The city of Saguenay constitutes a territory equivalent to a regional county municipality ; its geographical code is 941. Together with the regional county municipality of Le Fjord-du-Saguenay, it forms the census division of Le Saguenay-et-son-Fjord. The mayor of Saguenay is Josée Néron. Prior to its use as the name of the city, the term "the Saguenay" or "Saguenay Valley" had already been used for the whole Saguenay River region. Saguenay is the seat of the judicial district of Chicoutimi.
The city is divided into three boroughs: Chicoutimi, Jonquière and La Baie.
Saguenay was formed on February 18, 2002 by amalgamating the cities of Chicoutimi, Jonquière, La Baie and Laterrière, along with the municipalities of Lac-Kénogami and Shipshaw and part of the township of Tremblay.
What was ultimately to become the centre of the borough of Chicoutimi was first settled in 1676 as a French trading post in the fur trade. At that time, the Saguenay and the Chicoutimi rivers had been used for centuries by the Innu. The name Chicoutimi means the end of the deep water in the Montagnais. Chicoutimi trading post was in operation until 1782.
The city of Chicoutimi was officially incorporated as a municipality in 1845 by Peter McLeod, a Métis timber contractor, who had built a sawmill there in 1842. It was designated in 1855 as the seat of Chicoutimi County and in 1878 as the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Chicoutimi.
With the arrival of the Canadian National Railway in 1893, the local pulp and paper industries expanded, particularly in mechanical pulp production. The Chicoutimi Pulp Co. was founded in 1896 and backed by French-Canadian investors. By 1910 the Chicoutimi Pulp Mill became the biggest producer of mechanical pulp in Canada.
The economic decline of the Great Depression led the city's economy to shift administration and commerce and commercial. The Conservatoire de musique de Saguenay was founded in Chicoutimi in 1967, and the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi was founded in 1969. The city played host to the Quebec Summer Games in 1972.
In the municipal amalgamations of 1976, Chicoutimi annexed the neighbouring towns of Chicoutimi-Nord and Rivière-du-Moulin. In a later round of amalgamations in 2002, the cities of Chicoutimi, Jonquière, La Baie, Lac-Kénogami, Laterrière, Shipshaw and part of Tremblay merged to form the new city of Saguenay. Chicoutimi became a borough of Saguenay.
During the summer of 1996 a record rainfall in the region caused major flooding in the downtown, as well as outlying areas. The total cost of the disaster was recorded to be 1.5 billion Canadian dollars. It claimed seven lives and destroyed many bridges.
Jonquière was founded in 1847 by Marguerite Belley, who came from La Malbaie to settle on the Rivière aux Sables. It was named after the Marquis de La Jonquière, governor of New France from 1749 to 1752.
Growth came from the construction of pulp and paper mills at the beginning of the 20th century. Between 1925 and 1928, the world's largest aluminum plant was built along with the city Arvida (then a separate town). In 1942, to supply power to the plant, Alcan built a hydroelectric station at Shipshaw that was the largest in the world at that time. Jonquière, Arvida, and Kénogami were amalgamated into a single city, Jonquière, in 1975. Jonquière was the host city for the Quebec Games in the winter of 1976, and for the Canoe/Kayak World Championships in slalom and whitewater racing, in 1979.
Much of Jonquière's development owed its strength to the Price family, who ran a pulp and paper factory in Kénogami. Today that factory is owned by Abitibi-Consolidated. Arvida is the home of an aluminium plant owned by Rio Tinto Alcan. Jonquière is probably best known in the United States as a result of the local Wal-Mart store which attempted to unionize and was closed down shortly thereafter. The official reason for this shutdown was "financial problems."
When the city of Saguenay was constituted on February 18, 2002 by municipal amalgamation, the borough of Jonquière was created from the former city of Jonquière, the former municipality of Shipshaw, and the former municipality of Lac-Kénogami. The former city of Jonquière had a population of 54,842 in the Canada 2001 Census, the last census in which Jonquière was counted as a separate city.
The Rivière aux Sables runs through the centre of Jonquière. Significant damage to the city's buildings was caused by the 1996 Saguenay Flood.
Saguenay is located in a depression in the Canadian shield called the Saguenay Graben, which has a somewhat more temperate climate than the surrounding region. This has encouraged agriculture and human settlement to take place. The relatively small and concentrated Lac St-Jean area where the city is located can be described as an isolated "oasis" in the middle of the vast remote wilderness of Northern Quebec. Few roads connect with the area from the south and east, and only one road connects from the northwest. No roads go north from the area into the wilderness; the last roads to the north end just a short distance from the city, and still within the Lac St-Jean area. There are no human settlements due north of Saguenay all the way to the Canadian Arctic islands, except for a few isolated Cree and Inuit villages. However, the remote, paved Route 167/113 heads northwest to the interior town of Chibougamau, providing access to Western Quebec and Hudson Bay. No services are available for the 230 km (143 mi) to Chibougamau from the Lac St-Jean area.
Two notable natural disasters have occurred within the current municipal boundaries of Saguenay: the Saint-Jean-Vianney landslide of May 4, 1971, and the Saguenay flood of 1996. The 1988 Saguenay earthquake, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake on November 25, 1988, had its epicentre 35 km south of Chicoutimi and was felt within the city.
Under the Köppen classification system, Saguenay has a humid continental climate with large variation between summer and winter. The city features two brief transition seasons (spring and autumn), while summers are warm and occasionally hot, and winters are long and very cold. Temperatures drop lower than −20 °C (−4 °F) on average 47 times per year and less than −30 °C (−22 °F) 7 times per year. The low winter temperatures characteristic of Saguenay are caused by a combination of factors, such as the cold waters of the Labrador Current and Hudson Bay to the north and east of the city.
The highest temperature ever recorded in Saguenay was 39.4 °C (103 °F) on August 18, 1935. The coldest temperature ever recorded was −45.0 °C (−49 °F) on February 5, 1916.
(Institut de la Statistique du Québec, 2006)
The Saguenay Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), which also includes the municipalities of Saint-Fulgence, Saint-Honoré, and Larouche, had a 2006 population of 151,643 and is the most homogenous CMA in all of Canada.
Aboriginal status: Indigenous peoples comprised 1.7% of the population.
Languages: French was mother tongue to 98.1% of residents (counting both single and multiple responses) in 2006. The next most common mother tongues were English at 0.9%, followed by Spanish at 0.3%, Arabic at 0.2%, and Chinese, Portuguese, Atikamekw (Abenaki), German and Niger–Congo languages at 0.1% each.
Religion: About 96% of the population identified as Roman Catholic in 2001 while almost 3% said they had no religious affiliation. Among smaller denominations the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Methodists attracted some 0.2% each, while the Baptists, Anglicans, Muslims, United Church, Mormons and Pentecostals each accounted for about 0.1% of the population.
Visible minorities: About 0.2% of the population identified as Black, 0.2% as Chinese, and 0.1% as Latin American.
Immigration: The area is home to about 700 recent immigrants (i.e. those arriving between 2001 and 2006), who comprise about 0.5% of the total population. Approximately 25% of these new immigrants have come from Colombia, about 10% each have come from China and from France, and about 5% have come from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Internal migration: Between 2001 and 2006 there was a net outmigration of 4,745 people (equivalent to 3% of the total 2001 population), which included a net outmigration of 170 anglophones (equivalent to 15% of the 2001 anglophone population). Overall there was a net outmigration of 2,530 people to Montreal, 1,570 to Quebec, 545 to Gatineau, 285 to Sherbrooke, and 105 to Trois-Rivières.
Ethnocultural ancestries: Canadians were allowed to identify as having one or more ethnocultural ancestries in the 2001 census. Some respondents identified more than one ethnocultural ancestry, so percentages may add up to more than 100%. The most common response was Canadian / Canadien and since the term 'Canadian' is as much an expression of citizenship as of ethnicity, these figures should not be considered an exact record of the relative prevalence of different ethnocultural ancestries. 63.4% of respondents gave a single response of Canadian / Canadien; 20.8% identified both Canadian / Canadien and one or more other ethnocultural ancestries. About 9.9% of respondents gave a single response of French / Français, while 1.7% gave a single response of Québécois, 0.5% gave a single response of Irish, 0.4% gave a single response of Aboriginal and 0.3% gave a single response of Scottish. Counting both single and multiple responses, the most commonly identified ethnocultural ancestries were:
Saguenay's economy is in transition. It is increasingly based on developing research and teaching in applied technologies for energy, aluminum, boreal forest, genomics and biomedical sciences.
Saguenay has three large industrial parks totalling 8,496,138 square metres (91,451,670 sq ft) of commercial facilities: five city centres and shopping centres, six shopping centres, power centres and five major commercial arteries.
In addition, Rio Tinto Alcan confirmed in December 2010 investment of 750 million dollars to upgrade its pilot plant in Jonquière AP-60. The plant was estimated to be 40% more productive than the existing aluminum plant. The first phase included 38 tanks equipped with new technology, with an estimated production of 60,000 tons of aluminum per year. The first ingots were cast in the first quarter of 2013.
According to 2010 data from the Institute of Statistics of Québec (ISQ), the per capita personal income in 2009 amounted to $31,677 versus $31,344 in 2008, a variation of 1.1%. On the other hand, the GDP of the Saguenay CMA in 2009 totalled $6 billion compared to the $9.1 billion GDP of Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean.
Cobalt Aircraft operates a manufacturing plant in the city. On January 17, 2011 the company chose Saguenay for the assembly plant of the aircraft Co50, an advanced, high-end propeller plane.
The city has been home to the QMJHL's Chicoutimi Saguenéens since 1973. They play at the Centre Georges-Vézina in the borough of Chicoutimi.
The new mayor of Saguenay is Josée Néron after the municipal élection of November 2017. Jean Tremblay has served as mayor of Saguenay since the municipal merger of 2002. He was previously mayor of the now defunct city of Chicoutimi from 1997 until 2001. The governing body of Saguenay is Saguenay City Council, which consists of the mayor and 15 city councillors. The councillors are elected from single-member districts.
The city's three boroughs are Jonquière, Chicoutimi and La Baie. Each borough is subdivided into electoral districts, with each district being represented by a city councillor. Each borough has a borough president from among their city councillors. The Jonquière borough is represented by six councillors and its borough president is Carl Dufour. The Chicoutimi borough is represented by six councillors and its borough president is Jacques Fortin. The La Baie borough is represented by three councillors and its borough president is François Tremblay.
Federally, Saguenay is part of two electoral districts. The riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, which includes the boroughs of Chicoutimi and La Baie as well as the most of the Le Fjord-du-Saguenay Regional County Municipality, is represented by Denis Lemieux of the Liberal Party of Canada. The riding of Jonquière, which includes the borough of Jonquière as well as the southern part and parts of the Le Fjord-du-Saguenay RCM, is represented by Karine Trudel of the New Democratic Party.
Provincially, Saguenay is represented in four electoral districts. The electoral district of Chicoutimi includes the former city of Chicoutimi, and is represented by Mireille Jean of the Parti Québécois (PQ). The electoral district of Dubuc, which covers the part of Saguenay as well as the Le Fjord-du-Saguenay RCM, is represented by Serge Simard of the Quebec Liberal Party. The electoral district of Jonquière, which covers most of the borough of Jonquière, is represented by Sylvain Gaudreault of the PQ.
Thrice weekly passenger railway service is provided by VIA Rail Canada from Montreal Central Station to Saguenay by the Montreal–Jonquière train.
The city is also served by the Bagotville Airport, which shares the aerodrome of Canadian Forces Base Bagotville. It operates daily flights to Montreal-Trudeau International Airport as well as flights to Quebec City and Sept-Îles. It operates seasonal flights to Cancún, Mexico, and vacation destinations in Cuba. Another airfield, Chicoutimi/Saint-Honoré Aerodrome former air force base, is located to the north of the city.
A pier in La Baie has been in operation since 2008 to accommodate cruise ships and tourists. The project required investment of about $33.75 million for the construction of a 370-metre (1,210 ft) wharf, a visitor centre ($5 million) and a port village.
Saguenay derives power from its water resources. The city owns three hydroelectric power stations, one operating in the borough of Jonquière and two others, Pont-Arnaud and Chute-Garneau, in operation since spring 2011.
The francophone primary and secondary public schools of Saguenay are managed by two boards, the School Board of Jonquière, which has 11 015 students and the school board of Rives-du-Saguenay, with 11,048 students. These figures include 38 primary schools, 7 secondary schools and 5 vocational training centers in the city, and institutions of neighboring municipalities of Upper and Lower Saguenay. The private elementary Apostolic School of Chicoutimi has 160 students. The Seminary of Chicoutimi has 1,100 high-school students. Saguenay also has primary and secondary schools in English, with 200 students; Riverside Regional School is the responsibility of the Central Québec School Board.
At the college level, Saguenay has two colleges, located in Jonquière and in Chicoutimi, with a combined 5,500 students. In addition to offering pre-university programs, and similar curricula, each of the schools has unique programs. For example, the Cégep de Jonquière offers technical training in Art and Media Technology, while that of Chicoutimi offers technical training in piloting aircraft.
The University of Quebec at Chicoutimi (UQAC) is located in Saguenay; this francophone campus of the province's network has 6500 students. It provides education at university level. As the only university in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, this campus attracts students from across Quebec and la Francophonie. Located near downtown, the Chicoutimi campus includes a sports pavilion and the pavilion of the Humanities. The university has a flagship research center in Arctic ice and other conditions; departments of Forestry, Medicine, and Arts; and the center of Aluminium Technology.
Saguenay has several main components of the regional aluminum sector: the Quebec Centre for Research and Development of Aluminum (CQRDA), the Centre for Aluminum Technology of UQAC (CTA), the University Centre Aluminium Research (CURAL) and college training programs and government. Saguenay has the largest concentration of expertise in North America in the field of aluminum.
In 2007, the Quebec government announced, in conjunction with Genome Quebec, Université de Montréal, the Centre for Health and Social Services and UQAC Chicoutimi, the creation of a Biobank specializing in genomics research. The CSSS de Chicoutimi also specializes in research in primary care medicine and chronic illness and rehabilitation of neuromuscular disorders.