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Labour force[1][2]
Rate Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
Employment 57.7% 60.8% 62.2%
Unemployment 7.6% 8.9% 7.7%
Participation 62.4% 66.8% 67.4%
As of: February 2009

As the largest city in Northwestern Ontario, Thunder Bay is the region's commercial, administrative and medical centre. Many of the city's largest single employers are in the public sector. The City of Thunder Bay, the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, the Lakehead District School Board and the Government of Ontario each employ over 1,500 people.[3] Bowater Forest Products is the largest private employer, employing over 1500 people.[4] Other major employers in the forestry sector include Abitibi-Consolidated and Buchanan Forest Products. Bombardier Transportation operates a plant in Thunder Bay which manufactures mass transit vehicles and equipment, employing approximately 800 people.[4]

Employment by industry, 2006[5]
Industry Thunder Bay Ontario
Agriculture and resource-based 3.6% 2.9%
Construction 5.4% 5.9%
Manufacturing 7.7% 13.9%
Wholesale Trade 2.8% 4.7%
Retail trade 12.7% 11.1%
Finance and real estate 4.2% 6.8%
Health care and social services 15.2% 9.4%
Education services 8.9% 6.7%
Business services 16.8% 19.7%
Other services 22.6% 18.7%

The rising cost of electricity in Ontario has threatened the viability of primary industries in the region, resulting in the laying off of workers at pulp and saw mills. The grain trade has declined because of the loss of grain transportation subsidies and the loss of European markets. The gradual transition from shipping by train and boat to shipping by truck, and the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement have ended Thunder Bay's privileged position as a linchpin in Canadian east-west freight-handling trade. As a result the city has lost its traditional raison d'être as a break-bulk point, and the city is in economic decline.

In an effort to rejuvenate its economy, the city has been actively working to attract quaternary or "knowledge-based" industries, primarily in the fields of molecular medicine and genomics.[6][7] The city is home to the western campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, the first medical school to open in Canada in a generation.[8]



Thunder Bay receives air, rail and shipping traffic due to its prime location along major continental transportation routes. Greyhound Canada provides coach service to both regional and national destinations, with the municipally owned Thunder Bay Transit providing 17 routes across the city's urban area. The city is served by the Thunder Bay International Airport, the fourth busiest airport in Ontario by aircraft movements.[9] The main highway through the city is Highway 11/17, a four lane highway designated as the Thunder Bay Expressway.

The city is an important railway hub, served by both the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway. Passenger rail service to Thunder Bay ended on 15 January, 1990, with the cancellation of VIA Rail's southern transcontinental service.[10]


Thunder Bay has been a port since the days of the North West Company which maintained a schooner on Lake Superior. The Port of Thunder Bay is the largest outbound port on the St. Lawrence Seaway System,[11] and the sixth largest port in Canada.[8] The Thunder Bay Port Authority manages Keefer Terminal, built on a 320,000 square metre site on Lake Superior.

Medical centres and hospitals[edit]

Thunder Bay has one major hospital, the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. Other health care services include the St. Joseph's Care Group, which operates long term care centres such as the Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital, and Hogarth Riverview Manor. The Northern Ontario School of Medicine has a campus at Lakehead University. The city is also home to a variety of smaller medical and dental clinics.

Population and demographics[edit]

Selected Ethnic
Origins, 2006[12]
Ethnic origin Population
English 34,360
Scottish 26,400
Canadian 24,650
Irish 22,260
French 21,165
Ukrainian 17,620
Italian 17,290
Finnish 14,510
German 13,090
Aboriginal 11,870
Polish 8,595
Swedish 5,580
Visible minorities 3,175
multiple responses included
City of Thunder Bay
Population by year[13]
1911 27,719
1921 35,427
1931 46,095
1941 55,011
1951 66,108
1956 77,600
1961 92,490
1966 104,539
1971 108,411
1976 111,476
1981 112,486
1986 112,272
1991 113,946
1996 113,662
2001 109,016
2006 109,140

According to the 2006 Census, there were 109,140 people residing in Thunder Bay on 16 May, 2006, of whom 48.4% were male and 51.6% were female. Residents 19 years of age or younger accounted for approximately 22.9% of the population. People aged by 20 and 39 years accounted for 24.6%, while those between 40 and 64 made up 35.9% of the population. The average age of a Thunder Bayer in May 2006 was 41.7, compared to the average of 39.5 for Canada as a whole.[14]

Between the censuses of 2001 and 2006, Thunder Bay's population increased by 0.1%, compared to the average of 6.6% for Ontario and 5.4% for Canada. The population density of the city of Thunder Bay averaged 332.3 people per square kilometre, compared with an average of 13.4 for Ontario.

A further 13,767 people live in Thunder Bay's Census Metropolitan Area, which apart from Thunder Bay includes the municipalities of Neebing and Oliver Paipoonge, the townships of Conmee, Gillies, O'Connor and Shuniah, and the aboriginal community of Fort William First Nation.[15]


Thunder Bay is home to 12,825 people of Finnish descent,[16] the highest concentration of persons of Finnish origin per capita in Canada, and the second largest Finnish population in Canada after Toronto which has 14,750 persons of Finnish origin.


In terms of Canada's official languages, 81.6% of Thunder Bayers speak only English, and 2.6% speak only French. Thunder Bay has one of the largest established communities of Finnish speaking people outside of Finland.[17] Other languages spoken in Thunder Bay include Italian and Ojibwe.


The 2001 census states that 82.0 per cent of Thunder Bay residents belong to a Christian denomination, 39.8% of which are Roman Catholic, 39.5% Protestant, and 2.6% other following Christian denominations, mostly Eastern Orthodox. Those who follow other religions make up less than 1% of the population, while the remaining 17.0% are non-religious.


Thunder Bay has 38 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, 8 secondary schools, 2 private schools, and an adult education facility. The city also has several other private for-profit colleges and tutoring programmes. Post secondary institutions in Thunder Bay include Confederation College and Lakehead University.

The Lakehead District School Board is the largest school board in the city, with 22 elementary schools, 4 secondary schools and a centre for adult studies. The Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board is the second largest with 16 elementary schools, 3 middle schools and 2 high schools. Conseil scolaire de district catholique des Aurores boréales operates one elementary and one high school in Thunder Bay, and an additional six schools throughout the Thunder Bay District.

  1. ^ Labour Force Characteristics, Seasonally adjusted, by CMA. Statistics Canada. Retrieved on 13 March 2009.
  2. ^ Labour Force Survey. Statistics Canada. Retrieved on 13 March 2009.
  3. ^ Major Employer List - Thunder Bay, 2006 45kb. Retrieved on 2 September 2007.
  4. ^ a b Thunder Bay Top Private Sector Employers, Northern Ontario Business (May 2006). Retrieved on 4 September 2007. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "nob" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  5. ^ City of Thunder Bay, 2006 Community Profile. Statistics Canada. Retrieved on 2 May 2008.
  6. ^ New Molecular Medicine Research Centre to be Headquartered in Thunder Bay, (6 September 2006). Retrieved on 4 September 2007
  7. ^ Genesis Genomics. Retrieved on 2 September 2007.
  8. ^ a b Thunder Bay Blends Old, New Industries, Site Selection (November 2005). Retrieved on 4 September, 2007
  9. ^ TP 1496 Preliminary aircraft statistics 2006. Transport Canada. Retrieved on 2 September 2007.
  10. ^ Canada Transportation Act, 1990. Order Varying Certain National Transportation Agency Orders Respecting Railway Companies, SOR/89-488 S III 1. (2) (c). Retrieved on 5 June 2007
  11. ^ Port of Thunder Bay, official website. Retrieved on 2 September 2007.
  12. ^ Profile of Ethnic Origin and Visible Minorities for Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2006 Census. Statistics Canada. Retrieved on March 13, 2009.
  13. ^ The People of Thunder Bay. Retrieved 1 September 2007.
    For 1911: Tronrud, Thorold J; Epp, Ernest A.; and others. (1995). Thunder Bay: From Rivalry to Unity. Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society, pp. 59. ISBN 0-920119-22-0.
  14. ^ see infobox
  15. ^ 2006 Census Population Counts by Municipality, Thunder Bay CMA. Statistics Canada. Retrieved on 2 September 2007.
  16. ^ Finnish population in Canada. Retrieved 2 September 2007.
  17. ^ Thunder Bay Public Library - Community - Finnish Community. Retrieved 28 June 2008.