Durham Region


The Regional Municipality of Durham, now known simply as “Durham Region”, is commonly viewed as the eastern anchor of both the Greater Toronto Area and the Golden Horseshoe.  It is located approximately 45 minutes east of Toronto and is considered a suburb to the city. The area of Durham region is 2, 523 sq km. (975 sq mi.), and has a population of approximately 562,000 people with a density of 222 people per sq km (576 p/sq mi). Durham Region is the fastest growing urban center in all of Ontario.

During the 1960’s, the government of Ontario decided to create one regional government combining the many smaller ones thus, on Jan 1, 1974 the “Oshawa-Centred Region” was established.  It is comprised of 8 municipalities; the City of Pickering, Town of Ajax, Town of Whitby, City of Oshawa, Municipality of Clarington, Township of Uxbridge, Township of Scugog and the Township of Brock. Within the 8 municipalities are 105 small towns, villages and hamlets. It is also home to one Native reserve, the Mississaugas of Scugog Island. Durham Region encompasses areas that were previously part of York and Durham Counties, the United Counties of Northumberland, and Darlington/Clark County.

Major employers in the Region include General Motors of Canada, Ontario Power Generation, Seventh Day Adventist Headquarters, Lakeridge Health Corporation, Schneider Meats, Darlington Nuclear Power Station, Liquor Control Board and Sobeys Warehouse, Durham District School Board (total of 42 schools and 16 Catholic schools), Durham College, and University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

Durham Region is a major centre of the Canadian automobile industry. Oshawa is the Canadian headquarters of General Motors and home of GM’s largest plant in North America. In addition, the Canadian headquarters of both BMW and Volkswagen are located in the Region. The first automobile company in Canada was the McLaughlin Carriage Company (which grew into GM), founded in 1876 by Col. Robert Samuel McLaughlin. The lavish home of McLaughlin, Parkwood Estate, is a National Historic Site, and has been featured in many movies including Studio 54, Chicago, and X-Men.

The Region also is home to one of Canada’s newest universities, University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT -2002).  The 400 acre Oshawa campus is shared with Durham College and a satellite of Trent University (Peterborough). Durham College also has a satellite campus in Whitby. UOIT is currently Ontario’s fastest growing university and expected to grow at enormous rates over the next few years. UOIT offers a range of under-graduate and graduate programs in Science, Engineering, Health and Information Technology. Trent University also offers a small full-time program on the same campus and offers a number of elective courses to undergraduate students at UOIT.


Whitby was the location of Camp X, a secret spy training facility established during the Second World War by Sir William Stephenson.  A movie was made of his life and work called “The Man Called Intrepid”.

In 1822, the first “colonization road” of the region was constructed.  It was a north-south road that followed the Native trail called Nonquon. It started at the harbor of Lake Ontario and travelled north up to Lake Scugog.  That road is known today as Simcoe Street.

The intersection where Simcoe Street meets with Kingston Road became the “four corners of Oshawa and was called Skae’s Corner’s. It was named after the owner of the first general store in the area in 1836.  Today, that corner remains as the centre of the city.

In 1842 the Canadian post office officially adopted the Native name “Oshawa,” which means “where we must leave our canoes.” In Ojibwa the translation is “place of crossing over.” 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 original city motto was “The City in Motion”.  In 2006 it was changed to “Prepare to be Amazed”.

Ajax is named after a British Naval Battle Ship from WWII, the HMS Ajax.  It makes the trip across the ocean to commemorate every new mayor.

In 1941 the area now known as Ajax consisted only of a large manufacturing plant called Defence Industries Ltd. It was 12 sq km, produced 40 million ammunition shells for WWII and employed over 9,000 people who travelled from all over Canada for the work.  The town grew around the plant to provide for the needs of the employees.  They built roads, a school for their 600 kids, railroads and a water and sewage treatment plant; however, even with all these people in the town there was not a single store for shopping until the 1970’s when the first mall was built.

The first church in the region was built in 1820 in Uxbridge.  It was the “Friends Meeting Place” built and used by the Quakers. It is the oldest building in all of Durham and is still standing.

Oshawa is home to Windfields Farm, a thoroughbred horse breeding operation and birthplace of Canada’s most famous racehorse, Northern Dancer

R.S. McLaughlin’s (GM), brother John J. was the inventor of Ginger Ale and the founder of Canada Dry.

Famous people, movies and TV shows from the region:

Neil Young, Laura Secord, Mike Holmes, Joseph Atkinson (T.O. Star),

Lucy Maude Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables),

Road to Avonlea, Hawkeye, Paradise Falls, Lives of the Saints,

Prancer Returns, Dead Zone, Fly Away Home, Last of the Mohicans, Serendipity, Stupids (Tom Arnold) and Driven (Sly Stallone) to name just a few.