Jonquière was created as a result of the 1975 amalgamtion of three cities: Kénogami, Jonquière, and Arvida. Much of Jonquière's development owed its strength to the Price family, who ran a pulp and paper factory in Kénogami. Today that pulp and paper factory is owned by Abitibi-Consolidated. Arvida is the home of an aluminium plant owned by Alcan.
The Rivière aux Sables runs through the centre of Jonquière. In the summer of 1996, significant damage to the city's buildings was caused by extensive flooding.
Growth came from the construction of pulp and paper mills at the beginning of the 20th century. Between 1925 and 1928, the world's largest aluminum plant was built along with the city Arvida (then a separate town). In 1942, to supply power to the plant, Alcan built a hydroelectric station at Shipshaw that was the largest in the world at that time. Jonquière, Arvida, and Kénogami were amalgmated into a single city, Jonquière, in 1975. Jonquière was the host city for the Quebec Games in the winter of 1976, and also for the Canoe/Kayak World Championships in slalom and whitewater racing, in 1979.
Jonquière is probably best known in the United States as a result of the local Wal-Mart store which attempted to unionize and was closed down shortly thereafter. The official reason for this shutdown was "financial problems." The metal band Voivod formed in Jonquière.