The Pas, Manitoba, incorporated as a town in 1912, population 5,639 (2021 census), 5,369 (2016 census). The town of The Pas is located on the south bank of the Saskatchewan River, about 60 km northwest of where the river enters Cedar Lake.
At first a Cree encampment, The Pas site was visited by early explorers Henry Kelsey, the La Vérendrye sons and Sir John Franklin. It became a fur-trade centre, beginning with the French Fort Paskoyac (also spelled Pasquia and Paskoya) in the mid-1700s. The origin of the name is uncertain, but it may be the Cree word W’passkwayaw, meaning “wooded narrows” (in the river) (see also Cree Language).
Members of a rescue party sent to search for the missing Franklin expedition (see Franklin Search) helped create a new Anglican mission while wintering at The Pas in 1847. In 1876, the federal government and First Nations of the Lake Winnipeg area signed Treaty 5. The Pas Band of Cree was among the signatories. A Roman Catholic mission established in 1887 played a significant role in the development of various institutions, including the hospital.
The Pas Band (now the Opaskwayak Cree Nation) surrendered the townsite in 1906 and moved to reserve lands on the north bank of the Saskatchewan River.
In the early 1900s, mining and commercial fishing in the North, lumbering and construction of the Hudson Bay Railway enhanced the town’s importance as an economic and administrative centre. Mixed farming became more viable west of the town after a major drainage project was finished in 1960.
Economy and Labour Force
The Pas is an important link between the mining, fishing and trapping areas of the Canadian Shield and the mainly agricultural lands of southern Manitoba. Its main employer is Canadian Kraft Paper Industries Ltd., which operates a pulp and paper mill. However, most of the town’s jobs are in the service sector (e.g., education, health care, public administration and hospitality). The Pas is home to University College of the North (see University College).