About Kenora

Kenora, originally named Rat Portage, is a small city situated on the Lake of the Woods in Northwestern Ontario, Canada, close to the Manitoba boundary, and about 200 km (124 mi) east of Winnipeg. It is the seat of Kenora District.

The town of Kenora was amalgamated with the towns of Keewatin and Jaffray Melick in 2000 to form the present-day City of Kenora.


Two school boards and a community college function in the Kenora Area.

The Keewatin-Patricia District School Board operates one high school (Beaver Brae Secondary School) and 5 elementary schools (Lakewood School, Keewatin Public School, Evergreen School, King George IV School, and Valleyview School).

The Kenora Catholic District School Board operates one high school (Saint Thomas Aquinas High School) and 3 elementary schools (École Ste. Marguerite-Bourgeois, St. Pope John Paul II School and St. Louis School). The elementary school, officially named Pope John Paul II, amalgamated approximately 350 students from the former Mount Carmel and Our Lady of the Valley schools. École Ste. Marguerite-Bourgeois is a French immersion school.

Confederation College has a Kenora campus and serves post-secondary and adult education needs in the city and surrounding area.

Housed within the college is Contact North, which offers Kenora residents local access to university and college programs not directly offered by the college campus. Contact North is Ontario’s most extensive distance education network providing access to education and training opportunties in remote locations of Northern Ontario through a network of access centres. Contact North works with 13 colleges and universities.


The Lake of the Woods District Hospital was founded in 1897, and was originally known as the Rat Portage Jubilee Hospital and then the Kenora General Hospital. Through the years a series of additions and renovations took place to meet the expanding needs of the population. On May 1, 1968, the St. Joseph’s Hospital and the Kenora General Hospital amalgamated to form the Lake of the Woods District Hospital. Treating well over 30,000 people per year, Lake of the Woods District Hospital is Northwestern Ontario’s largest hospital outside of Thunder Bay.

Being funded largely in part by the Lake of the Woods District Hospital Foundation, the hospital’s core programs include emergency and ambulatory care, chronic care, mental health, maternal and child health, and acute care services which include general medicine, intensive care and surgical services. It also manages a broad range of services including dialysis, chemotherapy, diagnostic imaging, mammography, ultrasound, addiction counseling and detoxification, a sexual assault centre, physiotherapy and rehabilitation services, ambulance (land and dedicated air), palliative care and various education programs.

The Lake of the Woods District Hospital meets the immediate healthcare needs of residents of the city of Kenora, as well as a large surrounding area, including several First Nations Communities. In recognition of the First Nations communities that it serves, the hospital is committed to ensuring that traditional native healing and culture are part of native health care, including a unique native healer program that recognizes the spiritual component of aboriginal health care.

Their goal is to provide high quality patient care within the limits of our resources. Their healthcare team is made up of a wide range of dedicated, expert individuals who work along with your physician to provide you or your loved one with the best possible treatment. They are a fully accredited hospital under the national standards of the Canadian Council on Health Services.


Kenora’s future site was in the territory of the Ojibway when the first European, Jacques De Noyon, sighted Lake of the Woods in 1688. Pierre La Vérendrye established a secure French trading post, Fort St. Charles, to the south of present-day Kenora near the current Canada/U.S. border in 1732, and France maintained the post until 1763 when it lost the territory to the British in the Seven Years’ War — until then, it was the most northwesterly settlement of New France. In 1836 the Hudson’s Bay Company established a post on Old Fort Island, and in 1861, the Company opened a post on the mainland at Kenora’s current location.

In 1878, the company surveyed lots for the permanent settlement of Rat Portage — the community kept that name until 1905, when it was renamed to Kenora. The name, “Kenora,” was coined by combining the first two letters of Keewatin, Norman (two nearby communities) and Rat Portage.

Kenora was once claimed as part of the Province of Manitoba. There are early references to Rat Portage, Manitoba. Boundaries were drawn up and the Northwest Angle on Lake of the Woods which definitively drew the boundaries between Ontario, Manitoba Canada and Minnesota,U.S.A.

Gold and the railroad were both important in the community’s early history: gold was first discovered in the area in 1850, and by 1893, 20 mines were operating within 24 km (15 mi) of Rat Portage, and the first Canadian ocean-to-ocean train passed through in 1886 on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Later, a highway was built through Kenora in 1932, becoming part of Canada’s first coast-to-coast highway in 1943, and then part of the Trans-Canada Highway, placing the community on both of Canada’s major transcontinental transportation routes. The original barrier to the completion of the highway concerned the crossing of the Winnipeg River at two locations. The single span arch bridges are among the longest of their type in North America.

Rat Portage was a small town of ill repute with storied brothels collected along the early Canadian Pacific Rail line. Large tracts of land were allocated to Marathon Realty for the purpose of gathering and controlling lands along the railway for commercial and development purposes. Excavation of garbage dumps adjacent to the brothels revealed opium bottles, champagne bottles and pickle jars. Early suppliers of patent medicines from Johnson’s Pharmacy during that era reveal Lydia Pinkam’s Vegetable Compount, Kickapoo Indian Oil, Dr. Thomas Electric Oil and many others. During prohibition, the Lake of the Woods served as a route for the transport of Drewery’s alcohol.

The logging industry, which was important earlier, declined in the second part of the 20th century as the tourist industry grew, and the last log boom was towed into Kenora in 1985.

A dramatic and daring bank robbery took place in Kenora on May 10, 1973. An unknown man entered the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce heavily armed and wearing a “dead man’s switch”, a device utilising a clothespin, wires, battery and dynamite, where the user holds the clothespin in the mouth, exerting force on the clothespin. Should the user release the clothespin, two wires attached to both sides of the pin complete an electrical circuit, sending current from the battery, detonating the explosives. After robbing the bank, the robber exited the CIBC, and was preparing to enter a city vehicle driven by undercover police officer Don Milliard. A sniper, Don Letain, positioned across the street from the bank shot the robber, initiating the sequence of events required to detonate the explosive, blowing the culprit to smithereens,and the pants clean off Milliard and taking out most of the windows on the shops on the main street. A while back, Kenora Police submitted DNA samples from the robber’s remains to identify him, but the suspect was never positively identified.

The Stanley Cup was won by the Kenora Thistles hockey team in 1907. The team featured such Hall of Famers as Billy McGimsie, Tommy Phillips, Roxy Beaudro, and Art Ross, for whom the Art Ross Trophy is named. Kenora is the smallest town to have won a major North American sports title.

In 1967, the year of the Canadian Centennial, Kenora erected a sculpture known as Husky the Muskie, which has become the town’s effective mascot and one of its most recognizable features.


Kenora is represented at in the House of Commons by Conservative Member of Parliament Greg Rickford, and in the Ontario Legislative Assembly by MPP Howard Hampton, leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party.

The current mayor of Kenora is David Canfield.

Some residents of Kenora, citing dissatisfaction with the level of government service provided to the region by the provincial government, have proposed that the region secede from Ontario to join the province of Manitoba. Kenora mayor Dave Canfield, who was defeated by Compton in the 2006 municipal election, was the most notable public figure to have endorsed this proposal.