Port Colborne

Port Colborne
City (lower-tier)
City of Port Colborne

Former bank building on West Street in Port Colborne[2]

Location of Port Colborne in the Niagara Region
Port Colborne

Location in southern Ontario

Coordinates: 42°53′N 79°15′W / 42.883°N 79.250°W / 42.883; -79.250Coordinates: 42°53′N 79°15′W / 42.883°N 79.250°W / 42.883; -79.250
Country  Canada
Province  Ontario
Region Niagara
Settled 1830s
Incorporated 1870 (village)
  1966 (city)
  Mayor John Maloney
  MP Vance Badawey (Liberal)
  MPP Cindy Forster (NDP)
  Land 121.97 km2 (47.09 sq mi)
Elevation[4] 175.30 m (575.13 ft)
Population (2011)[3]
  Total 18,424
  Density 151.1/km2 (391/sq mi)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
  Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Area code(s) 905, 289, 365
Website city.portcolborne.on.ca

Port Colborne (2011 population 18,424) is a city on Lake Erie, at the southern end of the Welland Canal, in the Niagara Region of southern Ontario, Canada. The original settlement, known as Gravelly Bay, dates from 1832 [5] and was renamed after Sir John Colborne, a British war hero and the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada at the time of the opening of the (new) southern terminus of the First Welland Canal in 1833.


In pre-colonial times, the Neutral Indians lived in the area, due in part to the ready availability of flint and chert from outcroppings on the Onondaga Escarpment.[6] This advantage was diminished by the introduction of firearms by European traders, and they were driven out by the Iroquois around 1650 as part of the Beaver Wars.

Originally called Gravelly Bay, after the shallow, bedrock-floored bay upon which it sits, the modern City of Port Colborne traces its roots back to the United Empire Loyalist settlements that grew up in the area following the American Revolution. Growth became focused around the southern terminus of the Welland Canal after it was extended to reach Lake Erie in 1833. As the population rose, Port Colborne was incorporated as a village in 1870, became a town in 1918, merged with the neighbouring Village of Humberstone in 1952, and was re-incorporated as a city in 1966. In 1970, Niagara Region municipal restructuring added Humberstone Township, further expanding the city.[7][8]

Sometime during the 1880s, American tourists from the Southern states began building vacation homes on the lakeshore of the Western edge of the town. Before long, an entire gated community of vacationers from the South called Port Colborne their home during the summer months.[9] Today, the picturesque street of Tennessee Avenue is still home to many of these original vacation homes and buildings, as well as the original stone and wrought iron resort gates. The street boasts some immaculately maintained examples of late 19th and early 20th century Southern architecture.

Port Colborne was one of the hardest hit communities during the Blizzard of 1977. Thousands of people were stranded when the city was paralyzed during the storm, and the incident remains one of significance to the local population.[10]


Maritime commerce, including supplying goods to the camps for the labourers who worked on the first canal, ship repair and the provisioning trade, was, and still is, an important part of Port Colborne's economy. Like other cities in the region, Port Colborne was a heavily industrial city throughout most of the early 20th century. A grain elevator, two modern flour mills,[11][12] an INCO nickel refinery,[13] a cement plant operated by Port Colborne Canada Cement, and a blast furnace operated by Algoma Steel were all major employers. However, several of these operations have closed over the past thirty years, while those companies that remain now employ significantly fewer residents due to modernization and cutbacks.

In more recent years, Port Colborne has been successful attracting new industry, such as the agro-business operations of Casco Inc.[14] and Jungbunzlauer,[15] which process corn into products such as sweeteners and citric acid. However, the economy has gradually shifted towards tourism and recreation, taking advantage of the scenic beauty of the lakeshore.

The International Nickel Company (now Vale) has long been one of the city's main employers, since the opening of a refinery in 1918. Taking advantage of inexpensive hydroelectricity from generating stations at nearby Niagara Falls, the refinery produced electro-refined nickel for the war effort, and grew to employ over 2,000 workers by the 1950s. Cutbacks in operations and increasing factory automation have reduced the workforce to its present-day total of 190.[16]

Marine Recycling Corporation is a ship recycling firm located next to the Welland Canal at Gravelly Bay and operating since the 1970s.

Environmental concerns

Emissions from Inco's base metal refinery, closed in 1984, resulted in soils contaminated with concentrations of nickel, copper and cobalt above the Ontario Ministry of the Environment's "soil remediation criteria."[17] However, two studies, one in 1997 and another in 1999 found "[no] adverse health effects which may have resulted from environmental exposures."[17] After a series of public meetings between the City, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) and Inco, it was decided to perform a Community-Based Risk Assessment, a process designed to determine whether the contamination poses a threat to the current, past, or future residents of Port Colborne, and what Inco must do to clean up the contaminated areas.[18]

Some residents launched a Class-Action Lawsuit against Inco in 2001[19][20] seeking $750 million in damages to health, property value, and quality-of-life. Although this suit failed to be certified in 2002,[21][22] it was subsequently modified to limit the class, and focus solely on devaluation of property[23] and was certified on appeal on November 18, 2005.[24][25] A timeline of the case has been written from the point of view of the plaintiffs.[26]

On July 6, 2010, the Ontario Supreme Court sided with the residents and awarded more than 7,000 households in Port Colborne a total of $36 million. Households in the Rodney Street area, in the shadow of the nickel refinery, were each awarded $23,000 while those living on the east and west sides of Port Colborne were each awarded $9,000 and $2,500 respectively.[27] Vale appealed the ruling to the Ontario Court of Appeal, who found in 2010 that the plaintiff had not provided sufficient evidence of economic harm, raising the legal burden of proof but not invalidating Rylands v Fletcher as precedent law.[28][29][30] In April 2012 the Supreme Court of Canada sided with Vale and denied the residents the awarded compensation.[31][32] Court costs in the amount of CAD$1,766,000 were awarded the defendant by Henderson, J.[26]


Climate data for Port Colborne (1981−2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.0
Average high °C (°F) −0.4
Daily mean °C (°F) −3.7
Average low °C (°F) −6.9
Record low °C (°F) −26
Average precipitation mm (inches) 73.1
Average rainfall mm (inches) 32.5
Average snowfall cm (inches) 40.5
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm) 15.2 11.1 12.5 13.8 13.3 11.2 10.6 10.3 11.8 13.4 15.1 14.9 153.2
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 6.2 5.3 8.7 13.2 13.3 11.2 10.6 10.3 11.8 13.4 13.9 9.0 127.1
Average snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm) 9.6 6.6 4.5 1.4 0.08 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.12 1.9 7.1 31.3
Source: Environment Canada.[4]


Communities within the city include:


Port Colborne hosts the annual Canal Days festival in recognition of the important role played by the Welland Canal in the history of the city. Originating as a small fair held at the Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum, it has grown to feature live music, an antique car show, fireworks, tall ships, a kite festival, and food from around the globe. The festival also highlights the presence of Lock 8, which at 1,380 ft (420 m), is one of the world's longest canal locks.[33] The lock is intended as a guard to keep the water level on the Welland Canal constant independent of weather on the lake. Hence the ships are only raised or lowered one to four feet depending on the current water level in Lake Erie. Much of the festival centres around West St., which runs along the side of the canal, and has an excellent view of the Clarence St. Bridge, built in 1929. one of very few remaining lift bridges on the canal.

The Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum, located near the centre of town, is a resource for local history and archival research. In addition to a collection of historic buildings and artifacts, it opened up the "Marie Semley Research Wing" to foster research into local history, named to commemorate the long-standing efforts of a local resident who devoted hours to the museum.

The community features theatre venues with the professional Showboat Festival Theatre and the amateur Port Colborne Operatic Society.[34] The company has been presenting annual productions since its inception in 1945.

Port Colborne is home to the Port Colborne Lions Club. Chartered in 1922, the club is one of the worlds oldest Lions Clubs, and one of Canada's oldest service clubs in continuous operation.[35] The club is still active within the community, hosting many yearly events including an annual Lions Club Carnival in the summer.[36]

Kinnear House is a local heritage property associated with the jurist Helen Kinnear, the first woman in Canada to be appointed judge by the federal government, or to appear as counsel before the Supreme Court.

A curiosity in town is the "incredible shrinking mill" which is an optical illusion produced when viewing the federal grain elevator. When travelling east on Lakeshore Road, the mill appears to move farther away as one drives closer.[37]


There are two high schools in Port Colborne, Port Colborne High School (commonly called Port High) and the Lakeshore Catholic High School (formerly a public high school called Lockview Park Secondary School). Lockview closed in 1987.


Census Population
1871 1,500
1901 1,253
1911 1,624
1921 3,415
1931 6,503
1941 6,928
1951 8,275
1961 14,886
1971 21,420
1981 19,225
1991 18,766
2001 18,450
2006 18,599
2011 18,424
Canada census – Port Colborne community profile
2011 2006
Population: 18,424 (-0.9% from 2006) 18,599 (+0.8% from 2001)
Land area: 121.97 km2 (47.09 sq mi) 121.97 km2 (47.09 sq mi)
Population density: 151.1/km2 (391/sq mi) 152.5/km2 (395/sq mi)
Median age: 47.5 (M: 46.4, F: 48.6) 44.9 (M: 43.5, F: 46.1)
Total private dwellings: 10,083 8,519
Median household income: $49,404
References: 2011[38] 2006[39]
N/A = Data Not available

Notable people


  1. index.HTM
  2. index.HTM
  3. 1 2 "Port Colborne, Ontario (Code 3526011) census profile". 2011 Census of Population. Statistics Canada. Retrieved 2012-08-20.
  4. 1 2 "Port Colborne, Ontario". Canadian Climate Normals 1981–2010. Environment Canada. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  5. Port Colborne - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  6. "Huron Indians" - The Catholic Encyclopedia
  7. index.HTM
  8. City of Port Colborne: History.
  9. "City of Port Colborne • History". portcolborne.ca. Retrieved 2016-09-12.
  10. ADM.
  11. Robin Hood.
  12. Vale INCO.
  13. Casco Inc.
  14. Jungbunzlauer.
  15. Vale Inco - Media Kit
  16. 1 2 Government of Ontario, Canada / Gouvernement de l'Ontario, Canada
  17. City of Port Colborne
  18. Jaringan Advokasi Tambang
  19. Koskie Minsky LLP
  20. Koskie Minsky LLP
  21. "Trouble for Toxic Torts as Class Actions" Morris, Environmental Law Centre
  22. hazmatmag summary as at February 2004
  23. Koskie Minsky LLP
  24. "Pearson v. Inco Ltd., 2005 CanLII 42474 (ON CA)"
  25. 1 2 Koskie Minsky LLP: "Smith v. Inco Ltd."
  26. 8 Aug 2010: "Vale appeals $36-million judgment"
  27. "Ontario Court of Appeal overturns trial decision in Smith v Inco"
  28. "Case Law Update: Smith v Inco Limited"
  29. "No Harm, No Nuisance - The Ontario Court of Appeal Lays Out What Will, and Will Not, Fly in Proving Nuisance: Smith v. Inco Limited"
  30. "Who pays when your well is sucked dry and your home is contaminated?"
  31. "Supreme Court Will Not Hear Appeal of Smith v. Inco"
  32. Offshore Blue - The Welland Canal & St Lawrence Seaway
  33. Port Colborne Operatic Society, Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada
  34. Niagara This Week - 90 Years Strong And We Aren't Lion
  35. The Port Colborne Lions Club 2013 Carnival
  36. City Of Port Colborne - Visiting Here - The Incredible Shrinking Mill
  37. "2011 Community Profiles". Canada 2011 Census. Statistics Canada. July 5, 2013.
  38. "2006 Community Profiles". Canada 2006 Census. Statistics Canada. March 30, 2011. Retrieved 2009-02-24.
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