Saint John, New Brunswick

Saint John is a port city on the Bay of Fundy in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. The port is Canada's third largest port by tonnage with a cargo base that includes dry and liquid bulk, break bulk, containers, and cruise.[8] Historically New Brunswick's largest city, in 2016 the city fell to second place, with a population of 67,575 over an area of 315.82 km2 (121.94 sq mi).[9] Greater Saint John covers a land area of 3,362.95 km2 (1,298.44 sq mi) across the Caledonia Highlands, with a growing population of 126,202 (as of 2016).[10] Saint John is the oldest incorporated city in Canada. During the reign of George III, the municipality was created by royal charter in 1785.[11]

Saint John

Měnagwĕs (Mi'kmaq)
City of Saint John
Ville de Saint John
Clockwise: Saint John skyline, Germain Street row houses, City Market, St. Martins covered bridge, Reversing Falls, Imperial Theatre

Coat of arms
"O Fortunati Quorum Jam Moenia Surgunt"
(Latin for, "O Fortunate Ones Whose Walls Are Now Rising."
or "O Happy They, Whose Promised Walls Already Rise")
Interactive map outlining Saint John
Saint John
Location of Saint John
Saint John
Saint John (New Brunswick)
Coordinates: 45°16′50″N 66°04′34″W
ProvinceNew Brunswick
Historic countriesKingdom of France
Kingdom of England
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
CountySaint John County
ParishCity of Saint John[2]
Founded onJune 24, 1604[3]
Major Settlement Started1783[3]
IncorporationMay 18, 1785 (1785-05-18)
FounderSamuel de Champlain
Named forSt. John the Baptist
  MayorDon Darling[4]
  Governing bodySaint John City Council
  MPsWayne Long
  MLAsTrevor Holder, Gerry Lowe, Dorothy Shephard, Glen Savoie
  Land315.96 km2 (121.99 sq mi)
58.27 km2 (22.50 sq mi)
3,509.62 km2 (1,355.07 sq mi)
Highest elevation
80.8 m (265.1 ft)
Lowest elevation
0 m (0 ft)
  Density213.8/km2 (554/sq mi)
  Urban density1,001.2/km2 (2,593/sq mi)
  Metro density35.9/km2 (93/sq mi)
  Pop 2011-2016
Demonym(s)Saint Johner
Time zoneUTC−04:00 (AST)
  Summer (DST)UTC−03:00 (ADT)
Canadian Postal code
E2K, E2L, E2J, And E2P
Area code(s)506
Telephone Exchanges202, 214, 333, 343, 557–8, 592, 608, 631–640, 642–654, 657–8, 663, 672, 674, 693–4, 696, 721, 977
Highways Route 1
Route 7
Route 100
Route 111
Route 820
Route 825
NTS Map021G08

Saint John is the oldest of five chartered cities in Canada along with Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Lloydminster (a city that straddles both Alberta and Saskatchewan).[12]

French colonist Samuel de Champlain landed at Saint John Harbour on June 24, 1604 (the feast of St. John the Baptist) and is where the Saint John River gets its name although Mi'kmaq and Maliseet peoples lived in the region for thousands of years prior calling the river Wolastoq. The Saint John area was an important area for trade and defence for Acadia during the French colonial era and Fort La Tour, in the city's harbour, was a pivotal battleground during the Acadian Civil War[13]. After over a century of ownership disputes over the land surrounding Saint John between the French and English, the English deported the French colonists in 1755 and constructed Fort Howe above the harbour in 1779. In 1785, the City of Saint John was established by uniting the two towns of Parrtown and Carleton on each side of the harbour after the arrival of thousands of refugees from the American Revolution who wished to remain British and were forced to leave their U.S. homes. Over the next century, waves of immigration via Partridge Island, especially during the Great Famine, would fundamentally change the city's demographics and culture.


Predated by the Maritime Archaic Indian civilization, the northwestern coastal region of the Bay of Fundy is believed to have been inhabited by the Passamaquoddy Nation several thousand years ago, while the Saint John River valley north of the bay became the domain of the Maliseet Nation. The Mi'kmaq also ventured into the territory and named the area ''Měnagwĕs'', which means "where they collect the dead seals."[14]

Samuel de Champlain landed at Saint John Harbour in 1604, though he did not settle the area. Saint John was a key area for trade and defence for Acadia during the French colonial era. Moreover, Fort La Tour in the city's harbour, was a pivotal battleground during the Acadian Civil War[15]. The region was conquered by the British by the end of the Seven Years' War. After being incorporated as a city in 1785 with an influx of British Loyalists from the northern of the former Thirteen Colonies and immigrants from Ireland, the city grew as a global hub for shipping and shipbuilding.[11] After the partitioning of the colony of Nova Scotia in 1784, the new colony of New Brunswick was thought to be named 'New Ireland' with the capital to be in Saint John before being vetoed by George III.[16] In 1851 the city cemented itself as a global shipbuilding hub when the Marco Polo, built from a Saint John yard, became the fastest in the world.[17]

However, the city would also struggle with its success. From 1840 to 1860 sectarian violence was rampant in Saint John resulting in some of the worst urban riots in Canadian history.[18] The city experienced a cholera outbreak in 1854 with the death of over 1,500 people,[19] as well as a great fire in 1877 that destroyed 40% of the city and left 20,000 people homeless.[20]

Notable firsts

  • 1785: Saint John becomes the first incorporated city in what would become Canada.[11]
  • 1785: First quarantine station in North America, Partridge Island, established by the city's charter.[21] In the early 19th century, it greeted sick and dying Irish immigrants arriving with inhospitable conditions.
  • 1820: The first chartered bank in Canada, the Bank of New Brunswick.
  • Canada's oldest publicly funded high school, Saint John High School[22]
  • 1838: The first penny newspaper in the Empire, the tri-weekly Saint John News, was established.[23]
  • 1842: Canada's first public museum, originally known as the Gesner Museum, named after its Nova Scotian founder Abraham Gesner, the first modern commercial producer of kerosene. The museum is now known as the New Brunswick Museum.
  • 1851: Marco Polo ship launched. She carried emigrants and passengers to Australia from England and was the first vessel to make the trip in under six months.
  • 1849: Canada's first labour union, the Laborer's Benevolent Association (now ILA local 273) was formed when Saint John's longshoremen banded together to lobby for regular pay and a shorter workday. One of their first resolutions was to apply to the city council for permission to erect the bell, which would announce the beginning and end of the labourers' 10-hour workday.[24]
  • 1854: The automated steam foghorn was invented by Robert Foulis.[25]
  • 1867: Saint John's Paris Crew rowing team became Canada's first international sporting champions when they defeated England at the International Regatta in Paris, France.[26]
  • 1870: Canada's first Y.W.C.A. was established.[27]
  • 1870: First Knights of Pythias in British Empire.[28]
  • 1872: Monitor top railroad cars in the world invented by James Ferguson. The original model is in the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John.[29]
  • 1880: First clockwork time bomb developed in 1880.[30]
  • 1906: The first public playground in Canada was inaugurated.[31]
  • 1907: The first orchestra to accompany a silent moving picture, on the North American continent, was in the old nickel theatre.[32]
  • 1918: One of the first police unions in Canada, the Saint John Police Protective Association, was formed in Saint John.[33]
  • 2010: Stonehammer UNESCO Geopark, the first Geopark in North America and centred around Saint John, is formed.[34]

Geography and climate

Physical geography

Situated in the south-central portion of the province, along the north shore of the Bay of Fundy at the mouth of the Saint John River, the city is split by the south-flowing river and the east side is bordered on the north by the Kennebecasis River where it meets the Saint John River at Grand Bay. Saint John Harbour, where the two rivers meet the Bay of Fundy, is a deep water port and ice-free all year long. Partridge Island is in the harbour.

Stonehammer UNESCO Geopark, the first Geopark in North America, is centred around Saint John. The Geopark has been recognized by UNESCO as having exceptional geological significance. The park contains rock formations throughout the Saint John region ranging billions of years.

The Saint John River itself flows into the Bay of Fundy through a narrow gorge several hundred feet wide at the centre of the city. It contains a unique phenomenon called the Reversing Falls where the diurnal tides of the bay reverse the water flow of the river for several kilometres. A series of underwater ledges at the narrowest point of this gorge also create a series of rapids.

The topography surrounding Saint John is hilly; a result of the influence of two coastal mountain ranges which run along the Bay of Fundy – the St. Croix Highlands and the Caledonia Highlands. The soil throughout the region is extremely rocky with frequent granite outcrops. The coastal plain hosts numerous freshwater lakes in the eastern, western and northern parts of the city.

In Saint John the height difference from low to high tide is approximately 8 metres (28 ft) due to the funnelling effect of the Bay of Fundy as it narrows. The Reversing Falls in Saint John, actually an area of strong rapids, provides one example of the power of these tides; at every high tide, ocean water is pushed through a narrow gorge in the middle of the city and forces the Saint John River to reverse its flow for several hours.


Saint John is a city of neighbourhoods, with residents closely identifying with their particular area.

South (End) Central Peninsula—Uptown

The central peninsula on the east side of Saint John Harbour and the area immediately opposite on the west side are the sites of the original city, which resulted from the merger of Parrtown and Carleton. The western side of the central peninsula subsequently saw increased development and includes the central business district (CBD) and the Trinity Royal Heritage Conservation Area, which together are referred to as "Uptown" by residents throughout the city. The term "Uptown" came about as people at the slips would go up the hill to the city. In addition, most of the central peninsula is situated on a hill. This central area of Saint John is only rarely called "Downtown." The south end of the central peninsula, south of Duke Street, is appropriately called the South End.

North End (Portland/Millidgeville)

The area north of the Highway #1 from the South Central Peninsula is called the North End; both areas being predominantly urban residential older housing which is undergoing gentrification. Much of the North End is made up of the former city of Portland and comprises another former working class area which is slowly undergoing gentrification at the eastern end of Douglas Avenue; immediately north of Portland and upstream from the Reversing Falls is the former community of Indiantown.

Vessels navigating the Saint John River can only transit the Reversing Falls gorge at slack tide, thus Indiantown became a location during the 19th and 20th centuries where tugboats and paddle wheelers could dock to wait. Being at the beginning of the navigable part of the Saint John River, Indiantown also became a major terminal for vessels departing to ply their trade upriver.

Further north of the central part of the city, and northeast of the North End and Portland, along the southern bank of the Kennebecasis River is the area of Millidgeville which is generally considered a neighbourhood separate from the North End. The boundary of Millidgeville is typically thought to begin at the "Y" intersection of Somerset Street and Millidge Ave or right after Tartan St. It is a middle to upper-class neighbourhood. Located here is University of New Brunswick, as well as New Brunswick's largest health care centre, the Saint John Regional Hospital, and Saint John's only completely French school and community centre, Centre Scolaire Communautaire Samuel-de-Champlain.

The eastern area of the North End plays host to the city's largest park, and one of Canada's largest urban parks. Rockwood Park encompasses 890 ha (2,200 acres) of upland Acadian mixed forest, many hills and several caves, as well as several freshwater lakes, with an extensive trail network, a golf course, and the Cherry Brook Zoo. The park was designed by Calvert Vaux in the mid-to-late 19th century. Mount Pleasant borders the park, and is generally seen as distinct from the traditionally poorer North End.

East Side (Simonds/Loch Lomond)

To the east of the Courtney Bay / Forebay and south of New Brunswick Route 1 is the East Side, where the city has experienced its greatest suburban sprawl in recent decades with commercial retail centres and residential subdivisions. There has been significant and consistent commercial and retail development in the Westmorland Road-McAllister Drive-Consumer's Drive-Major's Brook Drive-Retail Drive corridor since the 1970s, including McAllister Place, the city's largest shopping mall, which opened in 1978, and with active year-to-year development since 1994. The city's airport is further east on the coastal plain among several lakes at the far eastern edge of the municipality. Far east side is Loch Lomond, including several urban neighbourhoods found here, including Forest Hills, Champlain Heights, and Lakewood Heights. The malls were built by filling in Major's Brook (a tributary to Marsh Creek), making the area prone to flooding.

West Side (Carleton/Lancaster/Fairville)

The portion of the city west of the Saint John River is collectively referred to as West Side, although West Saint Johners divide this area into several neighbourhoods. As mentioned previously, the Lower West Side is the former working-class neighbourhood known as Carleton at the time of the city's formation in 1785. West and north of the Lower West Side is the former city of Lancaster (commonly referred to as Saint John West), which was amalgamated into Saint John in 1967. The boundary was City Line Street, with the streets east considered to be the "West Side", and the streets west of City Kine Street having been renamed from Lancaster, NB to Saint John West, NB.

The southern part of Lancaster abutting Saint John Harbour and the Bay of Fundy is Bayshore and the location of Canadian Pacific Railway's Bayshore Yard. The north end of Lancaster, known as Fairville, is home to Moosehead Brewery and older neighbourhoods clustered along Manawagonish Road. North of Fairville are the communities of Milford and Randolph. Randolph, which is home to Dominion Park Beach, includes land on the city's largest island, and is joined by the Canal Bridge over Mosquito Cove on Greenhead Road. The area also contains the Irving Pulp and Paper mill, a highly visible manufacturing plant that sits next to the Reversing Falls and is owned and operated by J. D. Irving, Ltd.

West of Lancaster, the city hosts its second largest park, and one of the largest coastal urban parks in the country. The Irving Nature Park, along Saints' Rest Beach, sits on an extensive peninsula called Taylor's Island extending into the western part of the harbour into the Bay of Fundy. The park is partially open to vehicles in summer and features ocean views and walking trails through mixed forests.


Saint John's suburbs, just on the edge of the city limit, are Rothesay, Quispamsis, and Grand Bay–Westfield. Mainly residential, the suburbs have attracted many of Saint John's residents, leading the city's population to shrink.


Saint John
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: Environment Canada[35]

The climate of Saint John is humid continental (Köppen climate classification Dfb). The Bay of Fundy never fully freezes, thus moderating the winter temperatures compared with inland locations. Even so, with the prevailing wind blowing from the west (from land to sea), the average January temperature is about −8.2 °C (17.2 °F). Summers are usually warm to hot, and daytime temperatures often exceed 25 °C (77 °F). The highest temperature recorded in a given year is usually 30 or 31 °C (86 or 88 °F). The confluence of cold Bay of Fundy air and inland warmer temperatures often creates onshore winds that bring periods of fog and cooler temperatures during the summer months.

Precipitation in Saint John totals about 1,295 mm (51.0 in) annually and is well distributed throughout the year, although the late autumn and early winter are typically the wettest time of year. Snowfalls can often be heavy, but rain is as common as snow in winter, and it is not unusual for the ground to be snow-free even in mid-winter.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Saint John was 34.4 °C (94 °F) on June 22, 1941,[36] August 15, 1944,[37] and August 22, 1976.[38] The coldest temperature ever recorded was −36.7 °C (−34 °F) on February 11, 1948.[38]

Climate data for Saint John Airport, elevation: 103 m (338 ft), 1981−2010 normals, extremes 1871−present[lower-alpha 1]
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high humidex 16.8 13.3 27.0 23.8 35.4 38.0 40.3 40.3 39.4 28.3 24.0 19.8 40.3
Record high °C (°F) 14.5
Average high °C (°F) −2.5
Daily mean °C (°F) −7.9
Average low °C (°F) −13.3
Record low °C (°F) −33.2
Record low wind chill −44.8 −44.4 −39.5 −26.1 −13.9 −2.6 0.0 0.0 −5.7 −12.9 −25.9 −41.9 −44.8
Average precipitation mm (inches) 123.5
Average rainfall mm (inches) 66.1
Average snowfall cm (inches) 64.3
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm) 16.2 12.8 14.0 13.9 13.7 12.9 11.5 10.5 10.5 11.9 14.4 15.6 157.9
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 6.7 5.3 7.6 11.0 13.6 12.9 11.5 10.5 10.5 11.7 12.5 8.3 122.1
Average snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm) 12.9 10.2 9.4 5.1 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 3.9 10.2 52.6
Mean monthly sunshine hours 124.9 124.5 149.9 165.9 199.0 211.6 225.9 216.8 181.9 147.8 97.0 102.0 1,947.3
Percent possible sunshine 44.0 42.6 40.7 41.0 43.2 45.3 47.7 49.6 48.3 43.4 33.8 37.4 43.1
Source: Environment Canada[38][39][40][41][42]

Buildings and structures

  • Courtney Bay Smokestacks (each 106.7 m (350 ft))
  • Brunswick Square (80.8 m (265 ft)) 19-storey office building with 511,032 sq ft (47,476.4 m2) which was built in 1976. It is the largest office building in New Brunswick in terms of square footage and second in Atlantic Canada behind the Maritime Centre in Halifax.
  • Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Gothic style Catholic cathedral, construction began in 1853, its spire rises to 70.1 m (230 ft))
  • City Hall (55.2 m (181 ft)) 15-storey office building (165,000 sq ft (15,300 m2))
  • Brunswick House (52 m (171 ft)) 14-storey office building (103,000 sq ft (9,600 m2))[44]
  • Irving Building (50 m (160 ft)) 14-storey office building[45]
  • Harbourside Senior Citizens Housing Complex (43 m (141 ft)) 12-storey apartment building
  • Harbour Building (37 m (121 ft)) 10-storey office building
  • Mercantile Centre (30 m (98 ft)) 7-storey office building (106,600 sq ft (9,900 m2))[46]
  • Chateau Saint John 8-storey hotel (112 rooms)[47]
  • City Market (built in 1876, oldest city market in North America, with an original ship's hull roof design)
  • Loyalist House (built in 1817)
  • Irving Oil Headquarters (2019) 11-storey office building

National Historic Sites

There are 13 National Historic Sites of Canada in Saint John.[48]



The population of the city declined from the 1970s to the early 21st century. This trend reversed itself and the city's population increased in the 2011 census, but then declined again by 2016. Saint John was New Brunswick's largest city until 2016.

Metropolitan area

In 2011, the population of the Greater Saint John area was 127,761, of whom 49% were male and 51% female. Children under fifteen accounted for approximately 16% of the population. People 65 and over accounted for approximately 15% of the population. When the census was taken in May 2011 the population of the Saint John metropolitan area was 127,761 compared with 122,389 in 2006.[49]

Ethnicity, religion and language

Historically, as one of Canada's main ports, Saint John has been a centre for immigration from all over the world. The city was incorporated in the late 1700s after more than 3,300 black loyalist refugees came to Saint John along with more than 10,000 white refugees after the American Revolution. [50] In the years between 1815 and 1867, when immigration of that era passed its peak, more than 150,000 immigrants from Ireland came to Saint John dramatically changing the city. Those who came in the earlier period were largely tradesmen, and many stayed in Saint John, becoming the backbone of its builders. But when the Great Irish Potato Famine raged between 1845 and 1852, huge waves of famine refugees flooded the city's shores. It is estimated that between 1845 and 1847, some 30,000 arrived, more people than were living in the city at the time. In 1847, dubbed "Black 47", one of the worst years of the famine, some 16,000 immigrants, most of them from Ireland, arrived at Partridge Island, the immigration and quarantine station at the mouth of Saint John Harbour.[51]

By 1850, the Irish Catholic community constituted Saint John's largest ethnic group. In the census of 1851, over half the heads of households in the city registered themselves as natives of Ireland. By 1871, 55 per cent of Saint John's residents were Irish natives or children of Irish-born mothers or fathers. There were violent confrontations between the Catholic and the Protestant ("Orange") Irish especially in the 1840s.[52][53]

As of the 2016 census, approximately 87.7% of the residents were white, while 7% were visible minorities and 5.3% were aboriginal. The largest visible minority groups were Black (2.1%), Chinese (1.4%), Arab (0.9%), and South Asian (0.7%).

With regard to religion, 89.2% identify as Christian (47.6% Protestant, 40.3% Roman Catholic, and 1.3% other Christian, mostly Orthodox and independent churches). 10.1% state no religious affiliation, and other religions including Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism together comprise less than 1%.

While New Brunswick is a bilingual province, the Greater Saint John area is overwhelmingly anglophone: of its 127,761 residents in 2011, only 5,520 (4.3%) were native French speakers, a much lower percentage than for the province as a whole (31.9%).

Municipal government (Common Council)

Saint John is one of five chartered cities in Canada, giving it unique legislative powers.[12]


Saint John is governed by a body of elected officials, referred to as "Common Council", whose responsibilities include:

  • Setting the city operational budget
  • Setting the City Water utility budget/ rates
  • Enacting and amending by-laws
  • Rezoning and land-use permissions of properties in Saint John.
  • Setting the capital budget for the city
  • Acting as the Board of Directors for the corporation "City of Saint John"
  • Appointing persons to city staff and commissions
  • Overseeing the operation of city commissions and departments


The Common Council consists of:

  • The Mayor, who runs at-large, acts as Chairman of the Board.
  • Two at-large Common Councillors.
  • Two Common Councillors, from each of the city's four wards.

One is elected by the council to serve as Deputy Mayor.

As of 2017, the Council's members are:

  • Mayor: Don Darling
  • Deputy Mayor: Shirley McAlary
  • Councillor at Large: Gary Sullivan
  • Ward 1: Blake Armstrong, Greg Norton
  • Ward 2: John MacKenzie, Sean Casey
  • Ward 3: Donna Reardon, David Hickey
  • Ward 4: Ray Strowbridge, David Meritthew

In the October 9, 2007 Plebiscite, it was decided that as of the May 2008 quadrennial municipal elections, the city will be divided into four wards of approximately equal population, with two councillors to be elected by the voters in that ward, and two councillors to be elected at large.


The sea has shaped Saint John, the only city on the Bay of Fundy. Saint John has a long history of shipbuilding at the city's dry dock, which is one of the largest in the world. Since 2003 shipbuilding has ended on the scale it once was, forcing the city to adopt a new economic strategy. The University of New Brunswick, the New Brunswick Museum and the New Brunswick Community College are important institutions, and along with Radian6, Horizon Health Network and many others, they are a part of Saint John's fast-growing research and information-technology sectors. As the city moves away from its industrial past it now begins to capitalize on the growing sector of tourism, hosting over 1.5 million visitors a year and 200,000 cruise ship visitors a year, creating a renaissance in the city's historic downtown (locally known as uptown). Many small businesses have moved into Uptown and large scale waterfront developments are underway, such as the Fundy Quay (condo, hotel and office space), Saint John Law Courts, and the Three Sisters Harbourfront condos.

The arts and culture sector plays a large role in Saint John's economy. The Imperial Theatre is home to the highly acclaimed Saint John Theatre Company, and the Symphony New Brunswick and hosts a large collection of plays, concerts and other stage productions year-round. Harbour Station entertainment complex is home to the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL and the Saint John Riptide of the NBL.

Art galleries in Saint John cover the uptown, more than any other Atlantic Canadian city. Artists like Miller Brittain and Fred Ross have made Uptown Saint John their home, and now the torch has been passed to artists like Gerard Collins, Cliff Turner and Peter Salmon and their respective galleries. Uptown art galleries also include the Trinity Galleries, Citadel Gallery, Handworks Gallery and the Saint John Arts Centre (SJAC). The SJAC in the Carnegie Building hosts art exhibits, workshops, local songwriters' circles and other shows too small to be featured at the grand Imperial Theatre.

Saint John maintains industrial infrastructure in the city's East side such as Canada's largest oil refinery. Capitalist K.C. Irving and his family built his unfettered industrial conglomerate in the city by buying up mills, shipyards, media outlets, and other industrial infrastructure during the 20th century, and still continue to this day. Today Irving dominates the city and province with stakes in oil, forestry, shipbuilding, media and transportation. Irving companies remain dominant employers in the region with North America's first deepwater oil terminal,[54] a pulp mill, a paper mill and a tissue paper plant.

Other important economic activity in the city is generated by the Port of Saint John.[55]

Saint John has a long history of brewers, such as Simeon Jones, The Olands, and James Ready. The city is now home to Moosehead Breweries, James Ready Brewing Co., Big Tide Brewing Co., Picaroon's and other craft brewers. The Moosehead Brewery (established in 1867, is Canada's only nationally distributed independent brewery [M. Nicholson]), James Ready Brewing Co., the New Brunswick Power Corporation which operates three electrical generating stations in the region including the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station, Bell Aliant which operates out of the former New Brunswick Telephone headquarters, the Horizon Health Network, which operates 5 hospitals in the Saint John area,[56] and numerous information technology companies. There are also a number of call centres which were established in the 1990s under provincial government incentives.

View from Fort Howe of the Saint John skyline prior to Peel Plaza

Maritime activities

Until the first decade of the 21st century, Canada's largest shipyard (Irving Shipbuilding) had been an important employer in the city. During the 1980s-early 1990s the shipyard was responsible for building 9 of the 12 Halifax-class multi-purpose patrol frigates for the Canadian Navy. However, the Irvings closed the shipyard in 2003 and centralized in Halifax.

Prior to the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, the Port of Saint John functioned as the winter port for Montreal, Quebec when shipping was unable to traverse the sea ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and St. Lawrence River. The Canadian Pacific Railway opened a line to Saint John from Montreal in 1889 across the state of Maine and transferred the majority of its trans-Atlantic passenger and cargo shipping to the port during the winter months. The port fell into decline following the seaway opening and the start of year-round icebreaker services in the 1960s. In 1994 CPR left Saint John when it sold the line to shortline operator New Brunswick Southern Railway. The Canadian National Railway still services Saint John with a secondary mainline from Moncton. Despite these setbacks, Port Saint John is the largest port by volume in Eastern Canada, at about 28 million metric tonnes of cargo per year, including containers and bulk cargo.[57]


Besides being the location of several historical forts, such as Fort Howe, Fort Dufferin, Fort Latour, and the Carleton Martello Tower, Saint John is the location of a number of reserve units of the Canadian Forces.


Canada's first trade union

Saint John is often described as the birthplace of unionism in Canada and is one of the few pre-capitalist colonial settlements in North America. The city has a history of labour achievements and sparked the Canadian labour movement with Canada's first trade union, the Labourers' Benevolent Association (now International Longshoremen's Association Local 273). In 1849 the union was formed when Saint John's longshoremen banded together to lobby for regular pay and a shorter workday. One of their first resolutions was to apply to the city council for permission to erect the bell, which would announce the beginning and end of the labourers' 10-hour workday. As the bell shears were hardly finished when capitalists and merchants in the city objected to the bell and successfully lobbied city hall to keep the bell from being put up. But then, citizens and longshoremen defied the order and erected a larger bell and merchants withdrew their opposition to the "Labourers' Bell". ILA Local 273 remain one of the city's strongest trade unions to this day.[58]

The Saint John Street Railwaymen’s strike and riot of 1914

The 1914 Saint John street railway strike (sometimes called the Saint John street railwaymen's strike)[59] was a strike by workers on the street railway system in the city which lasted from July 22–24, 1914, with rioting by Saint John inhabitants occurring on July 23 and 24. The strike was important for shattering the image of Saint John as a conservative town dominated primarily by ethnic and religious (rather than class) divisions, and highlighting tensions between railway industrialists and the local working population.

The 1949 Canadian Seamen’s Union strike

The 1949 Canadian Seamen's Union (CSU) strike for many shows a striking bit of history in Canadian labour and is a story about anti-union shipping companies who had a clear disregard for the law. The companies demanded the removal from the contract of the hiring hall. This concession was totally unacceptable to the union as it would mean the end of the CSU. When the union discovered the shipping companies were signing back-door agreements with the Seafarer's International Union (SIU) they had implemented strike action. With SIU crews operating the ships and the longshoremen handling the cargo, the CSU strike in Saint John was, for all intents and purposes, over. The union had been destroyed by a corrupt American union, led by gangster Hal Banks, who was supported by the American labour movement, the Canadian government and the Shipping Federation of Canada. The strike was now ineffective in Saint John, but the vibrations from the strike would be felt in the city for many years.[60]

October 14, 1976 - the Saint John General Strike

The Saint John General Strike of 1976 was a result of the Bill C-73 passed by Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and the House of Commons in Ottawa on October 14, 1975. This bill limited wage increases to 8% the first year, 6% the second year, and 4% the third year after its enactment. Most provinces of Canada accepted the bill by spring of 1976, but within eighteen months they began to withdraw from the program. After its introduction in 1975, it was not until 1976 that the Anti-Inflation Board (AIB) began to roll back workers' wages. The employees of Irving Pulp and Paper, members of the Canadian Paper Workers Union, were among the first to experience the roll backs implemented by the AIB. The paper workers were required to give back to the employer 9.8% of their previous wage increase the first year, and 11% the second year. The Atlantic Sugar Refinery workers of the Bakery and Confectionary Workers International Union of America soon felt the burden as well. The majority of workers within Saint John were influenced by the AIB by January 1976. On February 5, 1976, the Saint John District and the Labour Council held a conference to plan an organized opposition to the AIB. Fifty-two people came to the meeting as representatives of twenty-six unions in Saint John. The council was led by the Labour Council president, George Vair. They began by educating those present on wage control legislation, but swiftly transitioned into rallying and demonstrating in opposition throughout the city. Five thousand marched from numerous ends of the town to King Square. All major industries in Saint John were shut down.[61]

The Irving Oil Refinery strike, 1994-96

On May 12, 1994, at 4:30 pm, members of Local 691 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) union at the Irving Oil Ltd. Refinery went on strike. At this time the refinery's management took over its operations. Irving had argued the refinery might have to shut down and had to bring in a bevy of rollbacks to the workers’ pay and benefits and other changes to the collective agreement. Local 691 argued Irving simply wished to lengthen the work week without paying workers overtime rates. The strike lasted 27 months and was based on Irving’s demands for flexibility of the workers to ensure the refinery was competitive. The strike is seen as symbolic of a rollback of labour and democratic collective bargaining rights that have been in decline across North America.[62]


Air service into Saint John is provided by the Saint John Airport/Aéroport de Saint-Jean, near Loch Lomond 8 nautical miles (15 km; 9.2 mi) east northeast of the central business district[63] or approximately 25 km (16 mi) by road northeast of the city centre. Flights are offered by Sunwing Airlines (seasonal) and Air Canada (Air Canada Express and Air Canada Rouge). In 2011, WestJet decided to withdraw from the Saint John Airport. Quebec-based Pascan Aviation announced its expansion into Saint John in late 2012, with direct flights from Saint John to Quebec City, Newfoundland, and other destinations beginning in September 2012. Porter Airlines flies once daily from Saint John, to Ottawa and Toronto Island Airport.[64]

The main highway in the city is the Saint John Throughway (Route 1). Route 1 extends west to St. Stephen, and northeast towards Moncton. A second major highway, Route 7, connects Saint John with Fredericton. There are two main road crossings over the Saint John River: the Harbour Bridge and the Reversing Falls Bridge, approximately 1 nautical mile (1.9 km) upstream.

The Reversing Falls Railway Bridge carries rail traffic for the New Brunswick Southern Railway on the route from Saint John to Maine. Saint John was serviced by the "Atlantic" Line of Via Rail passenger service. Passenger rail service in Saint John was discontinued in December 1994, although the Canadian National Railway and New Brunswick Southern Railway continue to provide freight service.

Bay Ferries operates a ferry service, MV Fundy Rose, across the Bay of Fundy to Digby, Nova Scotia. The Summerville to Millidgeville Ferry, a free propeller (as opposed to cable) ferry service operated by the New Brunswick Department of Transportation, connects the Millidgeville neighbourhood with Summerville, New Brunswick, across the Kennebecasis River on the Kingston Peninsula.

Bus service is provided by Saint John Transit (Greater Saint John Area) and Maritime Bus (Inter-city). Acadian Lines used to operate regular inter-city bus services between New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Bangor, as well as Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec (connecting with Orléans Express). In November 2012, Acadian Lines ceased operations.


The presence of Irish, British and French heritage is very apparent along with maritime traditions. Saint John's economy has long ties to the fisheries and shipbuilding, and is known for the Marco Polo as its flagship vessel. However, the city's economy has begun a transition from resource-based sectors and manufacturing to include growing IT and research sectors. The city has always been a traditional hub for the arts on the east coast, boasting many notable artists, actors and musicians, including Walter Pidgeon, Donald Sutherland, Louis B. Mayer, and Miller Brittain.

What is considered the golden age of the Saint John arts community was during the post-war era from 1940 to 1970 when the city produced renowned artists and writers such as poet Kay Smith, painters Jack Humphrey, Miller Brittain, Bruno Bobak, Fred Ross, and sculptor John Hooper and folk-singer Tom Connors. Poet Bliss Carman once wrote about Saint John, "All the beauty and mystery Of life were there, adventure bold, Youth, and the glamour of the sea, And all its sorrows old." [65]

Dance, music, and theatre ensembles in the city include:

  • Comhaltas Saint John: Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann was founded in Dublin, Ireland, in 1951. Its mandate is to promote traditional Irish music and culture, and there are more than 400 branches around the world. The Saint John branch of Comhaltas is the eastern-most chapter in Canada.
  • JP Collins Celtic Festival: is an Irish festival celebrating Saint John's Irish heritage. The festival is named for a young Irish doctor James Patrick Collins who worked on Partridge Island quarantine station tending to sick Irish immigrants before he died there himself.
  • Before the Mast: an a cappella men's vocal group that performs sea "shanties" from New Brunswick's past
  • InterAction Children's Theatre[67]
  • New Brunswick Youth Orchestra
  • Open Arts – a series featuring post-classical and experimental music
  • Saint John Rotary Boys' Choir – a boys' choir founded in 1965
  • Saint John String Quartet – performs an annual chamber music concert series
  • Symphony New Brunswick (SNB)- the province's only professional quality symphony orchestra.[68] Though based locally, playing a concert series every season in Saint John, SNB offers concerts in other cities province wide.[69]

Saint John has several small private art galleries, as well as concert series hosted by local churches and schools. Cultural festivals and venues include:

Museums in Saint John include, among others:

National Historic Sites of Canada in Saint John include, among others:


Early French, British and black Loyalists, and Irish settlers influenced music in Saint John from the time the area had been a series of forts for the English and French. Working class fishers, labourers and shipbuilders carried Maritime traditions and folk songs with kitchen parties and outdoor gatherings. But musical high-culture was captured by the wealthy. New Brunswick's solicitor-general 1784–1808, Ward Chipman Sr was known to have fancy soirées at his home with all the latest songs from London. A notable Loyalist musician, Stephen Humbert, moved in 1783 from New Jersey to Saint John and opened a Sacred Vocal Music School. In 1801 Humbert published Union Harmony, the first Canadian music book in English. The Mechanics' Institute, built in 1840, was the first large-scale platform for comic opera and concerts. In 1950 The Saint John Symphony was founded by Kelsey Jones; by 1983 the organization became Symphony New Brunswick. Some musicians from Saint John include Berkley Chadwick, Stompin' Tom Connors, Stevedore Steve,[71] Jane Coop, Bruce Holder, Frances James, the songwriter Michael F. Kelly, Ned Landry, the composer and teacher Edward Betts Manning, Paul Murray, Catherine McKinnon, Patricia Rideout, Philip Thomson, and the tenor and choir conductor Gordon Wry.[72]

Music festivals have long been a part of the city's cultural scene. New Brunswick's Music Festival was held in Saint John every Spring in the early to mid 20th Century.[73] As the city's music changed with the times so did its festivals. Other popular festivals included, the now defunct, Festival By The Sea[74], and Salty Jam[75] catering to various genres of pop music.

Area 506 music festival is held every New Brunswick Day long-weekend at Long Wharf on Saint John Harbour. The festival is set up with shipping containers from the port with vendors from New Brunswick companies to promote local business. A main stage area is also set up for night time shows with local acts as well as major groups. Major bands to have played Area 506 included, Tegan and Sara, Stars, Bahamas, Interpol, and Arkells. Each year the festival also includes a bevy of bands coming out of the Saint John music scene.[76]

Quality Block Party music festival hosts independent New Brunswick musicians in smaller venues throughout uptown Saint John. The festival gets its name from the old quality block on Germain Street.[77]


The following teams are based in Saint John:

The following sporting events have been held here:

Saint John is also home to Exhibition Park Raceway, a harness racing facility that has been hosting this form of horse racing for over the past 120 years. Prior to 1950 it was known as Moosepath Park.


In 1964, the University of New Brunswick created UNB Saint John in buildings throughout the uptown CBD. In 1968 UNBSJ opened a new campus in the city's Tucker Park neighbourhood. This campus has undergone expansion over the years and is the fastest growing component of the UNB system with many new buildings constructed from the 1970s to the first decade of the 21st century. A trend in recent years has been a growth in the number of international students. The city also hosts a New Brunswick Community College campus in the East End of the city. There has also been a satellite campus of Dalhousie Medical School added within the UNBSJ campus in 2010, instructing 30 medical students each year.

In the fall of 2007, a report commissioned by the provincial government recommended UNBSJ and the NBCC be reformed and consolidated into a new polytechnic post-secondary institute. The proposal immediately came under heavy criticism and led to the organizing of several protests in the uptown area, citing the diminishment of UNB as a nationally accredited university, the reduction in accessibility to receive degrees – and these are only a couple of the reasons why the community was enraged by the recommendation. Support for keeping UNBSJ as it was, and expanding the university under its current structure, fell slightly below 90%. Seeing too much political capital would be lost, and several Saint John MPs were likely not to support the initiative if the policies recommended by the report were legislated, the government abandoned the commission's report and created an intra-provincial post-secondary commission.

Saint John is served by two school boards: Anglophone South School District schools and Francophone Sud School District (based out of Dieppe, New Brunswick) for the city's only Francophone school, Centre-Scolaire-Communautaire Samuel-de-Champlain. Saint John is also home to Canada's oldest publicly funded school, Saint John High School. The other high schools in the city are Harbour View High School, St. Malachy's High School, and Simonds High School.


Notable people

Twin/sister cities

See also


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  73. . Maclean's Retrieved November 13, 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  74. Retrieved November 13, 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  75. . Uptown Saint John Retrieved November 13, 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
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  1. Based on station coordinates provided by Environment Canada, climate data recorded near downtown Saint John from January 1871 to September 1970, and at Saint John Airport from November 1946 to present.
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