Gatineau is a city in western Quebec, Canada. It is the fourth largest city in the province. Located on the northern banks of the Ottawa River, immediately across from Ottawa, together they form Canada's National Capital Region. As of 2011 Gatineau had a population of 265,349, and a metropolitan population of 314,501. The Ottawa–Gatineau census metropolitan area had a population of 1,236,324.
Gatineau is coextensive with a territory equivalent to a regional county municipality (TE) and census division (CD) of the same name, whose geographical code is 81. It is the seat of the judicial district of Hull.
The current city of Gatineau is centred on an area called Hull, the oldest non-native settlement in the National Capital Region. It was founded on the north shore of the Ottawa River in 1800 by Philemon Wright at the portage around the Chaudière Falls just upstream (or west) from where the Gatineau and Rideau Rivers flow into the Ottawa. Wright brought his family, five other families and twenty-five labourers and a plan to establish an agriculturally based community to what was then a mosquito-infested wilderness. But soon after, Wright and his family took advantage of the large lumber stands and became involved in the timber trade. The original settlement was called Wrightstown, later it became Hull and in 2002, after amalgamation, the City of Gatineau.
In 1820, before immigrants from Great Britain arrived in great numbers, Hull Township had a population of 707, including 365 men, 113 women, and 229 children. Note the discrepancy in the number of men and women, owing to the male work of the timber trade. In 1824, there were 106 families and 803 persons. During the rest of the 1820s, the population of Hull doubled, owing to the arrival of Ulster Protestants. By 1851, the population of the County of Ottawa was 11,104, of which 2,811 lived in Hull Township. By comparison, Bytown had a population of 7,760 in 1851. By 1861, Ottawa County now had a population of 15,671, of which 3,711 lived in Hull Township. The gradual move to the Township by French Canadians continued over the years, with the French Canadians growing from 10% of the population in 1850, to 50% in 1870, and 90% in 1920.
The carspreserve of the draveurs, people who would use the river to transport logs from lumber camps until they arrived downriver. (The Gatineau River flows south into the Ottawa River which flows east to the St Lawrence River near Montreal.) The log-filled Ottawa River, as viewed from Hull, appeared on the back of the Canadian one-dollar bill until it was replaced by a dollar coin (the "loonie") in 1987, and the very last of the dwindling activity of the draveurs on these rivers ended a few years later.
Ottawa was founded later, as the terminus of the Rideau Canal built under the command of Col. John By as part of fortifications and defences constructed after the War of 1812. Originally named Bytown, Ottawa did not become the Canadian capital until the mid-19th century after the original parliament in Montreal was torched by a rioting mob of English-speaking citizens on April 25, 1849. Its greater distance from the American border also left the new parliament less vulnerable to foreign attack.
Nothing remains of the original 1800 settlement; the downtown Vieux-Hull sector was destroyed by a terrible fire in 1900 which also destroyed the original pont des Chaudières (Chaudière Bridge), a road bridge which has since been rebuilt to join Ottawa to Hull at Victoria Island.
In the 1940s, during World War II, Hull, along with various other regions within Canada, such as the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, and Île Sainte-Hélène, had Prisoner-of-war camps. Hull's prison was simply labeled with a number and remained unnamed just like Canada's other war prisons. The prisoners of war (POWs) were sorted and classified into categories by nationality and civilian or military status. In this camp, POWs were mostly Italian and German nationals. During the Conscription Crisis of 1944 the prison eventually included Canadians who had refused conscription. Also, prisoners were forced into hard labour which included farming and lumbering the land.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, the decaying old downtown core of Hull was transformed by demolition and replacement with a series of large office complexes. Some 4,000 residents were displaced, and many businesses uprooted along what was once the town's main commercial area.
As part of the 2000–2006 municipal reorganization in Quebec, the five municipalities that constituted the Communauté urbaine de l'Outaouais were merged on January 1, 2002 to constitute the new city of Gatineau. They were:
Although Hull was the oldest and most central of the merged cities, the name Gatineau was chosen for the new city. The main reasons given were that Gatineau had more inhabitants, it was the name of the former county, the valley, the hills, the park and the main river within the new city limits: thus its name was less restrictive than Hull. Some argued that the French name of Gatineau was more appealing than a name from England to most French-speaking residents. Since the former city of Hull represents a large area distinct from what was formerly known as Gatineau, to be officially correct and specific many people say "vieux secteur Hull" (the former Hull part of town) when speaking of it. It is of note that the name "Hull" was often informally used to refer to the whole urban area on the northern shore of the river facing Ottawa, so much so that the National Capital Region was often referred to as "Ottawa-Hull", especially in Quebec outside the immediate area.
Although referendums were held in 2004 to give citizens the opportunity to overturn the amalgamation, in the end none of the former municipalities met the threshold vote conditions for de-merger, and the status quo prevailed.