative secondary school, known as OASIS.

In recent decades, Orillia's secondary schools have had a strong reputation for producing excellent jazz bands and singers (i.e. Jazzmatazz), as well as original stage plays and musicals (such as Twin Lakes' Rock On High series, Wurlitzer, or Wildwood Summer) and excellent renditions of classic musicals. Park Street did such an excellent job with "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat", that cast members from Toronto's stage production of the same musical (featuring Donny Osmond) traveled to Orillia to see the high school rendition. *Many of these plays are performed at the Orillia Opera House, touted by some as having "the best acoustics north of Toronto".

Publicly-funded Catholic English-language education is available via the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board through four elementary schools and one secondary school, Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School. Finally, there is one Catholic French-language elementary school operated by the Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud.

Private schools include the Orillia Christian School, and Bethel Baptist's academy.

There are two post-secondary institutions that are based in Orillia. The Orillia campus of Georgian Collegemarker, offers applied arts and technology programmes to 1600 students. Lakehead Universitymarker operates a campus downtown, with some satellite classes offered from Thunder Baymarker. The Orillia campus opened in the downtown in 2006. There is also an Adult Learning Centre, where adults may upgrade to receive their high school diploma.

Health care

The Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital is a 179-bed hospital located in the city. It is presently undergoing an expansion to 231 inpatient beds, scheduled to open in 2008.

The Province of Ontario also operates the Huronia Regional Centre, a home for people with severe developmental disabilities. This facility is scheduled to close in 2009. The planned closure, which has attracted controversy from patient's families and public-sector unions, will see patients moved into a community setting.


Orillia Transit provides service on five routes throughout the city every day except Sundays and statutory holidays. All of these routes run on loops which depart and end at the downtown bus terminal on the West St. and Mississaga St. intersection.

Environmental issues

In 1989, representatives of Ogden Martin Ltd., of Mississaugamarker, approached the City of Orillia regarding the construction of a massive recycling and incineration facility which was to be used for handling the trash of nearby cities and Torontomarker. This was to be one of three facilities used to deal with the garbage produced by the greater Toronto region.

The plan to accept the incinerator was developed by city council with no public input, citing a potentially significant boost the local economy — not only in terms of jobs, but also in the resale of recycled materials, the energy generated by the facility and the duties charged to other cities involved. Some citizens reacted negatively to the closed-doors approach to the talks. Indeed, Orillia's then-mayor, John Palmer, noted on the day of the vote on the plan that Ogden Martin "has asked council not to reveal any details until tonight."(Orillia Packet & Times, 4-9-90).

Many residents were concerned about the environmental effect this would have on the region, leading to protests and public awareness programs by a network of concerned citizens calling themselves Stop Incineration Now. At a protest by a large number of high school students, then-mayor John Palmer famously noted that if he had been their teacher, "I'd shoot every last one of you", a quote that was shown on televised news and reported in Orillia and Toronto newspapers.

When city council made no effort to involve the public in the discussions, anti-incineration activists polled over 2,000 residents on Ogden Martin's proposal, and found that 75% were against incineration, 10% for incineration, and 15% undecided. A petition was circulated against the incinerator and was signed by approximately 9,000 residents (out of a total population of only 24,000).

A committee consisting of Orillia's 54 doctors generated a report, based on extensive research of published health data, that recommended a rejection of the incinerator proposal - 52 (and later, 53) of the doctors endorsed the report. Dr. Don Philpott, a member of the committee, noted that: "People can be bamboozled into thinking that acceptable risk means no additional risk, but that is just not true..." In retaliation for the call to reject the incinerator's installation, Ogden Martin threatened to sue the doctors of Orillia for defamation. The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) passed a resolution in support of the Orillia doctors, after which the threat of litigation was dropped.

The provincial New Democratic Party (NDP) government under Premier Bob Rae had a strong agenda of environmental protection and quickly began to fight the initiative to build these incinerators. In September 1992, and citing a number of reasons, the Ministry of Environment under the NDP government banned the development of new municipal solid waste incinerators and enacted stricter standards for existing incinerators. The Environment Minister at the time, Ruth Grier, called incinerators "a technological quick fix which creates new environmental problems without solving old ones."

Incinerators are highly controversial generally, and are known to generate toxic emissions and to produce ash that may itself need to be quarantined as hazardous waste. The energy production value is also questionable, given the expenditure required for scrubbers and detoxification mechanisms. While it was claimed that the proposed incinerator would have produced only a small amount of carbon black, which would have been sent into extreme elevations and eventually fallen in northern Quebecmarker, environmentalists' concerns were more focused on the emission of heavy metals, dioxins and other carcinogens, and other hazardous materials. Moreover, Ogden Martin's questionable environmental record suggests that the filtration of particulate matter would have been imperfect at best. Notably, in 1992 the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cited Ogden Martin for 6,000 violations between 1989 and 1991 at its Indianapolismarker incinerator alone.

The citizens' campaign ultimately led to a rejection of the plan by the city council and Toronto now ships much of its waste to the United States, although there have also been recent efforts to improve recycling and composting programs.

Unfortunately, problems remain with the city's current approach to waste management. The city's landfill site is placed near the lakeshore on what was once a bog, with a stream running through it into Lake Simcoe. This has caused the water near the site to have an unpleasant odour. Movements to shut down the dump and create a new one in another location have been rejected due to the cost of such an effort, despite the environmental cost already being paid by the region. The Orillia landfill site also contains an on-site composting, sorting and recycling programme, although it remains the case that the composting site is even closer to the Simcoe waterfront than the other waste.

Ontario Provincial Police Headquarters

The OPP Headquarters
As part of an initiative to decentralise its services, the provincial government relocated the headquarters of the Ontario Provincial Police to Orillia. The office was initially located in the Tudhope Building downtown (part of which is currently used as the Orillia City Hall) until the new building was opened in 1995. The headquarters, known as the Lincoln M. Alexander Building, is located on Memorial Avenue near the Huronia Regional Centre. The building houses the assorted bureaus and divisions that make up the general headquarters, as well as the Provincial Police Academy, OPP Museum and headquarters for the Central Region.

The OPP also provides municipal policing to the City of Orillia under contract from a detachment located in the downtown core. The city's police force was disbanded when the policing contract began in 1996.





Supposedly this repeater, along with repeater channel 54 in Peterboroughmarker, are to be shut down on or by August 31, 2009.

Residents of note

Notes and references

  1. Population count for Census Agglomerations in 2006
  2. Why Call it That? by Ross McDonald, published by the Orillia Historical Society. Page 2
  4. Library and Archives Canada: The Glenn Gould Archive

External links

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