Sarnia, Ontario

From Academic Kids

Sarnia is a city in Southwestern Ontario, Canada (population 70,876 in 2001). It is the largest city on Lake Huron, located where the three 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 of the coast of Normandy, France. The Sarnia port is still an important centre for lake freighters and "salties" carrying cargos of grain, ore, and petroleum products.



The growth of the city received a major boost when North America's first oil discovery was made at nearby Petrolia in the 1850s. In 1938, the Blue Water Bridge was built to join Sarnia with Port Huron, Michigan; in 1997, the bridge was twinned. Linking Ontario Highway 402 with the US I-94, 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.

Missing image
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. Large pipelines bring Alberta oil to Sarnia, where oil refining and petrochemical production have become mainstays of the city's economy. Large salt beds found under the city became a source of chlorine and another significant ingredient in the success of the "Chemical Valley".

While industry expanded south along the St. Clair, Sarnia's population tended to move out eastward along the Lake Huron shoreline. The sandy freshwater beaches are a popular tourist attraction, while the sheltered harbour houses marinas for recreational sailing. Since 1925, the 250-mile 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.

People connected with Sarnia

In 2002, Michael Moore filmed segments of his documentary Bowling for Columbine in Sarnia. He interviewed residents outside the local Taco Bell, at the Lambton 9 cinema complex and at a gun show in nearby Point Edward. Additionally, in the summer of 2004, Sarnia mayor, Mike Bradley, named Michael Moore an honourary citizen of Sarnia. This occurred as a direct result of Michael Moore being criticized for telling Canadians to vote against the Conservative Party during the June 2004 federal election.

Famous people from Sarnia include:

PGA TOUR golfer Mike Weir, winner of the 2003 Masters, comes from a small subdivision called Bright's Grove, which is governed by the City of Sarnia and is within the borders of the City of Sarnia.

Sarnia Facts

The Sarnia Golf & Curling Country Club is currently managed by Don Summerton.

Scenes From the 1994 Film "Renaissance Man" were filmed at the border into Sarnia. The Film Starred Danny Devito.

Sarnia is no longer the kissing capital of the world as of 2003. The Chilean capital, Santiago ousted Sarnia of its title in 2003. On February 14, 2004, the Phillipino city Manila claimed the title and is now the official kissing capital of the world. It should be noted that Sarnia has not removed this title from their welcome signs.

Lambton College is the only post-secondary school located in Sarnia.

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


North: Lake Huron
West: Point Edward, Port Huron, USA
Sarnia East: Plympton-Wyoming
South: Sarnia 45, St. Clair


1996 Population: 72,738
2001 Population: 70,876

In the 1970s, Sarnia was a prosperous and growing city. That trend had even continued into the early 1990s. In recent years, however, a shift has occurred and that area was one of the few places in Southern Ontario to see negative population growth. This is due to a combination of several things. A slowing growth in the prominent manufacturing industry has led to fewer new residents. Also, the service industry has been hurt by fewer people travelling from Michigan. This is a result of both the recent strenghening in the Canadian dollar and tighter border restrictions in the wake of the September 11 attacks. An economy that is poorer in Sarnia compared with the rest of Southern Ontario has led to this population decrease.

These factors in combination with an aboriginal baby boom mean that now a higher concentration of First Nation people live in Sarnia than ever.

Census Data

According to the 2001 Statistics Canada Census:

  • Population: 70,876
  • % Change (1996-2001): -2.6
  • Median Age: 40.5 years
  • Median Income (persons over 15): $22,145
  • Dwellings: 30,859
  • Density (persons per sq. km.): 430.5
  • Area (sq. km.): 164.62

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