Sector within City of Gatineau
Rue Principale (Main Street)
|Incorporated||July 1, 1855|
|Merged||January 1, 2002 *|
|o Land||88.86 km2 (34.31 sq mi)|
|o Change ~2001||+15.1%|
|Time zone||UTC-05:00 (EST)|
|o Summer (DST)||UTC-04:00 (EST)|
|Area code(s)||819, 873|
|* Merged with Gatineau on January 1, 2002|
Aylmer is a former city in Quebec, Canada. It is located on the north shore of the Ottawa River and along Route 148. In January 2002, it amalgamated into the city of Gatineau, which is part of Canada's National Capital Region. Aylmer's population in 2011 was 55,113. It is named after Lord Aylmer, who was a governor general of British North America and a lieutenant governor of Lower Canada from 1830 to 1835.
It bills itself as the "Recreation Capital of the National Capital", given its many golf courses, green spaces, spas, marina, and bicycle paths. There is little industry in the sector, the area being mainly residential. Virtually all the major shops, services, and restaurants are located along Chemin d'Aylmer. The sector's indoor swimming pool and skateboard park are also located on that road.
The population of the Hull-Aylmer Federal electoral district, which combines the communities of Hull and Aylmer, was 105,419 in 2016. The 2016 census of Hull-Aylmer shows that the population is about 67% francophone, 18% anglophone, and 15% other. Much of its workforce commutes across the river to Ottawa.
Prior to its foundation, parts of Aylmer, like most surrounding areas of the Ottawa region, were often occupied as summer camps by the Algonquin First Nations population. The first European explorers known to reach the actual location of Aylmer were Nicolas-du-Vigneau and Samuel de Champlain during the early 17th century in their explorations west of Quebec City. It was only during the early 19th century that colonization began in the region; during the same period the foundations of the communities of Hull and Bytown were being established. In 1800, agricultural lots were given to Philemon Wright, an American from Massachusetts who was the first major developer/pioneer of the Ottawa Valley and Wright, in turn, gave most of his lots to his sons to operate as farms. The road leading west from Wright's Town was named the Britannia Turnpike and the waterfront at its western extremity was Turnpike's End, eventually renamed Symmes Landing and finally known as Aylmer.
Philemon's oldest son, Philemon Junior, owned or was in charge of most of the Wright Farms, including the Chaudière Farm at Turnpike's End where, In 1818, Philemon Junior built a house and store. As well, just as he and his father had in Wright's Town, Philemon Jr. built an Inn and store at the landing to accommodate all the travellers who journeyed above the falls, up the Ottawa River. In November 1821, Philemon Junior died suddenly in a tragic coach accident. As a result, Philemon Sr. needed a new manager for the Chaudière Farm. His other sons were busy managing the family's timber business, so Philemon Sr. chose Charles Symmes, his nephew who had been in his uncle's employ for two years, to be the new manager. The Hotel was made ready for his occupancy in 1822. In October 1823, the arrangement was made official and more equitable with Charles named a partner of the Farm and Landing with P. Wright & Sons in a lease agreement. Charles would manage the farm and also manage the tavern/store at the waterfront. A dispute arose when the company did not honour the terms of the agreement. Charles left P. Wright & Sons to pursue business on his own at Turnpike's End. Charles acquired property and, in 1830, he had his property surveyed and divided up into building lots for sale. He developed the waterfront, creating a dock and partnered in building and running the steamboat Lady Colborne, the first to operate in that area. In 1831, he replaced the Wright tavern/store with a larger building called the Symmes Inn, also known today as l'Auberge Symmes.
The post office and county registration office in Aylmer were opened in 1831; it was named after then Governor General Lord Aylmer. The village was first incorporated in 1847 and served as administrative centre for the region until 1897. A courthouse and jail that served the Outaouais region were built in 1852. With the important shipbuilding yards on the banks of the Ottawa and its significant growth as one of the region's economic powerhouses of that time, Aylmer was actually considered as a real contender to become the new Nation's Capital by Queen Victoria.
The Aylmer Boating Club was founded in 1890. The Club was renamed the Aylmer Yacht Club in 1900. In 1901, Moses Chamberlain Edey designed the clubhouse. By 1906, the Club was renamed the Victoria Yacht Club. In 1921, the Club burned down and was not rebuilt.
During most of the 19th century, the town of Aylmer, like much of the Outaouais, was an important centre for the wood industry. During that period several steam boats were built alongside the Deschênes Rapids and the Ottawa River across from Britannia. Railroad construction began during the early Canadian Confederation years. Meanwhile, the economy of Aylmer was more focused on the wood and wood pulp industries and much later, on tourism. In 1921, a destructive fire ravaged large sections of the village destroying dozens of homes and businesses. During the Great Depression Aylmer's biggest sawmill closed its doors.
Aylmer would regain importance during the second half of the 20th century when, due to urban sprawling from the Ottawa and Gatineau areas, it became an important suburb to the region. In 1975 the villages of Lucerne and Deschênes, located just east of downtown Aylmer, were amalgamated. Several new residential developments were created on the northern and eastern side of old Aylmer. Numerous businesses and shopping malls were built along the Main Street including les Galeries Aylmer and the Glenwood Plaza, the latter being destroyed by a fire in 2005 and rebuilt. In addition, several golf courses, a Sheraton hotel, and a movie theatre were added through the city. On August 4, 1994, a destructive tornado tore through the city damaging nearly 400 to 500 homes (including a dozen homes that were completely destroyed) and injuring at least 15 people. Damage figures were estimated at about $15 million.  Rated F3 on the Fujita scale, the tornado tracked for 8 kilometers and was one of the most intense tornadoes in history across the National Capital Region.  Aylmer also saw many power outages and very dangerous driving conditions throughout the North American ice storm of 1998, which left more than 4 million people without electricity, most of them in southern Quebec, western New Brunswick and Eastern Ontario, some of them for an entire month. The Canadian Forces were called in to assist with the relief efforts.
Before the amalgamation of the Urban Community Region of the Outaouais, Aylmer had a population exceeding 40,000 with additional growth after 2002 stemming from development in several areas of the sector, including the expansion of the Plateau de la Capitale neighbourhood which started in the former city of Hull in the early 1990s.
In recent years, efforts have been made to create the Boucher Forest protected area, in light of increasing suburban sprawl and housing development. The group that strives for protection of the Boucher Forest is the Fondation Forêt Boucher, the Boucher Forest Foundation. The forest is a reservoir of biodiversity in the region; at-risk and endangered species such as Panax quinquefolium (American ginseng), and Juglans cinerea (butternut) exist in this threatened ecosystem. The forest is bound by Highway 148 to the south, Chemin Vanier to the east, the Jardins Lavigne neighbourhood to the west (one of Aylmer's newer suburban areas), and Chemin Pink to the north. Furthermore, an old mining quarry is directly adjacent to the forest's northwest corner.
Aylmer is served by provincial Route 148, known as the boulevard des Allumettières within the city of Gatineau, which extends from the Ontario border near Pembroke, to Montreal, about two hours away. Other main roads include the Chemin d'Aylmer/rue Principale and Lucerne Blvd (running east and west)., Vanier, Eardley, Broad/Klock, Wilfrid-Lavigne, Mountain Rd., Pink Rd. Aylmer is connected to Tunney's Pasture and Westboro in Ottawa by the Champlain Bridge, at the southeast corner.
It has been proposed to build an extension from Autoroute 50 in Gatineau that would come though Chelsea and central Aylmer to become a bridge between Deschênes and Brittania, but the plan is only tentative, mainly due to strong local opposition from the Brittania sector.
Aylmer is home to an effective and generally well-maintained network of bicycle paths that encircle the central portion of the area and run past many scenic locations, such as the Aylmer Marina and the Deschênes Rapids. The bike path system is maintained by the National Capital Commission.
Public transit is provided by the Société de transport de l'Outaouais or STO, which runs twelve bus lines through the region (although many only operate during rush hour). The STO has been criticized by Aylmer residents--particularly youth--for not providing enough service to the area, and for not providing enough inter-sector bus lines (the western terminus for most Aylmer lines is in the Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa). The STO is planning a bus rapid transit system known as Rapibus that would connect the Hull and Gatineau sectors, with the possibility of an expansion to Aylmer.
The railroad bedding still exists from Aylmer's now-defunct rail line, and pressure has been put on the STO to set up a light rail system in Gatineau that could connect to Ottawa's O-Train network via the Prince of Wales Bridge. If this were to happen, Aylmer could theoretically be served by light rail as well, but at present this appears highly unlikely.
In terms of population, Aylmer makes up about one third of the riding of Hull--Aylmer, which has elected a Liberal member of parliament in every federal election since its conception in 1984 — its predecessors, the ridings of Hull and Wright, in place from 1892 to 1984, also only ever elected Liberals. This, however, changed when the riding elected NDP MP Nycole Turmel to the House of Commons of Canada in the 2011 federal election. The Liberals returned to power in the riding with the election of Greg Fergus, Member of Parliament and the Right. Honourable Justin Trudeau.
In the 2005 Gatineau municipal election, Aylmer voters showed particularly strong support for current mayor Marc Bureau, over incumbent and former mayor of "old" Hull Yves Ducharme. Similar voting patterns appeared in the sectors of Buckingham and Masson-Angers, the other two "outlying" regions of Gatineau. This could be due to a perception among residents that the Ducharme administration was more focused on the urban core of the new city, as opposed to the periphery, as well as the rapid development of green-spaces into residential subdivisions. However, six months after the November election, residents are showing the highest level of dissatisfaction with the Bureau administration out of all the sectors, citing Aylmer's being left out of municipal processes, poor quality of municipal services, and little to no action to halt suburban sprawl. Masson-Angers and Buckingham residents are presently showing the most support for the new government.
Recently, the City of Gatineau administration had plans to reuse a former landfill site on Cook Road in the north end of the sector to build a new composting plant. A deal was planned with a non-profit organisation called La Ressourcerie to operate the site. However, local residents are strongly opposed with health and environmental concerns especially due to the past of the landfill site. Despite displaying their fierce opposition, which included acts of intimidation and threats towards some councillors, at a Gatineau City Council Meeting, Mayor Marc Bureau mentioned that he will still build the plant at the Cook site, and that according to him it was the best possible site. He later added that he will study other possibilities for the plant.
In 2002 the City of Aylmer became a part of Gatineau when the then-Parti Québécois government forcibly merged several clusters of cities and metropolitan areas throughout Québec. Residents of Aylmer were particularly against the amalgamation, citing fears of reduced municipal services, more suburban development, and a loss of cultural identity, as well as geographic differences (Hull and Gatineau arguably constitute a region of conurbation, whereas Aylmer was at the time separated by an expanse of sparsely inhabited green space).
A movement was started to halt the "forced fusion" of five cities surrounding Gatineau. The movement had particularly strong support in Aylmer. Signs reading "Je me souviendrai des fusions forcées" (literally, "I will remember forced fusions," a play on Quebec's motto "Je me souviens") were a common sight.
When the Quebec Liberal Party won the 2003 provincial election, the newly amalgamated former cities were given the opportunity to demerge. A referendum was held to decide the fate of the City of Gatineau which required a double vote: at least 35% of eligible voters from a given sector had to cast ballots, and more than 50% of these had to be in favour of de-amalgamation. Aylmer voters chose to separate from Gatineau but not enough ballots were cast, meaning Aylmer remained a sector of the larger city.
The voting outcome itself was done in such a way that even if Aylmer succeeded in de-amalgamating from Gatineau, they would only do so in name. The de-amalgamation claimed that once Aylmer was its own area once again, it would have to pay for all its own changes, while Gatineau would still be in control of the administration. This meant that the sector of Aylmer would receive no support from the administration that determined what was built where, but would still have to contribute 100% to the costs of the changes voted by the city of Gatineau.
Prior to the merger, Aylmer's residents and municipal laws had strongly opposed extensive construction programs. Following the amalgamation, many of the sector's prized green spaces were cut down for residential construction. Ex-Aylmer neighbourhoods like Wychwood and Village Lucerne have seen their undeveloped spaces sold to contractors. As a result of this unchecked development, there is a strong resentment of the current municipal administration among Aylmer Sector citizens.
Note:From 1879 to November 1964, this area was known as South Hull
The Western Québec School Board provides English and French immersion education to primary and secondary students.
The Commission scolaire des portages de l'Outaouais provides French education to primary and secondary students.
École secondaire Grande-Rivière: a francophone high school, located on Broad street, this school teaches well over 2000 students, and supports an additional 100+ staff members, including teachers, administrators, janitors, and other service personnel. It is the largest secondary school in the sector. It sports a standard programme, a musical concentration programme, an artistic concentration programme, an IB Middle Years Programme, the International Programme (P.E.I), and several support programmes for students in difficult situations. It also has a small community of highly active students who participate in the organization of school activities.
Other secondary schools are Symmes Junior High School (grades 7 and 8) and the recently constructed École secondaire D'Arcy McGee High School (grades 9, 10 and 11), both located on Blvd. du Plateau, this is because they are joined together, making the school grades 7-11.