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City of Sarnia
Walking trail next to the St. Clair River in Sarnia.
Motto: Sarnia Semper
(Latin for "Sarnia Always")
Location of Sarnia, Ontario
Country Canada
Province Ontario
County Lambton
Established as The Rapids
Renamed Port Sarnia in 1836
 - City Mayor Mike Bradley
 - Governing Body Sarnia City Council
 - MPs Pat Davidson (CPC)
 - MPPs Bob Bailey (OPC)
 - City 164.63 km2 (63.6 sq mi)
Elevation 191 m (627 ft)
Population (2006)
 - City 71,419
 Density 433.8/km2 (1,123.5/sq mi)
 Metro 88,793
 - Metro Density 111/km2 (287.5/sq mi)
Postal code span N7S, N7T
Website City of Sarnia website

Sarnia is a city in Southern (Southwestern) Ontario, Canada (city population 71,419, census area population 88,793, in 2006). It is the largest city on Lake Huron and is located where the upper Great Lakes empty into the St. Clair River.

The city's natural harbour first attracted the French explorer La Salle, who named the site "The Rapids". The name "Sarnia" was the Latin name for Guernsey in the Channel Islands just off the coast of Normandy, France. The Sarnia port is still an important centre for lake freighters and "salties" carrying cargoes of grain and petroleum products. It is the largest community in Lambton County.

The aforementioned natural port and the salt caverns that exist in the surrounding areas, coupled with the oil discovered in nearby Oil Springs lead to the massive growth of the petroleum industry in this area. Since Oil Springs was the first place in North America to commercially drill for oil, the knowledge that was acquired there and strengthened in Sarnia led to Sarnians traveling the world teaching other nations how to drill for oil. What is now known as "Chemical Valley", located downriver of downtown Sarnia, once adorned the back of the Canadian ten-dollar bill.

Since 1938, Sarnia has been the Canadian side of Ontario's second busiest U.S.–Canada border crossing (after Windsor-Detroit). The Blue Water Bridge (also known as the "Sarnia Bridge")[citation needed] links Sarnia's neighbouring village of Point Edward to the city of Port Huron, Michigan.



From "The Rapids" to "Port Sarnia" to "Sarnia", the city has undergone many changes—from an Indian hunting ground to an up-and-coming settlement and an industrial centre. In 1812, Sir John Colborne was appointed Governor of the Isle of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands. In 1829, the area and Townships of Sarnia and Moore were surveyed by Boswell Mount, and named by Sir John Colborne.

Previously thought to be the Roman name for the Isle of Guernsey, it has now been found that the name Sarnia has a Celtic origin.

In 1835, Colborne paid his first visit to what is now the city of Sarnia, then known as The Rapids. Previous to his visit, the villagers had decided that a change of name was necessary, but found it impossible to agree on a new name. The English settlers favoured the name "Buenos Aires" and the Scottish "New Glasgow". To break the deadlock, Sir John Colborne suggested Port Sarnia and on January 4, 1836, the name was formally adopted by a vote of 26 to 16.

A year previous to the adoption of the name Port Sarnia, the village was composed of 44 taxpayers, 9 frame houses, 4 log houses, 2 brick dwellings, 2 taverns and 3 stores. An Act to incorporate the Town of Sarnia was assented to on June 19, 1856. The name Port Sarnia was officially changed Sarnia effective January 1, 1857. The population of the Town was mentioned in the Act at upwards of 1,000 inhabitants and there were three wards.

An Act to Incorporate the City of Sarnia was assented to on April 20, 1914, and Sarnia officially became a city as of May 7, 1914. This day was marked by the visit of Canada’s Governor General, H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught, and his daughter Princess Patricia. It was also on this day that Sarnia adopted the title of "The Imperial City". The population of the city was mentioned at 10,985 in the Act, and there were six wards.

On January 1, 1991, Sarnia and the neighbouring town of Clearwater were amalgamated as the new city of Sarnia-Clearwater. The amalgamation was originally slated to include the village of Point Edward, although that village's residents resisted and were eventually permitted to remain independent of the city. On January 1, 1992, the city reverted to the name Sarnia.


The early growth of Sarnia was stimulated by the wealth of adjoining stands of timber, by the discovery of oil nearby and by the arrival of The Great Western Railway in 1858 and the Grand Trunk Railway in 1859. These rail lines were later linked directly to the United States by the opening of a rail tunnel under the St. Clair River at Sarnia in 1889. A convenient link for vehicular traffic was provided when the Bluewater Bridge was opened in 1938.

For many years Alexander Mackenzie, who later became the second Prime Minister of Canada, was an editor of the Sarnia Observer. He had set off to Sarnia during the year of 1845, when he had met a lord's daughter and set up a business. He died in Toronto in 1892, aged 70, from a stroke related to a fall and was buried in Sarnia.

Sarnia became a prominent deep water port during the 1920s when many of the shipping facilities that exist today were constructed, including the winter harbour, the elevator slip and the large grain elevators.

While there had been a petroleum industry in the Sarnia area since the mid-1800s, the establishment of the Polymer Corporation in 1942 to manufacture synthetic rubber during World War II was the first step in establishing Sarnia as a major petrochemical centre.


The city includes the neighbourhoods of Blackwell, Brights Grove, Bunyan, Fourth Line, Froomfield, Heritage Park, Lucasville, Mandaumin, Mitton Village, Robertsville, Rosedale, Schreveshire, Schropshire, Sherwood Village, Wiltshire, Twin Lakes and Vyner.


The climate of Sarnia is considered a mild climate for Canadian standards. Winters are cool but not very cold and summers are warm to hot and occasionally humid. Lake Huron can create large temperature differences within the city in spring and early summer. Humidex readings can be quite high at times from late May to late September. Thunderstorms can become quite severe from April to September. Destructive weather is very rare in the area but has occurred, such as the tornado event of 1953.

Climate data for Sarnia
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C 15 19.4 25.6 31.2 32.9 39.1 37.3 37.9 34.4 29.4 23.3 18
Average high °C -1.7 -0.6 4.8 11.4 18.3 23.6 26.3 25.3 21.3 14.7 7.6 1.1 12.7
Average low °C -8.9 -8.3 -3.5 1.5 6.9 12.4 15.5 14.8 10.7 5.1 0.2 -5.6 3.4
Record low °C -28.9 -26.9 -25.6 -10 -3 -1.1 6.1 1.2 -1.6 -8.9 -12.8 -23.6
Precipitation mm 50.1 47.7 62.6 75.4 69.9 85.6 74.1 77.1 94 66 76.4 68 846.8
Record high °F 59 67 78 88 91 102 99 100 94 85 74 64
Average high °F 28.9 31.0 40.6 52.5 64.9 74.5 79.3 77.5 70.3 58.8 45.7 34.0 54.9
Average low °F 16.0 17.1 25.7 34.7 44.4 54.3 59.9 58.6 51.3 41.2 32.4 21.9 38.1
Record low °F -20 -16 -14 14 27 30 43 34 29 16 9 -10
Precipitation inches 1.97 1.85 2.46 2.97 2.75 3.37 2.92 3.04 3.70 2.60 3.00 2.68 33.34
Source: Environment Canada[1] February 2009


The growth of the city received a major boost when North America's first oil discovery was made at nearby Oil Springs, Ontario in the 1850s. In 1938, the Blue Water Bridge was built to join Sarnia with Port Huron, Michigan; in 1997, the bridge was twinned. Today linking Ontario Highway 402 with the US I-94 and I-69, the bridge is one of the most important gateways on the north/south truck routes. This bridge to the United States had been preceded by the construction of the St. Clair tunnel in 1891—the first rail tunnel ever to pass under a river. The tunnel was an engineering marvel in its day, achieved through the development of original techniques for excavating in a compressed air environment.

Polymer Rubber Corporation plant, October 1943

When World War II threatened tropical sources of natural latex for rubber, Sarnia was selected as the site to spearhead development of synthetic petroleum-based rubbers for war materials, and Polymer corporation was built by Dow Chemical at the request of the Government of Canada.[2] Large pipelines bring Alberta oil to Sarnia, where oil refining and petrochemical production have become mainstays of the city's economy. Shell Canada, Imperial Oil, and Suncor Energy (Sunoco) operate refineries in Sarnia. Large salt beds found under the city became a source of chlorine and another significant ingredient in the success of the "Chemical Valley". Chemical companies operating in Sarnia include NOVA Chemicals, Bayer (Lanxess and H.C. Starck), Imperial Oil, Dow Chemical, Royal Group Technologies, Cabot Corporation and Ethyl Corporation. Dow has announced plans to leave the area permanently by the end of 2008.

Lanxess is the sole producer of approved food-grade butyl rubber, which is used to make chewing gum, and its Sarnia facility is the only one which currently makes the material.[3]

While industry expanded south along the St. Clair, Sarnia's population tended to move out eastward along the Lake Huron shoreline. The sandy fresh water beaches are a popular tourist attraction, while the sheltered harbour houses marinas for recreational sailing. Since 1925, the 400 km Mackinac race from Sarnia/Port Huron to Mackinac Island, at the north end of the lake, has been the highlight of the sailing season, drawing more than 3000 sailors each year.


Film industry

Portions of several films have been shot in Sarnia. Scenes from the 1994 film Renaissance Man and the 2000 film Bless the Child were both filmed at the Blue Water Bridge.

In 2002, Michael Moore filmed segments of his documentary Bowling for Columbine in Sarnia. He interviewed residents outside the local Taco Bell, the plaza beside it, the Famous Players' Lambton 9 movie theater and at a gun show in nearby Point Edward. In the summer of 2004 Sarnia mayor Mike Bradley (who was also interviewed in the film), offered to name Moore an honorary citizen of Sarnia. In his 2007 film Sicko, Michael Moore returned to Sarnia to film and interview his relatives at Sears and in the Marina restaurant at the former St. Clair Parkway site.[4][5]


Sarnia City Council consists of nine elected members, including the Mayor, four City and County Council members, and four City Council members. City and County Council members and the Mayor are elected to serve on both the City Council and the Lambton County Council, while City Councillors serve on Sarnia's City Council only. All Council members are elected for four year terms.

The current mayor, Mike Bradley, has held the position since 1988 and is the longest-serving mayor in the city's history. Past mayors of the city have included Andy Brandt, Marceil Saddy and Thomas George Johnston.

Right now, the foursome of Sarnia City and County Councillors are Dave Boushy, Jim Foubister, Bev MacDougall, and Anne Marie Gillis. The quartet of Sarnia City Councillors presently representing citizens includes Andy Bruziewicz, Jon McEachran, Mike Kelch, and Terry Burrell.

At the provincial level, Sarnia is located within the Sarnia—Lambton provincial electoral district which is currently represented by Bob Bailey, a member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. At the federal level, Sarnia is located within the Sarnia—Lambton federal electoral district which is currently represented by Patricia Davidson of the Conservative Party of Canada.


The Lambton Kent District School Board is responsible for the 13 elementary and five secondary public schools (Northern Collegiate Institute & Vocational School, Alexander MacKenzie Secondary School, Sarnia Collegiate Institute & Technical School, Lambton Central Collegiate & Vocational Institute and St. Clair Secondary School) located within Sarnia's boundaries.

The St. Clair Catholic District School Board is responsible for the city's seven elementary and two secondary Catholic schools (St. Christopher's and St. Patrick's). Both boards also provide French immersion education.

The Conseil scolaire de district des écoles catholiques de Sud-Ouest represents the two French Catholic schools in the city, Saint-François-Xavier and Saint-Thomas-d'Aquin, while the Conseil Scolaire de District du Centre Sud-Ouest operates two French public schools, the elementary École Les Rapides and the secondary École Secondaire Franco-Jeunesse.

There are also three independent Christian elementary schools in Sarnia: Sarnia Christian School, Temple Christian Academy and Bluewater Lighthouse Christian Academy. A new Christian highschool, Patmos College, was opened in September 2007.

Lambton College is one of Ontario's 21 colleges of applied arts and technology. It has a full time enrollment of 2,500 and a part-time enrolment of about 8,000. It is the city's only post-secondary school.

In 2005, the University of Western Ontario opened a research and development park in Sarnia to work on a variety of research innovations.



Some stations from Windsor, London, Detroit, and The Thumb can also he heard in the region.


Sarnia does not have any originating television stations of its own, although the city does have rebroadcasters of several television stations originating in other markets, as well as being able to directly receive stations from Windsor, Detroit and London.

Sarnia has a community channel, TV Cogeco, on Cogeco Cable.


The city's main daily newspaper is the Sarnia Observer, owned by Osprey Media. The community publications Sarnia This Week, Lambton County Smart Shopper and Business Trends are owned by Bowes Publishing. The monthly business oriented newspaper First Monday is owned by Huron Web Printing and Graphics.


Sarnia features a monthly arts and entertainment magazine called, Fix Magazine.

Weather information

Environment Canada's local weather recording can be heard by phoning (519) 464-5121. Environment Canada also has a 24 hour broadcast that can be heard over Weather Radios and many two-way radios and scanners.


Sarnia Transit provides public transportation within the City of Sarnia. This includes conventional bus transit; transportation of people with disabilities (Care-A-Van) ; transportation support for major events; charter services.

Air transport in Sarnia is served by Sarnia (Chris Hadfield) Airport. Air Canada Jazz offers airline service from that airport to Toronto.

Sarnia is also served by private cab companies, Canadian Red Cross and Lambton Elderly Outreach.

Sarnia is also one of the two southern anchors of the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor for VIA Rail


During the Christmas season, the city of Sarnia hosts the annual Celebration of Lights in Centennial Park. It was originally created by Dr. Wills Rawana and a committee whom were funded through the Centre by the Bay and Telus, however, both organizations are no longer affiliated with the event. As of 2006, The St. Clair Parkway has been shut down and is no longer involved with the event either. Rogers Communications now helps with sponsorship.

Sarnia Bayfest, which was preceded by the "Festival by the Bay", is an annual concert festival that featured rock bands, typically during the third weekend of July. The festival has included big name acts such as Bon Jovi, The Black Crowes, Mötley Crüe, Kiss, Kid Rock, Aerosmith, Billy Talent, Def Leppard, Our Lady Peace, David Lee Roth, The Foo Fighters, The Guess Who, Blink 182, Sum 41, ZZ Top, Collective Soul, among many others. Bayfest has since added Country and Western acts as it headlined Gretchen Wilson, Keith Urban and Brooks and Dunn with great success.

Bayfest 2009 took place on two weekends in July. The Festival included a Country weekend and Rock weekend.

Sarnia is home to the Sarnia Sting, an Ontario Hockey League team. Dino Ciccarelli, a former NHL player, is a part owner of the team.

Famous people


1996 Population: 72,738
2001 Population: 70,876
2006 Population: 71,419

Census Data

According to the 2006 Statistics Canada Census:

  • Population: 71,419
  • % Change (2001–2006): +0.8%
  • Median Age: 43.2
  • Median Income (persons over 15) [Ontario]: $26,971 [$27,258]
  • Median Income (all census families) [Ontario]: $69,731 [$69,156]
  • Median Income (couple households - with children) [Ontario]: $94,741 [$87,960]
  • Dwellings: 31,610
  • Average value of owned dwelling [Ontario]: $175,214 [$297,479]
  • Density (persons per km2): 433.8
  • Area (km2): 164.63


External links

Coordinates: 42°58′N 82°24′W / 42.967°N 82.4°W / 42.967; -82.4


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