Why Is Ottawa The Capital Of Canada?

A view of the Parliament of Canada and the Ottawa River.
A view of the Parliament of Canada and the Ottawa River.

The city of Ottawa is located in the Canadian province of Ontario. It is the sixth largest city in the country and the second largest city in Ontario. Today it serves as the capital city of Canada. Ottawa served as the capital city of Canada since 1867. It also served as the capital of the Province of Canada, a British colony until 1867. Ottawa has not always served as a capital city. Between 1841 and 1866, the Province of Canada saw its capital shift from Kingston, Ontario to Montreal, Toronto, and Quebec City. Toronto and Quebec City would serve as the capital of the Province of Canada twice. How did Ottawa become the capital?

How Geography Made Ottawa The Capital Of Canada?

Ottawa was founded in 1826 as a Bytown. British authorities at that time were constructing the northern part of the Rideau Canal. People were attracted to the southern side of the Ottawa River. The Rideau Canal played an important role for Ottawa. It would put Ottawa along a waterway linking the cities of Toronto and Kingston. This contributed to population growth in the area. Bytown would be renamed Ottawa in 1855, and incorporated as a city.

On New Years Eve 1857, Queen Victoria was given the task of choosing the Province of Canada's new capital. This was merely symbolic, however. The responsibility for choosing a capital city was given to the Executive Branch of the provincial government. Queen Victoria, however, chose Ottawa as the new capital of the Province of Canada.

This is why Ottawa was chosen. Geography plays a major role. The bulk of the population lived in the southern part of the province. Ottawa is located in between Toronto and Montreal. This meant a relatively central location within the region. It had access to water transportation that would connected it to the rest of the region. Ottawa also had a relatively remote location, in what was considered a frontier area. This was a region of dense forests. It was located far from the U.S.-Canada border. Ottawa would serve as capital of the Province of Canada in 1866, one year before becoming the country of Canada. After becoming a nation, Ottawa would serve as the capital of Canada to this day.

Where Anglophone and Francophone Regions Come Together

The capital of Canada is located on the border of Ontario, an English speaking province, and Quebec, a French speaking province. Ottawa is officially a bilingual city, where both French and English are spoken. The National Capital Region includes areas that are part of both Ontario and Quebec. The Ottawa-Gatineau metropolitan area spans both French and English speaking regions. Ottawa became the capital of Canada because of its relatively central location. Ottawa's location today reflects Canada's bilingualism. This is where Anglophone and Francophone areas come together.

Population Corridor

It has been reiterated that Ottawa's central location relative to Toronto and Montreal shaped its role in becoming the capital of Canada. This role is re-enforced when considering the region it is located in today. Ottawa is located in Canada's most densely population region. 72 percent of Canada's population lives along a corridor from Windsor,Ontario (on the US-Canada border) to Quebec City metropolitan area. This puts Ottawa in a central location relative to most of Canada's population.

Geography played a major role in Ottawa becoming the capital of Canada. This continues today.


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