Steinbach, Manitoba

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Steinbach
City of Steinbach
Clockwise from top: The Steinbach Millennium Clock Tower in downtown Steinbach, the historic Stony Brook and the Steinbach Post Office.
Clockwise from top: The Steinbach Millennium Clock Tower in downtown Steinbach, the historic Stony Brook and the Steinbach Post Office.
Coat of arms of Steinbach
Nickname(s): 
The Automobile City
City boundaries
City boundaries
Steinbach is located in Canada
Steinbach
Steinbach
Location of Steinbach
Steinbach is located in Manitoba
Steinbach
Steinbach
Steinbach (Manitoba)
Coordinates: 49°31′33″N 96°41′02″W / 49.52583°N 96.68389°W / 49.52583; -96.68389[1]Coordinates: 49°31′33″N 96°41′02″W / 49.52583°N 96.68389°W / 49.52583; -96.68389[1]
CountryCanada
ProvinceManitoba
RegionEastman
Rural MunicipalityHanover
Established1874
Incorporated1946 (town)
1997 (city)
Government
 • City mayorEarl Funk
 • Governing bodySteinbach City Council
 • MP (Provencher)Ted Falk (CPC)
 • MLA (Steinbach)Kelvin Goertzen (PC)
Area
 • City25.59 km2 (9.88 sq mi)
Elevation
253.6 m (832 ft)
Population
 (2016)
 • City15,829 (3rd)
 • Density618.60/km2 (1,602.2/sq mi)
 • Metro
15,829 (126th)
 • Change 2011-16
Increase17.0%
Time zoneUTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
Forward sortation area
Area code(s)204, 431
DemonymSteinbacher
NTS Map062H10
GNBC CodeGBAML
WebsiteCity of Steinbach

Steinbach (/ˈstnbæk/ (About this soundlisten)) is a city located about 58 km (36 mi) south-east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. According to the Canada 2016 Census, Steinbach has a population of 15,829, making it the third-largest city in Manitoba and the largest community in the Eastman region.[2] The city is bordered by the Rural Municipality of Hanover to the north, west, and south, and the Rural Municipality of La Broquerie to the east. Steinbach (which is German for "Stony Brook") was first settled by Plautdietsch-speaking Mennonites from the Russian Empire in 1874, whose descendants continue to have a significant presence in the city today.[3] Steinbach is found on the eastern edge of the Canadian Prairies, while Sandilands Provincial Forest is a short distance east of the city.

Steinbach's economy has traditionally been focused around agriculture; however, as the regional economic hub of southeastern Manitoba, Steinbach now has a trading area population of about 50,000 people and significant employment in the financial services industry, automobile sales, tourism, retail, and manufacturing.[4] Steinbach is the third fastest-growing census agglomeration in Canada. Out of the top eight fastest-growing agglomerations, Steinbach is the only one located outside Alberta.[5][6][7] The city had a population growth of 17% between 2011 and 2016. The city has gained national recognition as an immigration destination of Canada and a model for immigrant integration in the country.[8]

History[edit]

Treaty 1 and the East Reserve[edit]

The land in southeast Manitoba upon which Steinbach sits is the traditional lands of the nomadic Ojibway-speaking Anishinabe people. They used the land for hunting, fishing, and trapping. The Anishinabe knew no borders at the time and their land ranged both north and south of the US–Canada border, and both east and west of the Red River. On 3 August 1871, the Anishinabe people signed Treaty 1 and moved onto reserves such as the Brokenhead Indian Reserve and Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation Reserve.[9] Shortly thereafter, the Canadian government began recruiting European farmers to the region, establishing the English and Scottish settlement of Clear Springs in 1872, just north of the present day location of Steinbach.[10] In 1873, the Canadian government recruited Russian Mennonites to move to the area, and began surveying and staking out the land for the Mennonite East Reserve (now the R.M. of Hanover), including the village of Steinbach, which opened to Mennonite settlement in 1874.[11]

Early history (1874-1909)[edit]

Cenotaph listing Steinbach's 18 pioneer families at the Pioneer Cemetery

Steinbach's original 18 settler families had Dutch ancestry dating back to 16th century Friesland and Flanders, after which time they lived in Prussia for two centuries and then the Russian Empire where they became known as Russian Mennonites, a misnomer given that they were ethnically Dutch.[12] By the 1870s, some Mennonites in South Russia became dissatisfied with increasing Russification and the removal of their military exemption and, in 1873, sent delegates to North America to investigate and negotiate terms of immigration. After touring a number of locations in North America, many of the delegates decided to move their people to Kansas, however, the more conservative groups were persuaded to settle in the new Canadian province of Manitoba, because the Canadian government was more generous in their guarantees of religious freedom. In 1873, a Privilegium was signed between the Mennonite delegates and the Canadian government, and a year later Mennonites started to arrive in the region. The document guaranteed, among other things, military exemption, freedom of religion, private schools, and land, known as the East Reserve.[13]

Steinbach's Mennonite settlers spoke Plautdietsch and all came directly from the Borosenko colony in Imperial Russia, now Ukraine. They were almost entirely from the new Kleine Gemeinde sect of Mennonites, a small conservative minority known for being gifted farmers. Borosenko, just ten years old at the time the immigrants left, was an offshoot of the larger Molotschna (or Milk River) colony.[11]

Mennonites from the Bergthalers and Kleine Gemeinde groups founded dozens of villages in the East Reserve. Steinbach's settler families arrived in Canada late in the summer of 1874, where they founded the village of Steinbach, taking the name "Steinbach" from the village where they lived in Borosenko.[12] When they arrived, they found that much of the better land in the reserve had already been settled a few months earlier by the Bergthaler and earlier Kleine Gemeinde families. The earlier settlers had come to realize the area suffered from excessive moisture and settled upon much of the higher lands and gravel ridges. Steinbach's settlers chose the best land that was available to them, which was in the very northeast corner of the East Reserve. The 20 homesteads were laid out on the northeast side of present-day Main Street along the Steinbach Creek.[12]

Contrary to the preferences of the Canadian government, the early settlers of Steinbach, like other Mennonite villages, organized the village into a Strassendorf, or street village, with each family occupying a long narrow strip known as a Wirtschaft.[11] Most of the settlers were farmers, but in a somewhat urban setting, and lived, to some degree, communally, and shared a common pasture at the end of the village. They started a school in the first year, and in the following year of 1875 built a school and teacherage.[12] Steinbach's Main Street was hacked out of thick poplar bush along the creek, where a bison trail ran, a trail that was still used by Indigenous people during Steinbach's early years.[14]

In June 1875, Steinbach's spiritual leader Jakob Barkman, who had led the Kleine Gemeinde to Canada, drowned in the Red River, along with Jakob K. Friesen on a trip to Winnipeg for supplies.[15] This left the community without religious leadership for some time.

After a plague of grasshoppers destroyed the crops in 1876, residents of Steinbach met in Blumenort to discuss the possibility of migrating to Minnesota or Nebraska. However, 60-year-old matriarch Elizabeth Rempel Reimer persuaded the group to stay in Steinbach, a stirring and historically significant speech which signified the important role of women in the community and resulted in Steinbach's continued survival as a community, unlike dozens of other East Reserve villages which have since disappeared.[11]

In 1877, Lord Dufferin toured Manitoba's new Mennonite settlements and stopped just west of Steinbach where he could see "half a dozen villages" in the distance. A crowd of 1000 people greeted his arrival.[11] That same year, the first windmill in the town was built by Abraham S. Friesen.[16]

The death of Rev. Barkman left Steinbach without religious leadership for a number of years, creating a vacuum that made the villagers receptive to John Holdeman when he visited in 1881. After Holdeman's visit, many locals from the Kleine Gemeinde joined his new church, Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. This was the first of many schisms and revivals in Steinbach and eventually the town would be known for having dozens of churches, many of them different variations of Mennonite, a dynamic that has shaped the city's character.[11] After a period of eight years, in 1882, Mayor Gerhard Giesbrecht said that the village had grown to 28 families with a population of 128.[12]

Various epidemics swept the area in the late 1800s, including scarlet fever, whooping cough, and diphtheria. In the spring of 1884 alone, more than seventy people died, mostly children. Another whooping cough epidemic took place in 1900.[14]

By 1900, the settlers had drained the swamps and cleared the land making it more suitable for the farming of wheat, barley, oats and potatoes. In the 1901 census, Steinbach had a population of 366, and almost the entire population still spoke Plautdietsch, with only a few reporting a knowledge of English.[14]

End of the Strassendorf (1910-1945)[edit]

In 1910, the street village linear settlement, or Strassendorf (Straßendorf in German) for the community ended.[11] Prior to this time, the settlers of Steinbach lived in long narrow strips, called Wirtschaft (plural: Wirtschaften), along the Steinbach Creek. Following the lead of the neighbouring Mennonite village of Blumenort, who had abandoned their Strassendorf system a year earlier, the village of Steinbach was surveyed and land was redistributed with individual titles to open-field properties. Those who were given inferior land were financially compensated by the others. Although a communal pasture for cattle was maintained for some decades after this, the end of the linear settlement meant the end of the traditional communal lifestyle of the Mennonites in this area, but also opened the area up to greater capitalist enterprise.[12] The mayor, or schulz, of Steinbach at this time was Johan G. Barkman, Steinbach's longest serving schulz, who held that position for twenty-five years, including overseeing such significant events as the end of the Strassendorf.[17] In 1911, the Kleine Gemeinde church, who had met in the village school up until this point, constructed a building on the south end of the village.[14]

Industrious Mennonites in Steinbach circa 1906 (Friesen Machine Shop on Friesen Ave.)

In 1912, J.R. Friesen opened a Ford auto dealership in town, which was the first Ford dealership in Western Canada. At the time, Friesen was excommunicated from the Kleine Gemeinde for adopting the modern technology, but within a few years, many Steinbachers accepted the automobile as an acceptable mode of transportation.[12]

By this time, Steinbach had a third Mennonite church, the Bruderthaler, who, unlike the Kleine Gemeinde and Holdeman Mennonites, taught that being successful in business was not a sin and, in fact, was to be encouraged. The new theology moved Steinbach from a more traditional and agriculturally-based economy to one that emphasized capitalist endeavour.[18] Entrepreneurs took advantage of the business opportunities at the time and several small businesses sprang up. Many other important and large businesses developed as well, helping to establish Steinbach as a regional service centre for the area.

By 1915, Steinbach had grown to a population of 463 and continued to attract immigrants from Europe.[12] Many of the new immigrants were Bergthaler Mennonites, but Steinbach also was the destination for new German and Lutheran settlers, as well as some British families who had previously settled in the Clearspring Settlement slightly to the north.[12] Steinbach's first bank, the Royal Bank, opened in 1915.[14]

During World War I, most Steinbach Mennonites were given an exemption from military service, as promised in the Privilegium they had agreed to upon immigration in the 1870s.[11] Mistakenly considered "ethnic Germans", even though they were actually primarily of Dutch ancestry, the Mennonites were caught up in the anti-German sentiment of the time and Conservative Prime Minister Robert Borden banned Mennonites from Steinbach and other areas from voting in 1917.[11]

A year later, in 1918, as soldiers returned to North America, Spanish flu struck the village, killing many. Mennonites in the region were particularly affected by the outbreak, dying at a rate nearly twice that of other ethnic groups.[19][20]

After the First World War, Borden banned Mennonites and other pacifists from immigrating to Canada.[11] The ban lasted for three years, from 1919 to 1922, when the new Liberal government lifted the ban. At the same time, there was the out-migration of the more conservative Mennonites, who left the area for Mexico and Paraguay, after the Canadian government required them to learn English and attend public schools, issues which seemed to be in violation of the Privilegium signed in 1873.[13]

In 1920, the village of Steinbach was formed into an "Unincorporated Village District" of the Rural Municipality of Hanover.[21]

After the Mennonite immigration ban was lifted in 1922 by Liberal Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, a second wave of Mennonite immigration occurred due to the Russian Revolution, and many of the "Russlander" Mennonites took over farms and land left unoccupied by the Mennonites leaving for Latin America. During the 1920s, thousands of Mennonite refugees fled the Soviet Union, many of them arriving in the Steinbach area.[22] Moscow Road, which had been pejoratively named to refer to the Russlander Mennonites who lived there, was later renamed McKenzie Avenue after the Prime Minister who had allowed them to come to Canada as refugees.[23]

In 1941, the Steinbach Credit Union opened, partially in response to the difficulty in obtaining loans from the larger banks.[11]

During World War II, most Steinbachers who were eligible for the draft served in alternative service as conscientious objectors, though some also served in the active military.[11] After the war, a third major wave of immigration boosted Steinbach's population, with thousands of Mennonites again fleeing Europe.[22]

Incorporation as a town (1946-1996)[edit]

Steinbach was incorporated as a town on 31 December 1946, with the Main Street being paved the following year.[24][11] The new town elected Klaas Barkman as mayor who, along with councillor and auto-dealer A.D. Penner, had been instrumental in Steinbach's incorporation.[25] As the regional service centre for the area, Steinbach developed manufacturing, trucking, and retailing, particularly in automobile sales. Steinbach became known regionally as the "Automobile City", a name coined by A.D. Penner.[11]

From the 1940s to the 1960s, T.G. Smith, was a local bank manager who organized many of Steinbach's first recreational activities, which the Mennonite population had been reluctant to adopt on their own.[25]

In 1958, Leonard Barkman was elected mayor and served until 1970.[25] Barkman, a member of the Liberal Party also served as M.L.A. while also mayor of Steinbach. Barkman was the first Mennonite from the area, who had previously eschewed this level of political involvement, to join the Manitoba Legislature.[25]

During the 1950s and 60s, Steinbach was home to many Christian revival meetings, including frequent visits by George Brunk, Ben D. Reimer and others. These meetings were held in a quonset just off of Main Street called The Tabernacle.[11] The new more evangelical theology transformed the doctrine and practices of many of the local Mennonite churches and contributed to their assimilation. Many local churches adopted evangelical theology or merged it with their traditional Anabaptist theology, and some dropped the Mennonite label altogether. According to literary critic Magdalene Redekop, these revival meetings also led to the secular Mennonite literary boom of the 1980s.[26]

In 1960, the Kleine Gemeinde church building, which by then was called the Evangelical Mennonite Conference, burned to the ground. The same year, the last traditional Mennonite housebarn in Steinbach was torn down by A.D. Penner.[25] Partially in response to the destruction of heritage buildings in the area, such as the historic housebarn destroyed by A.D. Penner, residents in the 1960s saw the need to preserve and remember the Mennonite history of the region. In 1967, the Mennonite Heritage Village museum in Steinbach was opened.[11]

Windmill at Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach

In 1966, infamous gold thief Ken Leishman escaped from Headingly Jail and stole an airplane from Steinbach, solidifying his nickname as the "Flying Bandit".[27]

In 1970, the year of Manitoba's centennial, Steinbach was visited by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles.[25] A crowd of 10,000 waited along the streets of Steinbach as the royals visited, coming from the east along Highway 52 after their visit to La Brouqerie. The Carillon described the visit saying, "it was the most memorable and exciting moment in the history of the Southeast. For the first time since the earliest European settlers arrived in the 1860s and 1870s, a member of the British royal family paid a personal visit to the communities of La Broquerie, Steinbach, Sarto, Grunthal and St. Pierre. For these communities and their people the visit by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles on the eve of Manitoba's 100th birthday highlighted a century of economic and cultural development."[25]

In 1972, Jake Epp, a former local high school teacher, was elected Member of Parliament in the region, the first Mennonite in the area to do so. Epp was also the first Mennonite to serve as a federal cabinet minister and was MP until 1993.[28]

In May 1980, Steinbach's first shopping mall, Clearspring Centre, opened on the north end of the community. The mall was named after the historic English and Scottish settlement in the area.[29]

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Aussiedler Mennonites, who had remained in the Soviet Union (particularly Siberia and Kazakhstan) throughout much of the 20th century, or who had resettled in Germany during the 1970s, began to immigrate to the area and continued to do so through the nineties and early 2000s. Some of these people had converted to the Baptist church during the decades in the Soviet Union.[30] Over all, Steinbach's growth slowed somewhat during the 1980s and early 90s in comparison to the rate of growth in decades before or since.[31]

In 1996, Les Magnusson was elected mayor of Steinbach, the first non-ethnic Mennonite to hold that position. Magnusson was a vocal opponent of attempts in Steinbach to allow liquor sales.[32]

Contemporary era (1997-present)[edit]

With Les Magnusson as mayor, Steinbach was incorporated as a city on 10 October 1997.[24] In 2000, the windmill at the Mennonite Heritage Village, a recognized symbol of the city, was destroyed by arsonists.[33] It was rebuilt less than a year later with the assistance of Dutch millwrights.[34]

Steinbach attracted prominent attention in 2004 when Mennonite author Miriam Toews, who was born and grew up in Steinbach, published her novel A Complicated Kindness. The book became a bestseller, exploring a fictionalized town modelled after Steinbach. It won the 2004 Governor General's Award for Fiction,[35] and was selected as the 2006 book for Canada Reads, the first book by a female writer to be chosen.[36]

Steinbach continued to grow during Magnusson's tenure and, after the election of Chris Goertzen as mayor in 2006, became one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada.[31] In 2011, Steinbach was officially announced as Manitoba's third-largest city, with the release of the population data from the 2011 Canadian Census. The growth was attributed to immigration from such countries as Germany, Russia, and the Philippines.[37] Steinbach gained national recognition from such newspapers as The Globe and Mail, which described the city as an immigration "hotbed" of Canada and a model for immigrant integration.[8][38]

The first Steinbach Pride parade in 2016

During March 2013, the city gained national attention when several community members, such as the Southland Community Church and Steinbach Christian High School expressed opposition to provincial Bill 18, an anti-bullying bill that would require the accommodation of Gay-straight alliance groups in schools, including faith-based private schools.[39] On 13 September 2013, Bill 18 passed without amendments.[40] Partially in response to this issue, the city's first Steinbach Pride parade was held in 2016. While initially expecting about 200 people, approximately 3,000 people attended the event. This was brought about in part by the fact that not a single elected official from the area attended or endorsed the event.[41][42][43][44]

Ongoing rapid growth meant that the city needed more land and space in order to sustain itself. This led the city to negotiate an annexation of 11 km2 (2,800 acres) from the Rural Municipality of Hanover in 2015, the first major annexation for the city since 1979.[45] Steinbach was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic beginning in August 2020, with the virus affecting community members, several businesses, and eventually an outbreak at Bethesda Place, the personal care home at Bethesda Regional Health Centre.[46][47] By November 2020, Steinbach briefly had the highest per capita rate of Covid infections in Canada.[48] The Bethesda Regional Health Centre was reportedly overwhelmed and out of beds on November 13, 2020, with patients having to be triaged in their cars.[49][50]

Liquor and cannabis licence referendums[edit]

Despite being prohibited by local churches, Steinbach had alcohol sales, including beverage rooms, throughout the early 20th century. In 1950, however, Steinbach citizens voted to prohibit all liquor sales in the community, although a drinking establishment on Main Street called The Tourist Hotel was allowed to remain, until it closed in 1973.[51]

Since the 1970s, Steinbach has had 7 separate referenda on whether liquor sales should be allowed within the confines of the city, all of which failed until a 2003 referendum when Steinbach residents narrowly voted to allow limited liquor sales in the city, despite opposition from then mayor Les Magnusson.[32] The 2003 referendum, however, passed only a dining room license, permitting alcohol to be sold and served only with sales of food. In 2007, the issue of serving alcohol in restaurant lounges was defeated by only 9 votes. In the same referendum, voters approved, by a slightly wider margin, allowing sports facilities such as the Steinbach Fly-In Golf Course to serve alcohol.[52] In February 2008, Steinbach Council voted in favor of opening a liquor store on Main Street, as prohibition had been lifted.[53] Eventually, the first Liquor Mart in Steinbach opened in March 2009, on PTH 12 North, operated by the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission.[54] The most recent public vote was held in October 2011.[51][55] In this referendum, voters agreed to accept, by a large margin, the following three licences: beverage rooms, cocktail lounges, and private club licences.[56][57]

In 2018, after the Canadian government legalized cannabis, Steinbach residents voted to deny the licensing of retail cannabis stores in the city.[58]

Geography[edit]

A barley field west of Steinbach, and an example of the flat topography of the surrounding area

Steinbach is located on the eastern edge of the Canadian Prairies, and is also located directly east of the Red River Valley. The flat land in Steinbach was originally a thick patch of poplar trees. The land was flat and very swampy, with the last of the swamps finally drained in 1900, which made the soil more fertile and suitable for agriculture. Steinbach's main geographic feature is the Steinbach Creek, which is now mostly dry,still runs along Elmdale Street.[59] Due to higher levels of precipitation received than in the areas of western Manitoba, the natural prairie near Steinbach is defined as tallgrass prairie. Some of this original prairie can still be viewed at the Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Preserve south of the city near Vita. The areas to the west and north of Steinbach are defined as flat tallgrass prairie, and part of the Lake Manitoba Plain. The areas south and west of the city progress steadily into treed aspen parkland, eventually growing into Sandilands Provincial Forest and the large boreal forest region extending east and north of the city.

Steinbach is close to many Canadian Shield lakes, such as those located in Whiteshell Provincial Park and the Lake of the Woods in Kenora. Lake Winnipeg (the Earth's 11th largest freshwater lake) is located north of the city.[60] Although no rivers flow through Steinbach, the city is sandwiched by the Seine River to the north and the Rat River to the south. Both are tributaries of the Red River, which flows into Lake Winnipeg.

Under the Köppen climate classification Steinbach has a warm summer continental climate (Dfb).[61] The highest ever recorded temperature in Steinbach was 37.5 °C (99.5 °F), while the lowest ever recorded temperature was −43.5 °C (−46.3 °F), The warmest month on average is July, while the coldest month on average is January. The average annual precipitation in Steinbach is 580.5 mm (22.85 in), with June being the month with highest average precipitation.[62]

Climate data for Steinbach 1981-2010
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 7.2
(45.0)
12.8
(55.0)
21.1
(70.0)
33.5
(92.3)
36.0
(96.8)
36.0
(96.8)
35.6
(96.1)
37.5
(99.5)
35.5
(95.9)
31.5
(88.7)
23.3
(73.9)
10.5
(50.9)
37.5
(99.5)
Average high °C (°F) −11.1
(12.0)
−7.0
(19.4)
0.0
(32.0)
10.7
(51.3)
18.7
(65.7)
22.9
(73.2)
25.4
(77.7)
25.0
(77.0)
18.6
(65.5)
10.5
(50.9)
−0.5
(31.1)
−8.5
(16.7)
8.7
(47.7)
Daily mean °C (°F) −16.6
(2.1)
−12.6
(9.3)
−5.4
(22.3)
4.1
(39.4)
11.5
(52.7)
16.4
(61.5)
19.0
(66.2)
18.2
(64.8)
12.3
(54.1)
5.0
(41.0)
−4.9
(23.2)
−13.4
(7.9)
2.8
(37.0)
Average low °C (°F) −22.0
(−7.6)
−18.1
(−0.6)
−10.7
(12.7)
−2.6
(27.3)
4.2
(39.6)
9.8
(49.6)
12.5
(54.5)
11.4
(52.5)
6.0
(42.8)
−0.5
(31.1)
−9.3
(15.3)
−18.3
(−0.9)
−3.1
(26.4)
Record low °C (°F) −42.2
(−44.0)
−43.5
(−46.3)
−37.2
(−35.0)
−27.5
(−17.5)
−11.7
(10.9)
−3.3
(26.1)
1.0
(33.8)
−2.0
(28.4)
−7.8
(18.0)
−21.0
(−5.8)
−36.0
(−32.8)
−40.0
(−40.0)
−43.5
(−46.3)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 22.2
(0.87)
14.5
(0.57)
21.5
(0.85)
30.9
(1.22)
69.2
(2.72)
100.1
(3.94)
93.2
(3.67)
73.8
(2.91)
57.0
(2.24)
45.9
(1.81)
28.1
(1.11)
24.2
(0.95)
580.5
(22.85)
Average rainfall mm (inches) 0.0
(0.0)
1.8
(0.07)
9.5
(0.37)
20.2
(0.80)
67.5
(2.66)
100.1
(3.94)
93.2
(3.67)
73.8
(2.91)
56.9
(2.24)
40.3
(1.59)
9.2
(0.36)
1.0
(0.04)
473.4
(18.64)
Average snowfall cm (inches) 22.2
(8.7)
12.6
(5.0)
12.1
(4.8)
10.7
(4.2)
1.7
(0.7)
0.0
(0.0)
0.0
(0.0)
0.0
(0.0)
0.1
(0.0)
5.6
(2.2)
18.9
(7.4)
23.2
(9.1)
107.1
(42.2)
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm) 8.9 6.0 6.8 6.6 10.9 13.4 12.4 10.9 10.3 9.5 7.3 8.2 111.1
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 0.0 0.5 2.0 4.8 10.7 13.4 12.4 10.9 10.3 8.3 1.9 0.3 75.5
Average snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm) 8.9 5.7 5.2 2.5 0.33 0 0 0 0.4 1.6 5.9 8.0 38.1
Source: Environment Canada[62]

Economy[edit]

The headquarters for the Steinbach Credit Union

As the economic centre of Southeastern Manitoba, service/retail industries employ the majority of the working population. Large manufacturing plants, especially those operated by Barkman, Bausch and Loewen Windows (which is also headquartered in Steinbach), create a significant number of jobs. Since the 1950s, Steinbach has been known as a centre for automobile sales, marketing itself as the "Automobile City". Steinbach has a diversity of jobs and industries within the community. Its rapid growth rate, combined with the lowest taxes in the province by mill rate, has made the community an increasingly popular place for both workers and employers.[63] This combination has helped many different mid-sized and large-sized businesses in manufacturing, transportation, agribusiness, pharmaceuticals, retail, and financial services such as the Steinbach Credit Union, to grow with the city.[63] As a result, the city of Steinbach now has the third-highest assessment value among cities in the province, trailing only Brandon and Winnipeg.[63]

Agriculture, the traditional industry in the region, continues to play a significant role in Steinbach's economy as well. The agricultural industry in the area is notable for many of the large commercial pig, and poultry farming operations.[64] Aside from intensive pig and chicken barns there are numerous small, family, dairy farms that dot the area.[65] Crops grown on the fertile farmland surrounding Steinbach primarily include canola, corn, alfalfa, as well as barley, soybeans, oats, and wheat.[65][66][67][68]

Demographics[edit]

Population Growth[31][69]
YearPop.±%
19512,155—    
19613,739+73.5%
19715,197+39.0%
19816,676+28.5%
19867,473+11.9%
19918,213+9.9%
19968,478+3.2%
20019,227+8.8%
200611,066+19.9%
201113,524+22.2%
201615,829+17.0%

Steinbach had a population of 15,829 people in 2016, which was an increase of 17% from the 2011 census count. This places Steinbach as the 3rd largest city in Manitoba in 2016. The average age of people in Steinbach is 37.8, below the provincial average of 39.2, while 52% of the population are female and 48% are male.[70]

Approximately forty percent of Steinbach residents claim German ancestry, though this may include those from Germany itself or of Mennonite background, which would more accurately be described as Dutch. 30% of Steinbach residents claim German as their mother tongue, which includes both High German and Plautdietsch, while nearly 80% of those with a second language claim knowledge of a Germanic language.[71] As a whole, 39% of residents claim some mother tongue other than the official languages of French and English.[70] Steinbach has an immigrant population of 21.39% or about 2,890 people, which is slightly above the provincial average of 18.33%.[71]

Census data from 2011 shows that Steinbach has a higher than average rate of religious affiliation of 88.73%, which is above the provincial average of 73.51%.[72] Of those with a religious affiliation, 74.58% are Protestant, and 12.44% are Catholic.[72] Less than 1% belonged to either Buddhism, Islam, Judaism or Hinduism combined. In the total population surveyed, 11.27% claim no religious affiliation.[72]

The median household income in 2015 for Steinbach was $59,936, which is below the Manitoba provincial average of $68,147.[70]

Ethnic groups[edit]

Ethnic Origins[3]
Population Percentage
German 5,865 40.68
Canadian 3,970 27.54
Russian 2,450 16.99
Dutch 1,850 12.83
Ukrainian 1,475 10.23
English 1,440 9.98
Filipino 940 6.52
Scottish 920 6.38
Visible minority and Aboriginal population[73]
Population group Population (2016) % of total population (2016)
European 10,495 72.8%
Visible minority group South Asian 160 1.1%
Chinese 135 1%
Black 175 1.2%
Filipino 940 6.5%
Latin American 845 5.9%
Southeast Asian 100 0.7%
West Asian 75 0.5%
Korean 25 0.2%
Japanese 0 0%
Visible minority, n.i.e. 30 0.2%
Multiple visible minorities 20 0.1%
Total visible minority population 1,605 11.1%
Aboriginal group First Nations 415 2.9%
Métis 585 4.1%
Inuit 0 0%
Aboriginal, n.i.e. 10 0.1%
Multiple Aboriginal identities 0 0%
Total Aboriginal population 1015 7%
Total population 14415 100%

Government[edit]

Steinbach City Hall

Steinbach is represented by 6 councilors and a mayor.[74] The city is a single-tier municipality, governed by a mayor-council system, the mayor and council are elected every four years. The current mayor is Earl Funk.

Prior to incorporation as a town in 1946, Steinbach was part of the East Reserve and later Rural Municipality of Hanover. The entire area was led by an Oberschulz, while the village of Steinbach was governed by a Schulz (mayor) and Schultebott (council).[11] Steinbach's first schulz was Johann Reimer, while Steinbach's longest-serving schulz was Johan G. Barkman (son of Rev. Jakob Barkman), who served as schulz for 25 years.[11]

Currently, the city is represented federally by the Conservative Party of Canada and provincially by the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba. The city and surrounding area comprise the provincial riding of Steinbach, which has been represented in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly by MLA Kelvin Goertzen since 2003. In federal politics, the city is part of the Provencher riding, which has been represented by MP Ted Falk since 2013.

Infrastructure and public services[edit]

Access[edit]

East Main Street

Steinbach is unique in that there are no railways or rivers passing through town, so transportation to and from Steinbach has always been via road. The city is located approximately 50 kilometers southeast of Winnipeg, in a direct line. There are two principal highways serving the city, Provincial Trunk Highways (PTH) 12 and 52, which intersect at downtown Steinbach. Travelers coming from Winnipeg can take the Trans-Canada Highway (PTH 1) east for 40 kilometers, turning south at PTH 12 and continuing for 20 kilometers. This entire route consists of four-lane limited-access highways. Alternatively, travelers can also take PTH 59 south from Winnipeg and then take PTH 52 east to Steinbach. PTH 12 south from Steinbach is single-lane and ends at the American border at Sprague. Steinbach is situated on an alternate route between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, Ontario which is named MOM's Way.

Airports[edit]

The City of Steinbach owns and maintains Steinbach Airport, a federally registered aerodrome located 1 nautical mile (1.9 km; 1.2 mi) north of the city. The runway is 3,000 by 75 ft (914 by 23 m) and has an asphalt surface.[75] The runway is serviced with lighting and a beacon for night-time use. Fuel and servicing are available on site and are provided through the Steinbach Flying Club. The airport also features aircraft tie-downs, a heated lounge building and restroom facilities.

Additionally, Harv's Air Service operates Steinbach (South) Airport, a private aerodrome 2 nautical miles (3.7 km; 2.3 mi) south of the city. The main runway is 3,112 by 100 ft (949 by 30 m) and has an asphalt and turf surface. An additional runway measuring 1,834 by 100 ft (559 by 30 m) intersects the main runway to the north.[75]

Health[edit]

Health for the city and surrounding area is governed by Southern Health-Santé Sud. Acute care and emergency services are provided by the Bethesda Regional Health Centre.

Utilities[edit]

The water supply for Steinbach comes from three wells drilled into a limestone aquifer and a water treatment plant that was upgraded in 2006.[76] Treated water storage is located in a 47 m (154 ft) tall elevated water tower that was built in 1972 and an additional underground water storage unit in 1999; combined they provide the community with 9,800,000 L (2,200,000 imp gal; 2,600,000 US gal) of treated water.[76] A new secondary water treatment plant was constructed in 2019 at a cost of $11.3 million to meeting the growing city's demand for water.[77] As of 2019, it was the city's largest infrastructure project in its history.[77]

Education[edit]

Steinbach Regional Secondary School with its new structure completed in 2013.

Steinbach is part of the Hanover School Division, which is one of the 37 school divisions in Manitoba. This is also the largest school division outside of the city of Winnipeg.[78] The school system in Manitoba is dictated by the province through the Manitoba Public Schools Act. Public schools follow a provincially mandated curriculum in either French or English.

The schools in Steinbach consist of three Early Years Elementary Schools: Woodlawn, Southwood and Elmdale which provide education from kindergarten through Grade 4. Grades 5 through 8 are currently provided by two newly formed Middle Schools: Stonybrook Middle School (formerly Steinbach Junior High School) and Clearspring Middle School (established 2012).[79] Steinbach Regional Secondary School is a large public high school providing Grades 9 through 12 education for Steinbach and the surrounding region; it is the second largest school in Manitoba. Steinbach Christian Schools, a private school, offers all grades (Kindergarten – Grade 12).

Steinbach is home to the evangelical Anabaptist college Steinbach Bible College,[80] which shares a campus with Steinbach Christian Schools. It also has a post-secondary learning campus called Eastman Education Centre, which offers courses from Red River College, University of Winnipeg, Assiniboine Community College and Providence University College.[81]

Arts and culture[edit]

Mennonite Heritage Village in winter

Opening in 1967, and undergoing numerous expansions since then, the Mennonite Heritage Village is Steinbach's foremost cultural facility and tourist attraction. It provides a glimpse at the life of Mennonite settlers through a reconstructed street village and interpretive displays. Its Dutch windmill, which was rebuilt (with help from Dutch millwrights) after the 1972 replica was destroyed by arson in 2000, is a recognized symbol of the city.[82]

The Mennonite Heritage Village's Pioneer Days Parade and festival has existed each August since the 1970s. Steinbach's 'Summer in the City' festival is held on Main Street each June. The Steinbach Arts Council has showcased Steinbach arts and culture, of various types, since the 1980s.

Steinbach Arts Council building

The Johann G. Barkman Heritage Walkway, stretching along Elmdale Drive, is named after an early long-time mayor, and features plaques and other historic markers documenting the life of early Steinbach along the, now dry, Steinbach Creek.

Steinbach has had a public library since 1973, although serious efforts to establish a regional library began in 1968 when Mary Barkman organized a Friends of the Library group. In 1997, the library moved into its own newly constructed building and was renamed Jake Epp Library.[83] Jake Epp, former MP of Provencher, had appointed the very first Library Board in 1973. Mary Barkman, a key figure in the founding of the Library, was also honored at the opening ceremony. After his death in 1998, the library revealed a plaque and reading garden honouring former local teacher Melvin Toews, father of author Miriam Toews and subject of her book Swing Low: A Life. A major library expansion was completed in 2012.[84][85]

Writer Andrew Unger

Steinbach is known for having a significant place in the world of Mennonite literature.[86][87] Arnold Dyck was the editor of the German-language Steinbach Post in the early 20th century and the first writer to use Plautdietsch as a written language. In the 1970s and 80s came the work of poet Patrick Friesen, author of The Shunning and many other works, novelist and literary critic Al Reimer, author of My Harp is Turned to Mourning and the Kleindarp stories, and Roy Vogt, founder of the Mennonite Mirror and the Mennonite Literary Society.[88] Beginning in the 1990s, Steinbach's most well-known author Miriam Toews has written numerous award-winning and bestselling novels, some of which are set in Steinbach. Her non-fiction book Swing Low: A Life is set in Steinbach, while her bestselling novels A Complicated Kindness and All My Puny Sorrows are set in the fictional East Village, widely regarded to be based on her hometown. Fight Night, inspired by Toews's mother Elvira, also alludes to Steinbach. Scholar Magdalene Redekop cites the Christian revival meetings held in Steinbach and other communities during the 50s and 60s as an early impetus for the secular Mennonite literary boom of the 1980s. It is not insignificant, according to Redekop, that both Friesen and Toews, were of Kleine Gemeinde background, a group that was particularly impacted by evangelical revivalists.[89] In 2016, Steinbach writer Andrew Unger started The Daily Bonnet, a website that publishes satirical Russian Mennonite news stories,[90] and published the novel Once Removed in 2020, which draws on fictional elements of Steinbach.[91] Steinbach has also been home to novelist Byron Rempel, poets Lynnette D'anna, Luann Hiebert, and Audrey Poetker, as well as historians Royden Loewen and Delbert Plett, among others.

Regional cuisine unique to Steinbach would include various Mennonite dishes such as vereniki, farmer sausage, sunflower seeds, yerba mate and roll kuchen.[92][93][94][95] Mennonite homes frequently serve a light lunch on Sundays called faspa consisting of deli meats, cheese curds, pickles, buns, and dessert such as plautz.[96][97][98] These items can be found at restaurants that specialize in Mennonite food, such as MJ's Kafe and the Livery Barn Restaurant (at the Mennonite Heritage Village), as well as in local homes, community and church events, and on the menu of many other local restaurants.[99][100]

Steinbach is the headquarters of both the Evangelical Mennonite Conference, formerly known as the Kleine Gemeinde, and the Christian Mennonite Conference, formerly known as Chortitzer Mennonite Conference.[101]

In 2018, Steinbach became a sister city with Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, which is near where all of Steinbach's pioneering families immigrated from in the 1870s.[102]

Media[edit]

For many decades, Steinbach was home to the German-language Steinbach Post run by Arnold Dyck. Currently, Steinbach's oldest media outlet is The Carillon, an award-winning weekly newspaper founded in 1946 by Eugene Derksen that covers the news of Southeastern Manitoba. Steinbach also has three radio stations run by Golden West Broadcasting: AM 1250 is an easy listening station, Mix 96.7 FM plays current pop hits, and CJXR-FM is a country station. Steinbach is also home to Die Mennonitische Post, one of the last remaining German-language newspapers in North America.[103]

Sports and recreation[edit]

Ice hockey[edit]

Steinbach's T.G. Smith Centre is home to the Manitoba Junior Hockey League's Steinbach Pistons. The Pistons have won two Turnbull Cups (2012–13, 2017–18) and one ANAVET Cup (2017–18). The Pistons also participated in the 2013 Western Canada Cup and 2018 Royal Bank Cup.

The Steinbach Huskies senior hockey club has been a fixture in the local hockey scene since the 1920s and currently plays in the Carillon Senior Hockey League. The Junior Huskies are eight-time champions of the Hanover Tache Junior Hockey League. Steinbach's minor hockey teams are known as the Steinbach Millers.

Steinbach gained national attention when it hosted the 2009 Allan Cup, the Canadian senior 'AAA' hockey championship, with two Steinbach-based teams, the host Steinbach North Stars and the Manitoba champion South East Prairie Thunder competing in the tournament. The Prairie Thunder advanced as far as the championship game, which was broadcast nationally on TSN, but lost in double overtime. Three years later, the Prairie Thunder captured their first ever national title at the 2012 Allan Cup. The Prairie Thunder also hosted the 2016 Allan Cup in Steinbach.[104]

The Steinbach Huskies qualified for the 1979 Allan Cup finals as Western Canadian champions, but lost the best-of-seven series 4–1.

Soccer[edit]

Soccer is becoming increasingly popular, with more children in the city's soccer program than in any other sport.[citation needed] The men's Hanover Kickers play in Manitoba's Premier League Two, the Hanover Strikers play in Major League Two of Manitoba Major Soccer League, and the Hanover Hype playing in the Winnipeg Women's Soccer League. The city also has a Futsal league that operates during the winter.[105] The city's main soccer complex was built in 2009.

Canadian football[edit]

The Eastman Raiders football club, based in Steinbach, was formed in 1991. There are now over 260 athletes, ranging in age from 7 to 22, playing in the Raiders program.[106]

In 2009, the Eastman Raiders midget team captured their first championship with a 20–9 victory over the St Vital Mustangs.[107]

Golf[edit]

Steinbach Curling Club and the Keystone Cinema in the background.

The Steinbach Fly-in Golf Club is an 18-hole golf course adjacent to the local airport.[108]

Curling[edit]

The Steinbach Curling Club opened in October 2014 and is located adjacent to the T.G. Smith Centre. It has five sheets and hosts a variety of different leagues, including a successful junior program.[109] The current rink replaced the previous one that was built in 1948 and located across the street.[110]

A number of Steinbach curlers have gone on to have success at the provincial level. Steinbach has also hosted two Safeway Select Provincial Men's Curling Championships (2006 and 2010).

Notable people[edit]

Arts and literature[edit]

Award-winning writer Miriam Toews was born and raised in Steinbach

Athletes[edit]

Chris Neufeld, curler

Musicians[edit]

Steinbach's Royal Canoe

Politicians[edit]

Other[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]