Ottawa, Capital City of Canada

Ottawa is the capital of Canada, the second largest city in the Province of Ontario, and the fourth largest city in the country. Located in the Ottawa Valley, the city lies in the eastern portion of Southern Ontario on the Ottawa River, a major waterway forming the local boundary between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

Ottawa is connected by several bridges to its Quebec neighbour on the shores of the Ottawa River — the city of Gatineau. The two cities and surrounding area are designated the National Capital Region (NCR). Though governed by separate municipal governments, the federal lands within the region are administered by the National Capital Commission (NCC), a federal crown corporation charged with the responsibility of planning and managing the federal government’s interests in the NCR.

In 2006, the city of Ottawa had a population of 812,129, making it the fourth-largest municipality in the country and second-largest in Ontario. The Ottawa-Gatineau metropolitan area had a 2006 population of 1,130,761, making it the fourth-largest census metropolitan area (CMA) in Canada. TheNational Capital Region which encompasses Ottawa, Gatineau and surrounding suburbs and towns has an estimated population of 1,451,415. In 2009 Ottawa-Gatineau’s population was estimated at 1,220,674, making it the fifth-largest CMA in Canada. In 2010, Ottawa had the 2nd highest quality of living of any city in the Americas, and 14th highest in the world according to the “Mercer Human Resource Consulting Quality of Living Survey”. It was also considered the 3rd cleanest city in the world by Mercers 2010 eco-city ranking.

On December 31, 1857, Queen Victoria was asked to choose a common capital for the Province of Canada (modern day Ontario and Quebec) and chose Ottawa. While Ottawa is now a major metropolis and Canada’s fourth largest city, at the time it was a sometimes unruly logging town in the hinterland, far away from the colony’s main cities, Quebec City and Montreal in Canada East, and Kingston and Toronto in Canada West.

The Queen’s advisers suggested she pick Ottawa for several important reasons: 1) it was the only settlement of any significant size located right on the border of Canada East and Canada West (today Quebec and Ontario), making it a compromise between the two colonies and their French and English populations; 2) the War of 1812 had shown how vulnerable major Canadian cities were to American attack, since they were all located very close to the border, while Ottawa was then surrounded by dense forest far from the border; and 3) the government owned a large parcel of land on a spectacular spot overlooking the Ottawa River.

Map of Ottawa showing urban area, highways, waterways, and historic townships

View in winter of the Centre Block from Gatineau, Quebec.

Sparks Street in downtown Ottawa, 1954

1920 aerial view of the Parliament buildings (without the Peace Tower), and oldUnion station in the background

The Centre Block, on Parliament Hill.

National War Memorial

In view: St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine, the Rideau Canal, the Rideau River, Colonel By Drive, Carleton University, Downtown Ottawa and the Gatineau Hills

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