Barrie, ON, incorporated as a city in 1959, population 141,434 (2016 census), 135,711 (2011 census). The City of Barrie is located at the head of Kempenfelt Bay on Lake Simcoe, 90 km north of Toronto. First Nations people used the site as the eastern end of a portage route to the Nottawasaga River, which flows into Georgian Bay. During the War of 1812, the portage became an important supply route linking York (Toronto) on Lake Ontario to British military posts on the upper Great Lakes. The name refers to Commodore Robert Barrie, a British naval officer on Lake Ontario.

Settlement and Development

Settlement began in the 1820s, with agriculture and forestry as the first industries. The coming of the railway to nearby Allandale in 1853 aided development so that in 1871 Barrie was incorporated as a town. Another impetus to development was the opening of the Canadian Forces Base Borden in 1917, 25 km to the southwest.


Barrie’s economy is based on diversified manufacturing — principally automotive, plastics, metal fabrication, the food and beverage industry and electronics — and the service industry. The main campus of Georgian College of Applied Arts and Technology is located here.

Cultural Life

Cultural institutions include the Gryphon Theatre, the MacLaren Art Centre and a museum depicting the history of Simcoe County. In winter it is a favourite spot for ice fishermen. On 31 May 1985 a tornado caused extensive damage to part of the city and was blamed for eight deaths.

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