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Oshawa (2006 population 141,590, CMA, 330,594) is a city in Ontariomarker, Canadamarker, on the Lake Ontariomarker shoreline. It lies in Southern Ontario approximately 60 kilometres east of downtown Torontomarker. It is commonly viewed as the eastern anchor of both the Greater Toronto Area and the Golden Horseshoe. It is not, however, part of the Toronto CMA but has its own metropolitan area, the fourteenth largest in Canada. It is the largest community in the Regional Municipality of Durhammarker. The name Oshawa originates from the Ojibwa term aazhaway, meaning "the crossing place" or just "(a)cross".

The automobile industry, specifically the Canadian division of General Motors Company, known as General Motors Canada, has always been at the forefront of Oshawa's economy. Founded in 1876 as the McLaughlin Carriage Company, General Motors of Canada's headquarters and major assembly plants are located in the city. The lavish home of the carriage company's founder, Parkwood Estate, is a National Historic Site, and a backdrop favoured by numerous film crews, and has been featured in many movies including Studio 54, Chicago, and X-Men.

Oshawa was also home to Windfields Farm, a thoroughbred horse breeding operation and birthplace of Canada's most famous racehorse, Northern Dancer.

Once very much a distinct community - physically, economically, and culturally - Oshawa has been increasingly subsumed into the Greater Toronto Area.


The area that would become Oshawa began as a transfer point for the fur trade. Beaver and other animal pelts were trapped by local natives and traded with the Coureur 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 MoodyFarewell, an early resident of the community who was to some extent responsible for its name change.

the late 1700s 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 Countymarker 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 Englandmarker. 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 a name 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.

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, Colonel Robert Samuel McLaughlin moved his carriage works to Oshawa from Enniskillen to take advantage of its harbour as well as the availability of a rail link not too far away. He constructed a two-story building, which was soon added to. This building was heavily remodelled in 1929, receiving a new facade and being extended to the south using land where the city's gaol had once stood. The village became a town in 1879, in what was then called 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 elected 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 constructed a second "freight line" was built slightly to the east of Simcoe Street. This electric line provided both streetcar and freight service, connected central Oshawa with the Grand Trunk (now Canadian National) Railway, as well as the long-defunct 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.

The start of the car industry

In 1908 the McLaughlin Carriage Company began to manufacture Buick automobiles under the McLaughlin-Buick name. This resulted from talks between Col. R. S. McLaughlin and "Billy" Durant (the entrepreneur who had created General Motors in the U.S. around the same time). In 1915 the firm acquired the manufacturing rights to the Chevrolet brand. Within three years his firm and the Chevrolet Motor Car Company of Canada merged, creating General Motors of Canada. Col. R. S. McLaughlin became the head of this new operation, and his factory expanded rapidly, eventually covering several blocks. The popularity of the automobile in the nineteen-twenties generated rapid expansion of Oshawa, which grew in population from 4,000 to 16,000 during this decade as well as in land area. In 1924, Oshawa annexed the area to its south, including both the harbour and the community of Cedardale. This growth allowed Oshawa to seek incorporation as a city, which took place March 8, 1924.

the wealth he gained in his business venture, in 1916 Robert McLaughlin built one of the most stately homes in Canada, "Parkwood." The 55-room residence was built using inexpensive labour, and designed by Toronto architect John M. Lyle. McLaughlin lived in the house for 55 years with his wife and 5 children. The house replaced an older mansion, which was about thirty 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 and tours are offered as well.

The Oshawa Strike, 1937

On April 8, 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, ironically, been elected on a platform of being the working man's friend, sided with the corporation and even brought in armed university students to break up any union agitation. Fortunately, these much-derided "Hepburn's Hussars" and "Sons of Mitches" were never needed as the union refused to be drawn into any violent act. The union and workers had the backing of the local population, other unions and the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, and on April 23, two weeks after the strike started, the company gave in to most of the workers' demands, although—pointedly—it did not recognize the union.

Post-war Oshawa

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 proper. The opening of the Oshawa Shopping Centre (now the Oshawa Centremarker) 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 led in part 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 as well as 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.

Oshawa's future

For most of the last thirty years, the city has tried to promote the downtown core as a viable place to live and work, with multiple failed attempts to attract new business and other projects to the city core. Local politicians and civic officials hoped that the opening of the General Motors Centremarker would spark renewed interest in downtown revitalization. In addition, the University of Ontario Institute of Technologymarker (UOIT) has relocated the Faculty of Education into downtown Oshawa, in a building originally built as a bank. The New Durham Region Courthouse under construction will be completed in 2009. Most of Oshawa's growth has occurred on the outer regions of the city. Legislation passed by the Ontario Government in 2005 now protects greenspace to the north of the city (the Oak Ridges Moraine), which will eventually prohibit any further expansion of the urban boundary. This will likely result in the redevelopment of Oshawa's many 'brownfield' sites, and may result in increased density. In fact, a large tract of land became available for development in 2008 when the old GM "north plant" was finally demolished.

Because Oshawa was for many years a separate and distinct city from Toronto, it remains in certain ways an urban centre unto itself, adjoined by several suburbs in its Census Metropolitan Area, which is entirely contained within the Greater Toronto Area(GTA). Although many residents commute to Toronto for employment, the city is not considered a bedroom community of Toronto. In fact, Oshawa experienced its fastest growth (which was locally self-sustained) well before Toronto spilled over the boundaries of the now-defunct Metropolitan Toronto in the 1970s and 1980s. Despite this, in the mid 1990s, Oshawa residents still voted in a non-binding referendum to overwhelmingly reject any incorporation into a possible Greater Toronto Area amalgamation that would include it. This, however, may have simply reflected an overall dissatisfaction among citizens in the GTA when Metropolitan Toronto was itself amalgamated by the then-governing Progressive Conservative Party of Premier Mike Harris.


Oshawa is headquarters to General Motors Canada, which has large-scale manufacturing and administrative operations in the city and employs many thousands both directly and indirectly. Since Windsor, Ontariomarker houses Chrysler Canada headquarters, the two cities have something of a friendly rivalry for the title of "Automotive Capital of Canada".

The revenue collection divisions of the Ontario Ministry of Finance occupy one of the few major office buildings in the city's downtown, which continues to struggle despite business improvement efforts. The city's older southern neighbourhoods tend to be considerably less affluent than its more suburban northern sections, which are rapidly expanding as Toronto commuters move in. The southern half of the city consists of industrial zones and compact housing designed for early 20th century industrial workers, while the northern half has a suburban feel more typical of later decades.
wages paid to unionized GM employees have meant that these workers could enjoy a relatively high standard of living, although such jobs are much scarcer today than they once were. During its post-World War II heyday, General Motors offered some of the best manufacturing jobs available in Canada and attracted thousands of workers from economically depressed areas of the country, particularly the Maritimes, Newfoundlandmarker, rural Quebecmarker and northern Ontario. The city was also a magnet for European immigrants in the skilled trades, and boasts substantial Polish, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Croatian, German and Russian ethnic communities.

Although the workforce at General Motors of Canada has shrunk dramatically in recent years (with more reductions through attrition planned), the company continues to make significant technology and capital investments at its sites in Oshawa. While the company's once essential role in the local economy has diminished, it remains the largest local employer. Many of its operations have been spun off to contractors. In most cases, new owners at the spun-off facilities are not bound by the collective bargaining agreements of the Canadian Auto Workers, and wages at such operations tend to be much lower than at General Motors itself.

Oshawa has become one of the fastest growing cities in Canada, although statements to this effect are often in reference to the Census Metropolitan Area, which includes the neighbouring Town of Whitbymarker and Municipality of Claringtonmarker. Many commuters have been enticed to Oshawa by comparatively low housing prices and the regular rail service into downtown Toronto provided by GO Transit and VIA Rail. The growth of subdivisions to house Toronto commuters will likely accelerate when the long-planned Highway 407 extension is built across the city's northern tier by 2013. The trend suggests major social changes for Oshawa, which has long had a vigorous labour union presence and largely blue collar identity. Rising property values and the emergence of land speculation associated with suburban growth have created new dynamics for the local economy. While unchecked growth was largely accepted (even embraced) in the 1980s and 1990s, concern over urban sprawl has emerged.

In late 2004, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority announced a plan under which the Oshawa Airportmarker would be closed and its traffic diverted to a major new Toronto reliever airport to be constructed in Pickeringmarker. The Oshawa airport handles occasional traffic related to General Motors (emergency spare parts and executives); GM has indicated that a move of its air traffic to Pickering would not affect its operations. The airport also handles significant general aviation, two flight training facilities, and numerous other aviation and non-aviation related companies, all of which would need to be diverted or relocated. Significant helicopter support services are also provided for police, military, and HydroOne aircraft. The city has considered ambitious proposals to repurpose the airport lands, but as of January 2006, significant upgrade work is being performed on the main terminal building by the city itself, signalling that the city has no immediate plans to close the busy facility, understanding its importance to the community and local economy (injecting $52 million yearly). Additional aviation related construction is also taking place on the airport lands.


The dominant presence of General Motors (and its autoworkers) meant that Oshawa was well-known as a bastion of unionist, left-wing support during the decades following the Second World War. The city played an important role in Canada's labour history, including the 1937 "Oshawa Strike" against General Motors and the considerable financial support provided by the city's autoworkers to the NDP and its predecessors.

However, Oshawa was part of the Ontario (County) riding when Michael Starr, a high ranking Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) and Cabinet Member in the Diefenbaker era served. Starr served the new Oshawa—Whitby riding for one term, before being narrowly defeated by future federal New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Ed Broadbent in 1968. Broadbent then represented the city in the Canadian House of Commons until 1989, and in the 1980s led the NDP to its greatest electoral successes.

By the end of the 1990s, the city's changing economy and demographics led many voters to the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario and the Canadian Alliance, a conservative party at the federal level. Conservative candidates have won recent provincial and federal elections, whereas from 1968-93 the city was a safe NDP seat in both the federal and provincial legislatures.

The city's shifting social and political dynamics were seen in the 2004 federal election - the riding of Oshawa (not coterminous with the City of Oshawa, but containing most of it) was the country's most competitive. The candidate of the new Conservative Party of Canada, Dr. Colin Carrie, edged out his NDP rival Sid Ryan by several hundred votes; it was an atypical and ideologically stark race that left Louise Parks of the Liberals in third place.

In 2006, Whitby—Oshawa also became a Conservative seat; Jim Flaherty followed Starr (after over 40 years) into the Canadian cabinet as Minister of Finance.

Local government

Oshawa's city government consists of a mayor and ten councillors. Each of the city's seven wards is represented by a Regional & City councillor, who also represent Oshawa at Durham Regionmarker council. The three remaining councillors sit on city council only, each councillor serving two wards. Ward 7, the northernmost ward, has only its Regional & City councillor. The current mayor is John Gray.

In May 2007, Council voted to revert to a general vote system in which council members are elected at large. The at-large system, which the City used prior to 1985, will take effect after the 2010 civic election. Council's vote was based on the results of a non-binding referendum held as part of the 2006 election; 64 per cent voted in favour of a general vote for regional councillors and 61 per cent said YES to a general vote for city councillors.


Public education in Oshawa is provided via the Durham District School Board. As of late 2006, there were 32 elementary schools and six secondary schools. The Durham Catholic District School Board, which has its headquarters in Oshawa, oversees public Catholic education in Durham Region. There are 14 Catholic elementary schools and two secondary schools. The Conseil scolaire de district du Centre-Sud-Ouest operates one French Public elementary school, while the Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud runs one publicly-funded French-language Catholic elementary school. Private schools include Durham Elementary School, Immanuel Christian School, Kingsway College and College Park Elementary School. The Durham Catholic District School Board decided to shut down several Catholic Elementary Schools in Oshawa in June 2008, due to shifting enrolment.

Oshawa is home to the University of Ontario Institute of Technologymarker, opened in 2003. The main campus of Durham Collegemarker is also located in the city. The university and college share a campus and some facilities, but the two institutions are independent. Given the city's industrial heritage, the university's courses emphasize technology, manufacturing and engineering themes. It is the only university in Canada to offer degree programs in Automotive Engineering and Nuclear Engineering. Trent Universitymarker also offers a full-time program at the campus, however they are proposing to move to an independent campus at a closed elementary school site in the City's west end.

Health care

Oshawa's hospital is the Oshawa site of Lakeridge Health Oshawamarker, formerly the Oshawa General Hospital. This 437-bed facility is the major regional hospital for the area and also houses the R.S. McLaughlin Durham Regional Cancer Centre.

Emergency services

Policing in Oshawa is provided by the Durham Regional Police service from a station at 77 Centre St. N. in the downtown area and a South Oshawa Community Policing Centre on Cedar St. EMS/Ambulance services are also operated by the Region of Durham. Oshawa Fire Services operate from five fire stations located throughout the city.


Although a relatively large city by Canadian standards, Oshawa has few media outlets of its own due to its proximity to Toronto. The city has one AM station, CKDO (1580) which is rebroadcast on 107.7 FM, and one FM station, CKGE. Both stations are owned by Durham Radio, which also owns CJKX, licenced to the nearby community of Ajaxmarker. All three stations are operated from the same studios at the Oshawa Airport.

Oshawa also has a rebroadcast transmitter of Peterboroughmarker's CBC Television affiliate CHEXmarker which airs a daily afternoon news and current affairs program specially targeted to Durham Region viewers. Although a larger city than Peterborough then and now, Oshawa was not granted a television station in the original 1950s assignments as it was geographically too close to Toronto, since the original spacings were set at 145 km (90 miles). Rogers Television, the local cable provider also serves the community with local television programming.

Oshawa is served by a number of community newspapers, including the Oshawa Express, an independent which publishes every Wednesday, and Oshawa This Week, published three times per week by Metroland. The long-standing daily newspaper, the Oshawa Times (also known at various times as the Oshawa Daily Times and Times-Gazette), was closed by its owner Thomson Newspapers, after a lengthy strike in 1994.



is home to the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League, the top level for players aged 15–20. Famous alumni of this team include Bobby Orr, Alex Delvecchio, Wayne Cashman, Tony Tanti, Dave Andreychuk, Marc Savard and Eric Lindros. The team moved from the Oshawa Civic Auditoriummarker into the new General Motors Centremarker in November 2006.

The Oshawa Generals have the dubious distinction of having their home arena destroyed by fire not once, but twice in the franchise history. In June 1928 the Bradley Arena was destroyed by fire. Then 25 years later, the Hambly Arena was also destroyed by fire.


Oshawa is also home to the Oshawa Dodgers of the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL), an amateur baseball league in Canada. Their home park, Kinsmen Stadium is located just to the north of the former site of the Hambly Arena.


Oshawa was for many years one of the main centres for the sport of lacrosse and home of the Oshawa Green Gaels, one of the most storied teams in the sport. A player of note in the 1920s was Nels Stewart, who became a Hall of Famer in the National Hockey League. During the 1980s, when lacrosse seemed on the edge of oblivion in Canada, (the Green Gaels themselves having folded in the early part of the decade), lacrosse continued to be played in the neighbouring towns of Whitby and Brooklin, and many of the players were from Oshawa. However, since then, Clarington has taken over the Green Gaels association. Jason Crosbie, a local teacher at John Pereyma Catholic Secondary School, head coaches the team. With the rise of the National Lacrosse League the sport's survival seems assured and again, many players and others involved in the professional league are from the Oshawa area. Former Oshawa Green Gaels captain and Oshawa native, Derek Keenan, is the current general manager of the Portland Lumberjax.


Oshawa bus terminal
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 service is also provided from Oshawa GO station to Clarington and Peterborough. The Oshawa Stationmarker also serves VIA Rail in the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor, as well as GO Buses, and Durham Region Transit. Local bus service is provided by Durham Region Transit, a regional transit system started on January 1, 2006 that replaced Oshawa Transit.

Private intercity buses are provided by Greyhound (to Toronto, Port Hope, Cobourgmarker and Bellevillemarker, as well as to Peterboroughmarker and Ottawamarker, and Can-Ar daily to/from Lindsaymarker and Toronto.

Rail freight is carried on both 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 2Amarker). 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.

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 May 21, 2009, Canadian Transportation Minister John Baird announced that the status of Oshawa's port would be changed from a harbour commission to a fully-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.


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 15,085 5.14%
Italian 13,985 4.76%
Polish 11,490 3.91%
Ukrainian 11,035 3.76%

According to the 2006 census, population of Oshawa is 141,590, up from 139,051 (1.8 %) in the 2001 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 Ontariomarker altogether.

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

The information regarding ethnicities at the right is from the 2001 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. [27000]

Religious profile

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

Notable people

Cultural resources

See also


  1. Population and dwelling counts, for census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations, 2006 and 2001 censuses - 100% data
  2. Rayburn, Alan, Place Names of Ontario, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997, p. 258.
  3. Freelang Ojibwe Dictionary

External links

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