Winnipeg, Manitoba

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City of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Winnipeg skyline
Winnipeg skyline
Flag of City of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Official seal of City of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Nickname: The Peg, Winterpeg, Portage and Main, Chilly City
Motto: Unum Cum Virtute Multorum
(One With the Strength of Many)
Coordinates: 49°54′N 97°08′W
Country Canada
Province Manitoba
Region Winnipeg Capital Region
Established, 1738 (Fort Rouge)
Renamed 1822 (Fort Garry)
Incorporated 1873 (City of Winnipeg)
Elevation 238 m (781 ft)
Population (2006 Census[1][2])
 - City 633,451 (Ranked 7th)
 - Metro 694,668
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
Postal code R2C–R3Y
Area code(s) 204
Website: City of Winnipeg

Winnipeg is both the largest city and capital city of the province of Manitoba located in Western Canada. The metropolis is located near the geographic centre of North America,[3] approximately where the Canadian Shield meets the Prairies, on a flood plain at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. Winnipeg is Manitoba's largest city with a population of 633,451[1] making it the eighth largest Census Metropolitan Area in Canada.[4]

Winnipeg plays a prominent role in transportation, finance, manufacturing, and agriculture. It is known as the "Gateway to the West" due to its location on the Canadian transportation network.[5][6]

The city is one of Canada's major cultural centers and is home to the world famous Royal Winnipeg Ballet. It boasts historic architecture, scenic waterways, numerous parks, and distinctive neighborhoods. Winnipeg also offers an abundance of recreational opportunities as it lies in close proximity to hundreds of lakes including Lake Winnipeg, Canada's fifth largest lake and the world's eleventh largest, Lake Manitoba, as well as Lake of the Woods.[7]

A resident of Winnipeg is known as a Winnipegger.


Winnipeg lies at the confluence of the Assiniboine River and Red River, also known as "The Forks," which was a meeting, trading, and resting area for aboriginal peoples for thousands of years. The name Winnipeg is a transcription of a western Cree word meaning "muddy waters."

Trading posts

Upper Fort Garry in the early 1870s
Upper Fort Garry today

In 1738, the Sieur de la Vérendrye built the first trading post on the site, Fort Rouge, which was ultimately abandoned. Subsequent posts were built in the Red River region. Fort Gibraltar was built by the North West Company in 1809 and Fort Douglas was built by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1812. The two companies fought fiercely over trade in the area with each destroying the other's fort over the course of several battles. In 1821, the Hudson Bay Company and North West Company ended their long rivalry with a merger.

Fort Gibraltar, a post of the North West Company on the site of present-day Winnipeg, was renamed Fort Garry in 1822 and became the leading post in the region for the Hudson Bay Company. Fort Garry was destroyed in an 1826 flood, and rebuilt in 1835. It played a small role in fur trading, but housed the residence of the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company for many years.

Red River rebellion

In 1869-1870, Winnipeg was the site of the Red River Rebellion, a conflict between the local Métis people led by Louis Riel and newcomers from eastern Canada. This rebellion led directly to the entry of Manitoba into Confederation as Canada's fifth province in 1870. On November 8, 1873, Winnipeg was incorporated as a city. In 1876, the post office officially adopted the name "Winnipeg," three years after the city's incorporation.

Pre-Panama Canal boom

Winnipeg experienced a boom during the 1890s and the first two decades of the twentieth century, and the city's population grew from 25,000 in 1891 to more than 200,000 in 1921. Immigration exponentially increased during this period, and Winnipeg took on its distinctive multicultural character. The Manitoba Provincial Legislature Building demonstrates the optimism of the boom years. Built of Tyndall Stone in 1920, the highest point, the top of the dome, has a giant statue finished in gold leaf titled "Eternal Youth" but commonly known as the "Golden Boy." The Manitoba Legislative Building was elaborately designed based on neoclassical art, architecture, and the revival of classical philosophy and ideas.

Winnipeg's growth slowed considerably after the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. The canal reduced reliance on Canada's rail system for international trade, and the increase in ship traffic helped Vancouver surpass Winnipeg to become Canada's third-largest city in the 1920s.

Winnipeg panorama, from 1907

Winnipeg general strike

As a result of appalling labor conditions following World War I, 35,000 Winnipeggers walked off the job in May 1919, in what came to be known as the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. The government defeated the strike through arrests, deportation and violence. The strike ended in June of 1919, with the reading of the Riot Act and the death of two strikers and injuring at least 30 others, and was known as Bloody Saturday. The lasting effect was a polarized population. One of the leaders of the strike, J.S. Woodsworth, went on to found Canada's first socialist party, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, which would later become the New Democratic Party.

Crowd gathered outside old City Hall during the Winnipeg General Strike, June 21, 1919

The Depression

The stock market crash in 1929 only hastened an already steep decline in Winnipeg. The Great Depression resulted in massive unemployment, which was worsened by drought and depressed agricultural prices. By 1937, city officials told a federal commission that they could no longer function without assistance.

World War II

The Depression ended when World War II broke out in 1939. Thousands of Canadians volunteered to join the forces. In Winnipeg, the old established armouries of Minto, Tuxedo (Fort Osborne) and McGregor were so crowded that the military had to take over other buildings to handle the capacity.

Winnipeg played a large part in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). The mandate of the BCATP was to train flight crews away from the battle zone in Europe. Pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, wireless operators, air gunners, and flight engineers all passed through Winnipeg on their way to the various air schools across Western Canada. Winnipeg headquartered Command No. 2. [8]

Post-WWII and 1950 flood

The end of World War II brought a new sense of optimism in Winnipeg. Pent-up demand brought a boom in housing development, but the building activity came to a halt in 1950 when city was swamped in the Winnipeg Flood. The largest flood since 1861 held waters above flood stage for 51 days. On May 8, 1950, eight dikes collapsed and four of the city's eleven bridges were destroyed. Nearly 70,000 people had to be evacuated. Premier Douglas Campbell called for federal assistance and Canadian Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent declared a state of emergency. Soldiers from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry regiment staffed the relief effort for the duration of the flood. Total damages exceeded $1 billion.

Red River Floodway

To prevent future floods, the Red River Basin Investigation recommended a system of flood control measures, including a multiple diking systems and a floodway to divert the Red River around Winnipeg. The project, which included the Shellmouth Reservoir on the upper Assiniboine River, the Portage Diversion channel and the Fairford River Water Control Structure, cost $99,200,000 CAD. The Red River Floodway alone cost $62,700,000 CAD. Premier Duff Roblin reached a cost-sharing agreement with the federal government, with construction beginning in October 1962 and ending in 1968. For many years, both critics and supporters called the floodway "Duff's Ditch."

The 1997 Red River Flood resulted in water levels that took the existing floodway to the limits of its design. Soon after, various levels of government commissioned engineering studies for a major increase in flood protection for the City of Winnipeg. Work began in late 2005 under a provincial collective bargaining agreement and is slated to include modifications to rail and road crossings as well as transmission line spans, upgrades to inlet control structures and fire protection, increased elevation of existing dikes, and the widening of the entire floodway channel itself. Completion of the Red River Floodway Expansion is slated for late 2010 at a final cost of more than $665,000,000 CAD.

Winter recreational activities are popular in and around the Red River Floodway. Skiing at the Spring Hill Winter Sports Park, located on the northern section of the floodway, as well as cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are among the most popular activities.

Amalgamation as Unicity

The current city of Winnipeg was created when the City of Winnipeg Act was amended to form Unicity in 1971. The municipalities of St. James-Assiniboia, St. Boniface, Transcona, St. Vital, West Kildonan, East Kildonan, Tuxedo, Old Kildonan, North Kildonan, Fort Garry, and Charleswood were amalgamated with the Old City of Winnipeg.

Small portions of the city have since seceded, but the vast majority of the populated area of the city remains within one single municipality. In order to prevent urban sprawl, the city restricted development to inside an urban limit line and in most cases left several kilometres of open space between the municipal boundary and suburban developments. Surrounding municipalities have a combined population of less than 100,000.

Geography and climate

Winnipeg is situated just west of the longitudinal centre of Canada (also near the geographical centre of North America), and approximately 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the border with the United States. It is near the eastern edge of the Canadian Prairies, and about 70 kilometres (45 miles) south of Lake Winnipeg. It is situated in the floodplain of the Red River and is surrounded by rich agricultural land. Winnipeg is very isolated from other large population centres. Only one urban area with over 500,000 people (the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota) is located within 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) of Winnipeg.

Due to its location in the centre of a large land mass and its distance from both mountains and oceans, Winnipeg has an extreme continental climate. The city’s northerly location is also influential, though Winnipeg is located farther south than London or Amsterdam. The city is famous for its long, cold and snowy winters, and is often referred to as “Winterpeg.” According to Environment Canada, Winnipeg is the coldest city in the world with a population of over 600,000.[9]

In sharp contrast, summers are warm to hot and often quite humid with frequent thunderstorms. The summers in Winnipeg are similar to those experienced in cities in the Midwestern United States. Spring and autumn are short and highly variable seasons. In a typical year temperatures range from –35° C (-31° F) to 35° C (95° F), though lower and higher readings are occasionally observed. The weather is characterized by an abundance of sunshine throughout the year.


The City of Winnipeg is home to 633,451 residents, representing 55.16% of the total population of Manitoba.[10] Winnipeg's total annual growth rate has been 0.5 percent since 1971, while Calgary and Edmonton, formerly smaller cousins, have grown 4.5 percent and 3.0 percent per year, over the same period, so that each now has a metropolitan population of over 1.0 million. Winnipeg was briefly Canada's third-largest city (from 1910 until the 1930s), but, beginning in the 1970s, Winnipeg slowed in growth and by 2005 was only Canada's sixth largest city and ninth largest Census Metropolitan Area. As of the 2001 census:

  • 25.7 percent of the population were 19 or under
  • 29.4 percent were between 20 and 39
  • 31.6 percent were between 40 and 64
  • 13.3 percent were 65 and older[11]


The first elections for city government in Winnipeg were held shortly after the city was incorporated in 1873. On January 5, 1874, Francis Evans Cornish, former mayor of London, Ontario defeated Winnipeg Free Press editor and owner William F. Luxton by a margin of 383 votes to 179. There were only 382 eligible voters in the city at the time but property owners were allowed to vote in every civic poll in which they owned property. Up until the year 1955, mayors could only serve one term. City government consisted of 13 aldermen and one mayor. This number of elected officials remained constant until 1920.

The inaugural Council meeting took place on January 19, 1874 on the second floor of Bentley's, a newly constructed building on the northwest corner of Portage and Main.

Construction of a new City Hall commenced in 1875. The building proved to be a structural nightmare and eventually had to be held up by props and beams. The building was eventually demolished in favor of building a new City Hall in 1883.

A new City Hall building was constructed in 1886. It was a "Gingerbread" building built in Victorian grandeur and symbolized Winnipeg's coming of age at the end of the nineteenth century. The building stood for nearly 80 years. There was a plan to replace it around the World War I era, during the time that the Manitoba Legislature was under construction, but the war delayed that process. In 1958, falling plaster almost hit visitors to the City Hall building. The tower eventually had to be removed and in 1962 the whole building was torn down.

Winnipeg City Council embraced the idea of a "Civic Centre" as a replacement for the old city hall. The concept originally called for an administrative building and a council building with a courtyard in between. Eventually, a police headquarters and remand centre (The Public Safety Building) and parkade were added to the plans. The four buildings were completed in 1964 in the brutalist style, at a cost of $8.2 million. The Civic Centre and the Manitoba Centennial Centre were connected by underground tunnels in 1967.


Education is a provincial government responsibility in Canada. In Manitoba, education is governed principally by The Public Schools Act and The Education Administration Act as well as regulations made under both Acts. Rights and responsibilities of the Minister of Education, Citizenship and Youth and the rights and responsibilities of school boards, principals, teachers, parents and students are set out in the legislation.

There are two major universities, a community college, a private Mennonite college and a French college in St. Boniface.

The University of Manitoba is the largest university in the province of Manitoba, most comprehensive and the only research-intensive post-secondary educational institution. It was founded in 1877, making it Western Canada’s first university. The university is home to four colleges: St. John's College, St. Paul's College, St. Andrew's College, and University Colleges. In a typical year, the university has an enrollment of 24,542 undergraduate students and 3,021 graduate students. The university offers 82 degrees, 51 at the undergraduate level. Most academic units offer graduate studies programs leading to masters or doctoral degrees.

The University of Winnipeg received its charter in 1967 but its roots date back more than 130 years. The founding colleges were Manitoba College 1871, and Wesley College 1888, which merged to form United College in 1938.

Winnipeg is also home to numerous private schools, both religious and secular.


Winnipeg's Portage Ave.
Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg

Winnipeg is an important regional centre of commerce, industry, culture, finance, and government.

Approximately 375,000 people are employed in Winnipeg and the surrounding area. Winnipeg's largest employers are either government or government-funded institutions: the Province of Manitoba, the City of Winnipeg, the University of Manitoba, the Health Sciences Centre, the Casinos of Winnipeg, and Manitoba Hydro. Approximately 54,000 people or 14 percent of the work force are employed in the public sector. There are several large private sector employers, as well.

Winnipeg is the site of Canadian Forces Base Winnipeg and the headquarters of 1 Canadian Air Division, as well as home to several reserve units.

The Royal Canadian Mint located in eastern Winnipeg is where all circulating coinage in Canada is produced. The plant, established in 1975, also produces coins for many other countries in the world.

Winnipeg is also home to the National Microbiology Laboratory, Canada's front line in its response to SARS and one of only 15 Biosafety level 4 microbiology laboratories in the world.

In 2003 and 2004, Canadian Business magazine ranked Winnipeg in the top 10 cities for business. In 2006, Winnipeg was ranked by KPMG as one of the lowest cost locations to do business in Canada.[12] As with much of Western Canada, in 2007, Winnipeg experienced both a building and real estate boom. In May of 2007, the Winnipeg real Estate Board reported the best month in its 104 year old history in terms of sales and volume. [13]


For thousands of years the Aboriginals of the region used various networks of rivers across the province. The Forks became an early meeting place for the purpose of trade. Situated at the confluence of the Red and the Assiniboine in what is now downtown Winnipeg. It would prove to be the most important location for European and First Nations trade in Manitoba. The common method of transportation on these waterways during this time were often birch bark canoes generally used by the Aboriginals while European traders would tend to use York boats.

Winnipeg has had a public transit system since the 1880s, starting with horse-drawn streetcars. Electric streetcars from 1891 until 1955, and electric trolley buses from 1938 until 1970. Winnipeg Transit now operates entirely with diesel buses. For decades, the city has explored the idea of a rapid transit link, either bus or rail, from downtown to the University of Manitoba's suburban campus.

Winnipeg is unique among North American cities of its size in that it does not have freeways within the urban area. Beginning in 1958, the primarily suburban Metropolitan council proposed a system of freeways, including one that would have bisected the downtown area. Instead, a modern four-lane highway called the Perimeter Highway (a ring road) was built in 1969. It serves as an expressway around the city with interchanges and at-grade intersections that bypass the city entirely. It allows travellers on the Trans-Canada Highway to avoid the city and continue east or west with uninterrupted travel.

Budgetary constraints over the last three decades have resulted in an aging roadway system that is considered substandard compared to much of North America. Winnipeg is behind virtually all major metropolitan centres when it comes to adopted standards for road maintenance, grade separations, interchanges, road markings, traffic signals, construction zone traffic safety systems and general signage. Recently, this infrastructure deficit has reached crisis proportions prompting the city council to increase the infrastructure budget. The additional money is being spent to repair crumbling roads and eventually bring the system closer to standards of other North American jurisdictions. Winnipeg has also embarked on an ambitious wayfinding program erecting new signage at strategic downtown locations. The intention is to make it easier for travellers, specifically tourists to locate services and attractions.

The city is directly connected to the U.S. via Highway 75 (a northern continuation of I-29 and US 75). The highway runs 107 kilometres to Emerson, Manitoba, the 8th busiest Canada-USA border crossing.[14] Much of the commercial traffic that crosses in Emerson either originates from or is destined to Winnipeg. Inside the city, the highway is locally known as Pembina Highway.

Winnipeg's airport, recently renamed as Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport. The field was Canada's first international airport when it opened in 1928 as Stevenson Aerodrome.


The Exchange District Historical site is the original site of commerce in Winnipeg. After the railways came to Winnipeg, this area was developed with many fine warehouses, offices and banks. Many of these buildings are still standing and are unrivalled in Canada.[15]

On September 27, 1997, the original core of the city of Winnipeg, the Exchange District, was declared a National Historic Site by the federal Minister of Canadian Heritage. The Historic Sites and Monuments board recommended that Winnipeg's Exchange District be designated an historic district of national significance because it illustrates the city's key role as a centre of grain and wholesale trade, finance and manufacturing in two historically important periods in western development: between 1880 and 1900 when Winnipeg became the gateway to Canada's West; and between 1900 and 1913, when the city's growth made it the region's metropolis.

Arts and culture

This unique side-spar bridge, the Esplanade Riel, is built exclusively for pedestrians. A restaurant resides in the building at the spar's base.

Winnipeg is well known across the prairies for its arts and culture. Among the popular cultural institutions in the city are: the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG), the Manitoba Opera, the Manitoba Museum (formerly the Museum of Man and Nature), the Manitoba Theatre Centre, the Prairie Theatre Exchange, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. The city is home to several large festivals. The Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival is North America's second largest Fringe Festival, held every July. Other festivals include Folklorama, the Jazz Winnipeg Festival, the Winnipeg Folk Festival, the Winnipeg Music Festival, the Red River Exhibition, and Le Festival du Voyageur.

The Winnipeg Public Library is a public library network with 20 branches throughout the city, including the Millennium Library.

Winnipeg is well known for its murals. Unique to this city many buildings in the downtown area and extending into some suburban areas have murals painted on the sides of buildings. Although some are advertisements for shops and other businesses many are historical paintings, school art projects, or downtown beautification projects. Murals can also be found on several of the downtown traffic light switch posts.

Winnipeg also has a thriving film community, beginning as early as 1897 with the films of James Freer to the production of local independent films of today, such as those by Guy Maddin. It has also supported a number of Hollywood productions. Several locally-produced and national television dramas have also been shot in Winnipeg. The National Film Board of Canada and the Winnipeg Film Group have produced numerous award-winning films. Additionally, there are several TV and Film production companies in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg is also associated with various music acts. Among the most notable are Neil Young, The Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Venetian Snares, Chantal Kreviazuk, Bif Naked, The Waking Eyes, Jet Set Satellite, the New Meanies, Propagandhi, The Weakerthans, The Perpetrators, Crash Test Dummies, The Duhks, and many more.


  • Winnipeg was the inspiration for Winnie-the-Pooh. Officer (Lieutenant Harry Colebourn) of the Fort Garry Horse cavalry regiment was en route to his embarkation point for the front lines of World War I and named a bear after the regiment's home town of Winnipeg. In 1924, on an excursion to the London Zoo with neighbor children, Christopher Robin Milne, son of author A. A. Milne, was introduced to Winnie for the first time.
  • An E.H. Shepard painting of "Winnie the Pooh" is the only known oil painting of Winnipeg’s famous bear cub. It was purchased at an auction for $285,000 in London, England late in 2000. The painting is displayed in the Pavilion Gallery in Assiniboine Park.
  • In 2004, Winnipeg had the fourth highest overall crime rate among Canadian Census Metropolitan Area cities listed with 12,167 Criminal Code of Canada offences per 100,000 population. Only Regina, Saskatoon, and Abbotsford had higher crime rates. Winnipeg had the highest rate among centres with populations greater than 500,000.[16] The crime rate was 50% higher than that of Calgary, Alberta and more than double the rate for Toronto.
  • In 2005, Statistics Canada shows Manitoba had the highest decline of overall crime in Canada at nearly 8%. Winnipeg dropped from having the highest rate of murder per capita in the country. That distinction now belongs to Edmonton. Manitoba did continue to lead all other provinces in auto thefts, almost all of it centered in Winnipeg.[17]
  • Winnipeg hosted the Pan-American Games in 1967 and 1999, the only city other than Mexico City to have hosted the event twice.
  • Winnipeg has also achieved some acclaim for being the "Slurpee Capital of the World," since 1999, as its residents have a year-round penchant for the icy slush served in convenience stores.[18]


  1. 1.0 1.1 [1] Population and dwelling counts, for Canada and census subdivisions (municipalities), 2006 and 2001 censuses - 100% data Statistics Canada, 2006 Census of Population. accessdate 2007-03-13
  2. [2] Winnipeg Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) with census subdivision (municipal) population breakdowns. Statistics Canada, 2006 Census of Population accessdate 2007-03-13
  3. [3] USGS Survey
  4. [4] Population and dwelling counts, for census metropolitan areas (ALL), 2006 and 2001 censuses - 100% data. Statistics Canada, 2006 Census of Population. 2007-03-13 accessdate 2007-03-13
  5. [5] Winnipeg History. Imperial Oil website accessdate 2007-01-27
  6. [6] Winnipeg History. City of Winnipeg accessdate 2007-01-27
  7. Lake Winnipeg. World Lake Database
  8. [7] World War II. Canadawiki accessdate 2007-05-16
  9. [8] Weather Winners WebSite Environment Canada accessdate 2007-02-05
  10. [9] City of Winnipeg Community Highlights. Statistics Canada, 2006 Census of Population 2007-03-13 accessdate 2007-03-13
  11. [10] City of Winnipeg Community Highlights. Statistics Canada, 2001 Census of Population, catalogue no. 93F0053XIE. 2005-11-30 accessdate 2007-03-13
  12. [11] Winnipeg Advantages. Destination Winnipeg accessdate 2007-06-09
  13. [12] Bidders go Big. Winnipeg Free Press accessdate 2007-06-10
  14. [13] North American Inland Ports. NAIPN accessdate 2007-02-24
  15. Archiseek: Winnipeg
  16. Winnipeg Crime rate - Statistics Canada.
  17. Neighbourhood Characteristics and the Distribution of Crime in Winnipeg - Statistics Canada Extracted November 29, 2005
  18. [14]

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Bumsted, J.M. The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919: An Illustrated History. Watson and Dwyer, 1996. ISBN 978-0920486405
  • Cook, Ramsay. The Politics of John W. Dafoe and the Free Press. University of Toronto Press, 1963. ISBN 0802051197
  • Grayson, J. P., and L. M. Grayson, "The Social Base of Interwar Political Unrest in Urban Alberta." Canadian Journal of Political Science 7 (1974): 289-313.
  • McNaught, Kenneth. A Prophet in Politics: A Biography of J. S. Woodsworth. Introduction. Allen Mills, 2001. ISBN 0802084273
  • Penner, Norman (ed.), Winnipeg 1919: The Strikers' Own History of the Winnipeg General Strike. Toronto: 1973.
  • Taylor, K. W. "Voting in Winnipeg During the Depression" Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 19 (2) (1982).
  • Taylor, K. W., and Nelson Wiseman, "Class and Ethnic Voting in Winnipeg: The Case of 1941." Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 14 (1977): 174-187.
  • Wiseman, Nelson and K. W. Taylor, "Class and Ethnic Voting in Winnipeg During the Cold War." Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 16: (1979): 60-76.
  • Wiseman, Nelson and K. W. Taylor, "Ethnic vs Class Voting: the Case of Winnipeg, 1945." Canadian Journal of Political Science 7 (1974): 314-328.

External links

All links retrieved May 17, 2023.


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