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OTTAWA, ONTARIO

Ottawa is one of the most beautiful cities that we visited in Canada. Biligual city, where almost everyone speak french and english.


Ottawa is the capital of Canada and a municipality within the Province of Ontario. Located in the Ottawa Valley in the eastern portion of Southern Ontario, the city lies on the southern banks of the Ottawa River, a major waterway forming the local boundary between the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The 2006 Census recorded the population at over 812,000, making it the fourth largest municipality in the country and second largest in Ontario. Connected by several bridges to its Quebec neighbour, the City of Gatineau on the northern shores of the Ottawa River, the two cities had a combined 2006 population of over 1,130,000, making it the country's fourth largest metropolitan area.

Ottawa is governed by a 24-member city council consisting of 23 councillors each representing one ward and the mayor, currently Larry O'Brien, elected at-large. As a single tier municipality, Ottawa has responsibility for all municipal services, including fire, ambulance, police, parks, roads, sidewalks, public transit, drinking water, stormwater, sanitary sewage and solid waste.

There is no federal capital district in Canada. Although it does not constitute a separate administrative district, Ottawa is part of the federally designated National Capital Region (NCR), which encompasses Ottawa, Gatineau and surroundings areas having a population of over 1,451,000. The National Capital Commission is a federal crown corporation charged with the responsibility of planning and managing the federal government's interests in the NCR.

As with other national capitals, the word "Ottawa" is also used to refer by metonymy to the country's federal government, especially as opposed to provincial or municipal authorities.

The first settlement in the region was led by Philemon Wright, a New Englander from Massachusetts who, in 1800, brought his own and five other families along with twenty-five labourers to start an agricultural community on the north bank of the Ottawa River at the portage to the Chaudière Falls. Wright discovered that transporting timber by river from the Ottawa Valley to Montreal was possible, and the area was soon booming based almost exclusively upon the timber trade. Liked by many European nations for its extremely straight and strong trunk, the White Pine was found throughout the valley.

In the years following the War of 1812, in addition to settling some military regiment families, the government began sponsored immigration schemes which brought over Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants to settle the Ottawa area, which began a steady stream of Irish immigration there in the next few decades. Along with French Canadians who crossed over from Quebec, these two groups provided the bulk of workers involved in the Rideau Canal project and the booming timber trade, both instrumental in putting Ottawa on the map.


The Ottawa region was long the residence of the Odawa or Odaawaa First Nations people. The Odawa are an Algonquin people who called the river the Kichi Sibi or Kichissippi, unrelated to Mississippi, meaning "Great River".

The Algonquin people never relinquished any land claims to the Government of Canada. In 2008 the Algonquins made a land claim to the federal government asserting that they have ownership to the Ottawa River watershed in Ontario and its natural resources.

The region's population grew significantly when the canal was completed by Colonel John By in 1832. It was intended to provide a secure route between Montreal and Kingston on Lake Ontario, by-passing the stretch of the St. Lawrence River bordering New York State (the U.S invasions of Canada in the War of 1812 being a recent memory). Construction of the canal began at the northern end, where Colonel By set up a military barracks on what later became Parliament Hill, and laid out a townsite that soon became known as Bytown. Original city leaders of Bytown include a number of Wright's sons,most notably Ruggles Wright. Nicholas Sparks, Braddish Billings and Abraham Dow were the first to settle on the Ontario side of the Ottawa river.

On December 31, 1857, Queen Victoria was asked to choose a common capital for the Province of Canada (modern Quebec and Ontario) 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 west side of the canal became known as "Uppertown" where the Parliament buildings are located, while the east side of the canal (wedged between the canal and Rideau River) was known as the "Lowertown". At that time, Lowertown was a crowded, boisterous shanty town, frequently receiving the worst of disease epidemics, such as the Cholera outbreak in 1832, and typhus in 1847.

Ottawa became a centre for lumber milling and square-cut timber industry in Canada and, in fact, for North America as a whole. From there, it quickly expanded further up (or westward along) the Ottawa River, and logs were boomed by raftsmen great distances down the river to the mills.

Bytown was renamed Ottawa in 1855, when it was incorporated as a city.

The Queen's advisers suggested she pick Ottawa for many important reasons: first, it was the only settlement of any significant size located right on the border of Canada East and Canada West (the post 1841 name for the then united regions formerly known as Upper and Lower Canada, today the Quebec/Ontario border), making it a compromise between the two colonies and their French and English populations; second, 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 a dense forest far from the border; third, the government owned a large parcel of land on a spectacular spot overlooking the Ottawa River. Ottawa's position in the back country made it more defensible, while still allowing easy transportation via the Ottawa River to Canada East, and the Rideau Canal to Canada West. Two other considerations were that Ottawa was at a point nearly exactly midway between Toronto and Quebec City (~500 km/310 mi) and that the small size of the town made it less likely that politically motivated mobs could go on a rampage and destroy government buildings, as had been the case in the previous Canadian capitals. The Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal network meant that Ottawa could be supplied by water from Kingston and Montreal without going along the potentially treacherous US-Canada border.

After World War 1 much of the National Capital was in disrepair. Many of the old wooden frame structured buildings had been neglected during the war and the area was in need of many upgrades. A famous urban planner named Jacques Greber help shape the Capital into what it is today. Jacques Greber was the creator of the National Capital Greenbelt, as well as many other projects throughout the NCR.

The original Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa was destroyed by fire on February 3, 1916. The House of Commons and Senate were temporarily relocated to the recently constructed Victoria Memorial Museum, currently the Canadian Museum of Nature, located about 1 km (1 mi) south of Parliament Hill on McLeod Street at Metcalfe Street. A new Centre Block was completed in 1922, the centrepiece of which is a dominant Gothic revival styled structure known as the Peace Tower which has become a common emblem of the city.

On September 5, 1945, only weeks after the end of World War II, Ottawa was the site of the event that many people consider to be the official start of the Cold War. A Soviet cipher clerk, Igor Gouzenko, defected from the Soviet embassy with over 100 secret documents. At first, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) refused to take the documents, as the Soviets were still allies of Canada and Britain, and the newspapers were not interested in the story. After hiding out for a night in a neighbour's apartment, listening to his own home being searched, Gouzenko finally persuaded the RCMP to look at his evidence, which provided proof of a massive Soviet spy network operating in western countries, and, indirectly, led to the discovery that the Soviets were working on an atomic bomb to match that of the Americans.


June 2009

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