The Regional Municipality of Durham is east of Toronto, in the Golden Horseshoe area of Ontario. It is a mix of rural, residential, and commercial land. North Durham is mostly rural, has a thriving agriculture sector, and is home to Oak Ridges Moraine.

Durham has eight unique area municipalities, each with something new and interesting to discover:

The Regional Municipality of Durham Region is also known as the Region of Durham. It has an area of approximately 2,500 square kilometres. Headquarters of the regional government is in Whitby. The Region of Durham was established in 1974 as one of several new regional governments in Ontario. What began as 21 local municipalities in the counties of Ontario, Northumberland and Durham, eventually became known as The Regional Municipality of Durham.


Durham Region had a population of 696,992 in the 2021 Census. That number is projected to be 1 million by 2031. Just over 27% of Durham residents identify as visible minorities. Close to one in four are immigrants to Canada. New immigrants to Durham (arriving between 2011-2016) came from India, Philippines, Pakistan, China, Jamaica, Sri Lanka, United States, United Kingdom, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Egypt among many other countries. Just under 2% of the population identify as Aboriginal.

Learn more about the Region of Durham and the people who live here in the Durham Region Profile

Early History

Durham Region was originally the home of a number of First Nations including, but not limited to Iroquois and Ojibway.

Today Durham is home to The Mississauga Nation and a large Métis community. The Mississauga Nation is a branch of the Ojibway of the Three Fires Confederacy who moved southward the Sault Ste. Marie area around 1695 to take advantage of the fur trade. 

The Mississauga people settled into community groupings at the mouth of the Credit River, on the shores of Rice Lake, Mud Lake and Lake Scugog. 

Find out more about the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation and the Oshawa and Durham Region Métis Council

The first immigrants to this area were French followed by English explorers and settlers during the 1600s and 1700s. These early immigrants created a demand for furs to export to France and England and other parts of Europe. 

The United Empire Loyalists are also part of the local heritage. Early settlement involved clearing the land and establishing farms and logging operations. In the 1800s the War of Independence in the United States created a group of people called The United Empire Loyalists who became refugees from the conflict in the United States. These people were loyal to Britain and left the United States to settle in Canada which was under British rule. They became the early founders of local businesses that later became the major manufacturing companies in Durham such as the McLaughlin Carriage Company which later became General Motors of Canada.

In the 1800s these early immigrants established mills, lumber operations, created local harbours and began manufacturing farm implements, construction goods, carriages and sleighs and other goods for shipment to other parts of Canada, the United States and abroad. In the 1900s many immigrants came from Britain and Europe and settled in this area to take up jobs in the factories, foundries and businesses that became the commercial and business base of Durham Region. Immigrants of Polish, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Croatian, German, Italian and Russian heritage made Oshawa their home during this period.

In the late 1900s immigration patterns began to change with more and more immigrants coming from the Middle East, East Asia, Asia and South America as well as the Caribbean and Central America.

In the late 1960s, the Province of Ontario noticed a large population growth (mainly attributed to the post-World War II baby boom), which also meant increased density in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

And, as the GTA population grew, so did the need for expansion of existing water and sewer facilities, roads, and public transportation systems. As a result, it was determined that an upper-tier level of government should be formed, within various locations across the GTA, to provide and streamline additional services.

Durham Region was created on Jan. 1, 1974, under The Regional Municipality of Durham Act, 1973. The Act had received royal assent on June 22, 1973. The name Durham was chosen over names such as McLaughlin, Oshawa and Pickering. And, the first meeting of Durham Regional Council was held at G.L. Roberts Collegiate and Vocational Institute in Oshawa, on Oct. 15, 1973.

The new bill introduced an upper-tier level of government, which would house eight area municipalities, now known as: the cities of Oshawa and Pickering, the towns of Ajax and Whitby, the Municipality of Clarington, and the townships of Brock, Scugog and Uxbridge.

Plus, it created the largest geographical jurisdiction in the GTA, encompassing an area of just under 2,600 square kilometres (1,000 square miles).

Stretching from Pickering in the west, Newtonville in the east, and Lake Ontario in the south, Durham Region reaches as far north as Lake Simcoe.

Today, Durham Region is one of six Regional governments in Ontario. The others are Halton, Niagara, Peel, Waterloo and York.

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