Canada: Kitchener

The City of Kitchener /ˈkɪtʃɪnər/ is a city in Southern Ontario, Canada. Located approximately 100 km west of Toronto, Kitchener is the seat of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo. It was the Town of Berlin from 1854 until 1912 and the City of Berlin from 1912 until 1916.

The City of Kitchener covers an area of 136.86 square kilometres and had a population of 233,222 at the time of the 2016 Census. The Kitchener metropolitan area, which includes the smaller, neighbouring cities of Waterloo to the north and Cambridge to the south, has 523,894 people, making it the tenth largest Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) in Canada and the fourth largest CMA in Ontario.

Kitchener and Waterloo are considered "twin cities" which are often referred to jointly as "Kitchener–Waterloo" (K–W), although they have separate municipal governments. Including Cambridge, the three cities are known as "the Tri-Cities". All are part of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, which was created in 1973, when it replaced Waterloo County, which had been created in 1853.

Kitchener is in Southwestern Ontario, in the Saint Lawrence Lowlands. This geological and climatic region has wet-climate soils and deciduous forests. Located in the Grand River Valley, the area is generally above 300m (1000') in elevation.

Kitchener is the largest city within the Grand River watershed, and the largest city on the Haldimand Tract. Just to the west of the city is Baden Hill, in Wilmot Township. This glacial kame remnant formation is the highest elevation for many miles. The other dominant glacial feature is the Waterloo Moraine, which snakes its way through the region and holds a significant quantity of artesian wells, from which the city derives most of its drinking water. The settlement's first name, Sandhills, is an accurate description of the higher points of the moraine.

By 1800, the first buildings had been built, and over the next decade several families made the difficult trip north to what was then known as the Sand Hills. One of these Mennonite families, arriving in 1807, were the Schneiders, whose restored 1816 home (the oldest building in the city) is now a museum in the heart of Kitchener. Other families whose names can still be found in local place names were the Bechtels, the Ebys, the Erbs, the Weavers (better known today as the Webers), the Cressmans and the Brubachers. In 1816 the Government of Upper Canada designated the settlement the Township of Waterloo.

Much of the land, made up of moraines and swampland interspersed with rivers and streams, was converted to farmland and roads. Wild pigeons, which once swarmed by the tens of thousands, were driven from the area. Apple trees were introduced to the region by John Eby in the 1830s, and several grist- and sawmills (most notably Joseph Schneider's 1816 sawmill, John and Abraham Erb's grist- and sawmills and Eby's cider mill) were erected throughout the area. Schneider built the town's first road, from his home to the corner of King Street and Queen Street (then known as Walper corner). $1000 was raised by the settlers to extend the road from Walper corner to Huether corner, where the Huether Brewery was built and the Huether Hotel now stands in the city of Waterloo; a petition to the government for $100 to assist in completing the project was denied.

The extension of the Grand Trunk Railway from Sarnia to Toronto (and hence through Berlin) in July 1856 was a major boon to the community, helping to improve industrialization in the area. Immigrants from Germany, mostly Lutheran and Catholic, dominated the city after 1850 and developed their own newer German celebrations, and influences, such as the Turner societies, gymnastics, and band music.

A new streetcar system, the Galt, Preston and Hespeler electric railway (later called the Grand River Railway) began to operate in 1894 connecting Preston and Galt. In 1911, the line reached Hespeler, Berlin and Waterloo. The electric rail system ended passenger services in April, 1955.

In 1869, Berlin had a population of 3000. On 9 June 1912, Berlin was designated a city. It was renamed Kitchener in 1916, after Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, a British Empire Field Marshal killed during the First World War.

The Governor General of Canada, the Duke of Connaught, while visiting Berlin, Ontario, in May 1914, discussed the importance of Canadians of German ethnicity (regardless of their origin) in a speech: "It is of great interest to me that many of the citizens of Berlin are of German descent. I well know the admirable qualities - the thoroughness, the tenacity, and the loyalty of the great Teutonic Race, to which I am so closely related. I am sure that these inherited qualities will go far in the making of good Canadians and loyal citizens of the British Empire".

Nonetheless, before and during World War I, there was some anti-German sentiment in Canada and some cultural sanctions on the community, particularly in Berlin. However, by 1919 most of the population of what would become Kitchener, Waterloo and Elmira were "Canadian"; over 95 percent had been born in Ontario. Those of the Mennonite religion were pacifists so they could not enlist, and the few who had immigrated from Germany (not born in Canada) could not morally fight against a country that was a significant part of their heritage. The anti-German sentiment was the primary reason for the Berlin to Kitchener name change in 1916. News reports indicate that "A Lutheran minister was pulled out of his house ... he was dragged through the streets. German clubs were ransacked through the course of the war. It was just a really nasty time period.". A document in the Archives of Canada makes the following comment: "Although ludicrous to modern eyes, the whole issue of a name for Berlin highlights the effects that fear, hatred and nationalism can have upon a society in the face of war."

Kitchener–Waterloo is served by three hospitals, Grand River Hospital (which is a system of two hospitals), St. Mary's General Hospital, and Cambridge Memorial. Grand River treats patients with a wide range of problems and houses the psychiatric unit, trauma centre, women's and children's services, and the Regional Cancer Care Centre. St Mary's houses the Regional Cardiac Care Centre, serving a population of nearly one million from Waterloo Region, east to Guelph, north to Owen Sound/Tobermory, south to Lake Erie, and west to Ingersoll. It also houses a respiratory centre. Both hospitals have emergency departments and intensive care units. Cambridge Memorial is a general hospital, treating primarily patients from Cambridge and south Kitchener.

Long term rehabilitation and physiotherapy is addressed at the Freeport Health Centre, at the south of the city. Built originally as a tuberculosis sanatorium and home for the terminally ill, its last link with that past is the palliative care unit. It nestles along the banks of the Grand River, and is part of Grand River Hospital.

Family doctors are in short supply in K-W, and a source of great concern among residents. The Chamber of Commerce runs a waiting list for people looking for a doctor, but as of 2006 the wait is over two years. Two urgent care centres cater for much of the routine services for thousands of people without a family doctor, from routine immunisations and health screening, to repeat prescriptions and referral on to specialist services. A third urgent care centre is being added to a renovated supermarket development in the desirable Forest Heights area of the city.

Announced January 2006 was the inauguration of a new School of Medicine, the Waterloo Regional Campus of McMaster University. The campus trains 28 students per year. From 2007, 15 new family doctors will be trained each year in new premises being constructed in the downtown core on rehabilitated industrial lands along the railway.

In 2009, the mental health unit is slated for relocation from the downtown core to an unused floor at the Freeport site. By this, patients needing mental health care shall gain options for local long term care and monitoring. The site for the unit is in the basement of the downtown hospital in an area in dire need of renovations and the absence of options for local long-term mental care forces the transfer of such patients to London, Ontario 80 km to the west.

After renovations, the Child and Adolescent Inpatient Program will be moved from a small 9-bed wing to the downstairs in place of the adult mental health unit. Once moved in 2009, upwards of 26 beds shall be available to this program.

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