Regina was founded in 1882 when a railroad line was constructed through the region. It was the capital of the Northwest Territories from 1883 to 1905, when it became the capital of the newly created Saskatchewan. From 1892 to 1920, Regina was the headquarters of the Northwest Mounted Police, and it is now western headquarters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which maintains its crime detection laboratory there. The Univ. of Regina is located in the city, which is also home to a Canadian Football League team.
Regina was previously the headquarters of the North-West Territories, of which today's provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta originally formed part. Regina was the headquarters of the District of Assiniboia. Regina was named in 1882 after Queen Victoria, i.e. Victoria Regina, by her daughter Princess Louise, wife of the then-Governor General the Marquess of Lorne.
Unlike other planned cities in the Canadian West, on its treeless flat plain Regina was a tabula rasa, without topographical features other than the small spring run-off Wascana Creek. Early planners took advantage of such opportunity by damming the creek to create a decorative lake to the south of the central business district and constructing the elaborate 850-foot long Albert Street Bridge across the new lake. Regina's importance was further secured when the new province of Saskatchewan designated the city its capital in 1906. Wascana Centre, created around the artificial focal point of Wascana Lake, remains Regina's signal attraction and contains the Provincial Legislative Building, both campuses of the University of Regina, the provincial museum of natural history, the Regina Conservatory (in the original Regina College buildings), the Saskatchewan Science Centre, the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery and the Saskatchewan Centre of the Arts.
Residential neighbourhoods in Regina are largely indistinguishable from those in other western Canadian cities but several precincts beyond the historic city centre are historically or socially noteworthy. Immediately to the north of the central business district is the old warehouse district, increasingly the focus of shopping and residential development; as in other western cities of North America, the periphery contains shopping malls and big box stores. Generally a prosperous and tranquil city, its long-problematic north-central sector and the difficult Scott Collegiate have in recent years become the focus of national attention for their poverty, drug abuse and prostitution. Regina is notable for its aboriginal and Métis population, the seventh largest in any Canadian urban centre (Regina is Canada's 18th-largest metropolitan area by population), the original North-West Territories Government House and the original North-West Territorial government buildings. In 1912, Regina was a focus of international attention when the Regina Cyclone destroyed much of the town; in the 1930s, the Regina Riot brought further attention and, in the midst of the 1930s drought and Great Depression, which hit the Canadian Prairies particularly hard with their economic focus on dryland grain farming, the CCF (now the NDP, an important left-wing political party in all provinces west of Quebec), formulated its foundation Regina Manifesto in Regina. In recent years, Saskatchewan's agricultural and mineral resources have come into new demand, and it is anticipated that it will enter into new period of strong economic growth.
Lieutenant-Governor Edgar Dewdney had acquired land adjacent to the route of the future CPR line at Pile-of-Bones, which was distinguished only by collections of bison bones near a small spring run-off creek, some few kilometres downstream from its origin in the midst of what are now wheat fields. There was an "obvious conflict of interest" in Dewdney's promoting the site of Pile-of-Bones as the territorial headquartersand it was a national scandal at the time, but until 1897, when responsible government was accomplished in the Territories, the lieutenant-governor and council governed by fiat and there was little legitimate means of challenging such decisions outside the federal capital of Ottawa, where the Territories were remote and of little concern. Commercial considerations prevailed, however, and the town's authentic development began as a collection of wooden shanties and tent shacks clustered around the site designated by the CPR for its future station, and not two miles to the east where Dewdney had reserved substantial landholdings for himself and where he sited the Territorial (now the Saskatchewan) Government House.
Regina attained national prominence in 1885 during the North-West Rebellion when troops were mostly able to be transported by train on the CPR from eastern Canada as far as Qu'Appelle Station, before marching to the battlefield in the further Northwest — Qu'Appelle having been the major debarkation and distribution centre until 1890 when the construction of the Qu’Appelle, Long Lake, and Saskatchewan Railway linked Regina with Saskatoon and Prince Albert. Subsequently, the rebellion's leader, Louis Riel, was tried and hanged in Regina — giving the infant community increased and not unwelcome national attention in connection with a figure who was generally at the time considered an unalloyed villain in anglophone Canada.
Regina was incorporated as a city on June 19, 1903 and was proclaimed the capital of the province of Saskatchewan on May 23, 1906 by the first provincial government, led by Premier Walter Scott; the monumental Saskatchewan Legislative Building was built between 1908 and 1912. On June 30 1912, a tornado known as the Regina Cyclone hit the community, levelling much of the young city's business district, killing 28 people and injuring hundreds, making it Canada's deadliest tornado.
Regina's early history is remembered for its rapid growth which continued until the Great Depression began in 1929, at which point Saskatchewan had been the third province of Canada in both population and economic indicators. Thereafter, Saskatchewan never recovered its early promise and Regina's growth slowed and at times reversed – Regina returned to perhaps not so welcome national prominence during the Regina Riot, an incident of the On-to-Ottawa Trek in 1935 – although a recent resources boom promises to rekindle development. From the 1930s onward, Regina became a centre of considerable political activism and experiment as its people sought to adjust to new, reduced economic realities.
As in other Canadian cities, the disappearance of the Simpson's and Eaton's retail department stores in the central business district as well as the proliferation of shopping malls beginning in the 1960s and "big box stores" in the '90s on the periphery, together with a corresponding drift of entertainment venues (and all former downtown cinemas) to the city outskirts, have depleted the city centre. The former Hudson's Bay Company department store (previously the site of the Regina Theatre) has been converted into offices; Globe Theatre, located in the old Post Office building at 11th Avenue and Scarth Street, Casino Regina and its show lounge in the old CPR train station, the Cornwall Centre and downtown restaurants now draw people downtown although mooted development of large retail commercial and residential subdivisions in the southwest near the airport will inevitably further compromise efforts to revitalize the central business district. Former business premises along Scarth Street and elsewhere in the central business district have been converted to tony condominium residences, and on the much-touted model of Toronto requiring that downtown redevelopment and new construction include provision for middle class residential accommodation this could point the way to a revitalisation of downtown Regina, though street violence spilling over from the adjacent North Central precinct continues to compromise such efforts.
Many buildings of significance and value were lost during the period from 1945 through approximately 1970: Knox United Church was demolished in 1951; the Romanesque Revival city hall in 1964 (the failed shopping mall which replaced it is now office space for the Government of Canada) and the 1894 Supreme Court of the North-West Territories building at Hamilton Street and Victoria Avenue in 1965. More recently old buildings have been put to new uses, including the old Normal School on the Regina College campus of the University of Regina (now the Canada-Saskatchewan Soundstage) and the Old Post Office on the Scarth Street Mall. The Warehouse District, immediately adjacent to the central business district to the north of the CPR line, has become a desirable commercial and residential precinct as historic warehouses have been converted to retail and residential use.The long-imperilled Government House was saved in 1981 after decades of neglect and returned to viceregal use, the former Anglican diocesan property at Broad Street and College Avenue is being redeveloped with strict covenants to maintain the integrity of the diocesan buildings and St Chad's School and the former Sacred Heart Academy building immediately adjacent to the Roman Catholic Cathedral has been converted to tony townhouses.
Events of national political importance which occurred in Regina include
The city is situated on a broad, flat, treeless plain. There is an abundance of parks and greenspaces: all of its trees — some 300,000 — shrubs and other plants were hand-planted and Regina's considerable beauty is entirely man-made. As in other prairie cities, American elms were planted in front yards in residential neighbourhoods and on boulevards along major traffic arteries and are the dominant species in the urban forest.
The streetscape is now endangered by Dutch elm disease, which has spread through North America from the eastern seaboard and has now reached the Canadian prairies; for the time being it is controlled by intense pest management programs and species not susceptible to the disease are being planted; the disease has the potential to wipe out Regina's entire elm population.
As the city's growth has increased at a greater pace, city planners have sought to apply more imaginative principles both to making new residential subdivisions more amiable and increasing the pleasantness of existing ones, providing for landscaped lagoons instead of mere storm ravines, and turning old primary school playing fields into contoured parks.
The Canada 2006 Census indicates Regina's ethnic configuration to be, in order of size: (1) German, (2) English, (3) Scottish, (4) Irish, (5) Ukrainian, (6) French, (7) Aboriginal, (8) Polish and (9) Norwegian, with a significant Asian and South Asian component as well, although actually the third largest constituency was, by numbers of respondents, undifferentiated "Canadian," indicating perhaps mixed ethnic background (though other explanations of this identification present themselves) and confirming the perception that Reginans in large number, like other western Canadians, do not particularly distinguish among themselves as to ethnicity.
There are considerable difficulties with the ethnic configuration of Regina suggested by the 2001 Census. German is, apparently, by far the largest ethnic constituency but that contemplates separating persons of British Isles antecedents into English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Manx, Cornish and other British Isles ancestries. The identification of undifferentiated "Canadian" is unexplained and "American" is anomalously offered as an ethnicity. The anachronistic designation "East Indian" refers to persons of Indian extraction rather than properly so-called East Indians and excludes Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and other South Asians.
In absolute numbers of Aboriginal population, Regina ranks seventh among Census Metropolitan Areas in Canada with an "Aboriginal-identity population of 15,685 (8.3% of the total city population), of which 9,200 were First Nations, 5,990 Métis, and 495 other Aboriginal.
The 2006 Census indicates that religious affiliation is of reduced significance among Reginans, with fully 19.0% of Reginans identifying as having no religion; Protestant at 41.5%; Roman Catholic, 32.3%; Eastern Orthodox, 1.8%; other Christian (including Oriental Orthodox and, possibly, Mormon and Jehovah's Witness), 2.9% and other religion (including Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish), 2.5%.
A more useful demonstration of religious realities could be to set out the decline in numbers of Christian parishes in recent years, especially among the historically predominant Protestant denominations of the United Church of Canada, Anglican Church of Canada and Presbyterian Church in Canada, as amply demonstrated by historic Saturday church advertisements in the Leader-Post, although with the construction of Resurrection Parish in East Regina, the Roman Catholic Church perhaps continues to hold its own in the city. The Muslim community has constructed a discreetly elegant mosque; the Mormons have built a temple in the University Park subdivision to the north of Wascana Creek which has become a landmark for its beauty.
Maclean's magazine named Regina "Canada's most dangerous city" in 2008 edition. The article used 2006 crime data from the Canadian Centre of Justice Statistics for the 100 largest communities in the nation. Regina's overall crime rate was 143.3% above the national rate. It led the nation in aggravated assaults, and was third in break and enters and robbery. The article states that Regina would be in the top 10% of all US cities for break and enters, and would be among the ten worst US metropolitan areas for robbery. A previous edition of Maclean's had singled out the North Central neighbourhood as Canada's worst neighbourhood.
Modern transport has obviated the development of a significant manufacturing sector and indeed, until recently re-vivified, for local petroleum refining facilities: the General Motors assembly plant north on Winnipeg Street, built in 1927 — when Saskatchewan's agricultural economy was booming and briefly made it the third province of Canada after Ontario and Quebec in both population (at just under one million people, roughly the same population as today) and GDP — ceased production during the depression of the 1930s. It was resumed by the federal crown during World War II and housed Regina Wartime Industries Ltd., where 1,000 people were engaged in armaments manufacture. It was not returned to private automotive manufacture after the war and became derelict. Imperial Oil long maintained a large refinery on the northern outskirts of Regina and IPSCO Inc., a leading world producer steel of plate and pipe and as of July 2007 a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Swedish steel company SSAB, began in Regina in 1956 as Prairie Pipe Manufacturing Company Ltd; while the bulk of its assets and customers are now in USA and it has its operational headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, it retains its registered office and substantial manufacturing facilities in Regina. Imperial Oil (the Canadian subsidiary of Standard Oil, now Exxon), for many years maintained a refinery in Regina; today with high world petroleum prices making the exploitation of Saskatchewan oil resources an unprecedentedly lively proposition, Federated Co-op maintains an 103,000 barrel/day refinery and, together with the Province, an upgrading operation for heavy oil. Crown Life, a significant Canadian and international insurance company, transferred its national head office from Toronto to Regina in 1996 but was acquired by Canada Life in 1998 and the corporate head office returned to Toronto, though with assurances that the company would retain a strong presence in Regina. (In fact Crown Life ceased operations totally in Regina in 2007 and laid off all local employees.) The provincial government continues to be a major driver in the civic economy, though its relative importance is declining. The Regina Research Park immediately adjacent to the University campus hosts several science and technology companies which conduct research activities in conjunction with University departments.
Regina has a rich cultural life in music, theatre and dance, amply supported by the substantial fine arts constituency at the University of Regina, which has faculties of music, theatre and plastic arts. At various times this has attracted notable artistic talent: the Regina Five were artists at Regina College (the University's predecessor) who gained national fame in the 1950s; Donald M. Kendrick, Bob Boyer and Joe Fafard, now with significant international reputations, have been other stars. The Regina Conservatory of Music operates in the former girls' residence wing of the Regina College building. Annual festivals in and near Regina through the year include the Cathedral Village Arts Festival; the Craven Country Jamboree; the Regina Folk Festival; the Regina Dragon Boat Festival; and Mosaic, mounted by the Regina Multicultural Council, which earned Heritage Canada’s designation of 2004 "Cultural Capital of Canada" (in the over 125,000 population category). As in other cities and towns across Canada the annual Kiwanis Music Festival affords rising musical talents the opportunity to achieve nation-wide recognition.
Regina lacked a large concert and live theatre venue for many years after the loss to fire of the Regina Theatre in 1938 and the demolition of the 1906 City Hall in 1964 at a time when preservation of heritage architecture was not yet a fashionable issue, though until the demolition of downtown cinemas which doubled as live theatres the lack was not urgent, and Darke Hall on the Regina College campus of the university provided a small concert and stage venue. (See Regina's historic buildings and precincts.) The default was remedied in 1970 with the construction of the Saskatchewan Centre of the Arts (now the Conexus Arts Centre) as a Canadian Centennial project, a theatre and concert hall complex overlooking Wascana Lake which is one of the most acoustically perfect concert venues in North America; it is home to the Regina Symphony Orchestra (Canada's oldest continuously performing orchestra), Opera Saskatchewan and New Dance Horizons, a contemporary dance company. The Royal Saskatchewan Museum (the present 1955 structure a Saskatchewan Golden Jubilee project) dates from 1906.
The old Post Office at Scarth Street and 11th Avenue, temporarily used as a city hall after the demolition of the 1906 City Hall, is now home to the Globe Theatre, founded in 1966 as "Saskatchewan's first professional theatre since 1927. Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Cathedral and Knox-Metropolitan United Church have particularly impressive Casavant Frères pipe organs, maintain substantial musical establishments and are frequently the venues for choral concerts and organ recitals.
The Regina Public Library is a city-wide library system with nine branches playing key roles in their respective neighbourhoods. Its facilities include the RPL Film theatre which plays less mainstream cinema, the Dunlop Art Gallery, special literacy services and a prairie history collection. The Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery in Wascana Centre and the Dunlop Art Gallery have permanent collections and sponsor travelling exhibitions.
The City operates five municipal golf courses, including two in King's Park northeast of the city. Kings Park Recreation facility is also home to ball diamonds, picnic grounds, and stock car racing. Within half an hour's drive are the summer cottage and camping country and winter ski resorts in the Qu'Appelle Valley with Last Mountain and Buffalo Pound Lakes and the four Fishing Lakes of Pasqua, Echo, Mission and Katepwa; slightly farther east are Round and Crooked Lakes, also in the Qu'Appelle Valley, and to the southeast the Kenosee Lake cottage country.
Wascana Centre is a 9.3 square kilometre (2,300 acre) park built around Wascana Lake and designed in 1961 by Minoru Yamasaki — the Seattle-born architect best known as the designer of the original World Trade Center in New York — in tandem with his starkly modernist design for the new Regina Campus of the University of Saskatchewan. Wascana Lake was created as a "stock watering hole" — for the CPR's rolling stock, that is — in 1883 when a dam and bridge were constructed 1½ blocks to the west of the present Albert Street Bridge. A new dam and bridge were built in 1908, and Wascana Lake was used as a domestic water source, to cool the city’s power plant and, in due course, for the new provincial legislative building.
By the 1920s with the Boggy Creek source of domestic water Wascana Lake had ceased to have a utilitarian purpose and had become primarily a recreational facility, with bathing and boating its principal uses. It was drained in the 1930s as part of a government relief project; 2,100 men widened and dredged the lake bed and created two islands using only hand tools and horse-drawn wagons.
During the fall and winter of 2003–2004, Wascana Lake was again drained and dredged to deepen it while adding a new island, a promenade area beside Albert Street Bridge, water fountains, and a waterfall to help aerate the lake. Downstream from Wascana Lake Wascana Creek continues to provide a lush parkland on its increasingly intensively developed perimeter; in the northwest quadrant of the city Wascana Creek has a second weir with a smaller reservoir in A.E. Wilson Park.
Sports teams in Regina include the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League, the Regina Thunder of the Canadian Junior Football League, the Prairie Fire of the Rugby Canada Super League, the Regina Red Sox of the Western Major Baseball League, the University of Regina's Regina Cougars, Regina Rams of the CIS, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders, formed in 1910 as the Regina Rugby Club and renamed the Regina Roughriders in 1924 and the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1950 are a community-owned professional sports team. The Riders have a strong and loyal fan support base. Out-of-town season ticket holders often travel 300 to 400 kilometres (200–250 mi) or more to attend home games.
Regina's curling teams have distinguished the city for many decades. Richardson Crescent commemorates the Richardson curling team of the 1950. In recent years Olympic Gold medal winner Sandra Schmirler and her rink occasioned vast civic pride; the Sandra Schmirler Leisure Centre in east Regina commemorates her.
North-east of the city lies Kings Park Speedway, a ⅓-mile paved oval used for stock car racing since the late 1960s. Regina hosted the Western Canada Summer Games in 1975 and again in 1987, as well as being the host city for the 2005 Canada Summer Games.
The former large-scale Children's Day Parade and Travellers' Day Parade during Fair Week. which were substantially supported by the Masons and Shriners, appear largely to have been abandoned as other summer civic events have been given a higher profile and its essential travelling midway has had to divide its time among other western Canadian and US cities.
Ultimately, the financially hard-pressed United Church of Canada (the successor to the Methodist Church), which in any case had ideological difficulties with the concept of fee-paying private schooling given its longstanding espousal of universal free education from the time of its early father Egerton Ryerson, could no longer maintain Regina College during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and Regina College was disaffiliated from the Church and surrendered to the University of Saskatchewan; it became the Regina Campus of the University of Saskatchewan in 1961. After a protracted contretemps over the siting of several faculties in Saskatoon which had been promised to the Regina campus, Regina Campus sought and obtained a separate charter as the University of Regina in 1974.
Campion College and Luther College now have federated college status in the University of Regina, as does the First Nations University of Canada; St Chad's ultimately consolidated with Emmanuel College on the then-Saskatoon campus of the University of Saskatchewan. The Regina Research Park is located immediately adjacent to the main campus and many of its initiatives in information technology, petroleum and environmental sciences are conducted in conjunction with university departments. A member in the research park is Canada's Petroleum Technology Research facility, a world leader in oil recovery and geological storage of CO2.
The Wascana campus of this province-wide polytechnical institute is adjacent to the University of Regina. It occupies the former Plains Health Centre, previously a third hospital in Regina which in the course of rationalizing health services in Saskatchewan was in due course closed. It offers diplomas in some 175 trade and semi-professional fields ranging from accountancy and auto-mechanical technician through corrections worker, dental hygiene, driving instructor, nursing and school secretarial qualifications.
A small number of parents choose to opt out of the public and separate school systems for home-schooling under the guidance of the Regina Public School Board. Private schools in Regina include Luther College High School, operated by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada; the Regina Huda School for Islamic education; Harvest City Christian Academy (occupying the former Sister McGuigan High School site); the Western Christian College High School operated by the Churches of Christ, using premises vacated by the former Canadian Bible College; and the Regina Christian School, in the former Campion College premises.
The city's public transit agency, Regina Transit, operates a fleet of 110 buses, on 16 routes, 7 days a week with access to the city centre from most areas of the city. A massive fire at the streetcar barns, on January 23, 1949, destroyed much of the rolling stock of streetcars and trolley buses and helped to propel Regina's diesel bus revolution in 1951. Because of the 1949 fire, original Regina streetcar rolling stock was rare, though through later years a few disused streetcars remained in evidence — a streetcar with takeaway food, for example, on the site of the Regina Theatre at 12th Avenue and Hamilton Street, until the Hudson's Bay Company acquired the site and built its 60s-through-90s department store there.
The CPR no longer operates regular passenger services, though in the past railway passenger trains constituted the principal mode of inter-urban transit between Western Canadian cities. Its former station in downtown Regina — once the urban hub — has become a casino (see below). Nowadays Regina can be reached by several highways including the Trans-Canada Highway from the west and east sides and four provincial highways from other directions. The city is served by Ring Road, a high speed connection between Regina's east and northwest that loops around the city's east side (the west side of the loop is formed by Lewvan Drive) with plans calling for another perimeter highway to encircle the city farther out.
Regina International Airport is situated on the west side of the city and is the oldest established commercial airport in Canada. The current, continuingly expanded, 1960 terminal replaces the original 1940 Art Deco terminal; it has recently undergone further major upgrades and expansions to allow it to handle increases in traffic for the next several years.