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This article is about the capital city of Canada. For other meanings see Ottawa (disambiguation).

Template:Canadian City Ottawa is the capital of Canada and the country's fourth largest city. It is located in the Ottawa Valley in the eastern part of the province of Ontario, at the northern edge of the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor, about 400 km (250 miles) east of Toronto and 190 km (120 miles) west of Montreal. The population of the city proper is 808,391, while the population of the larger Ottawa region is 1,146,790 (2004). The mayor of the city is Bob Chiarelli.


The Parliament Buildings, shown here, are Ottawa's most famous landmark.

Ottawa is situated on the south bank of the Ottawa River, and contains the mouths of the Rideau River and Rideau Canal. The oldest part of the city (including what remains of Bytown) is known as Lower Town and occupies an area between the canal and the rivers. Across the canal to the west lies Centretown (often just called "downtown"), which is the city's financial and commercial hub. Between here and the Ottawa River, the slight elevation of Parliament Hill is home to many of the capital's landmark government buildings, and is the Legislative seat of Canada.

The City of Ottawa includes many urban areas. The main one extends a considerable distance to the east, west and south of the centre, and includes the former cities of Gloucester, Nepean and Vanier the former village of Rockcliffe Park and the suburban communities of Manotick and Orléans. Ottawa shares the area with the Quebec city of Gatineau (formerly comprised of the towns of Gatineau, Hull and Aylmer) across the Ottawa River. The combined population of the two cities exceeds one million residents. Around the main urban area is an extensive greenbelt, administered by the National Capital Commission for conservation and leisure, and comprising mostly forest farmland, and marshland. In addition to the main urban area, there is the Kanata urban area consisting of the urbanised part of the former city of Kanata and the former village of Stittsville (pop. 70,320). There are also a number of satellite towns and rural communities that are also urban areas (urban fringes) that lie beyond the greenbelt but are administratively part of the Ottawa municipality. These are Constance Bay (pop. 2,327); Kars (pop. 1,539); Metcalfe (pop. 1,610); Munster (pop. 1,390); Osgoode (pop. 2,571); and Richmond (pop. 3,287).

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

Across the Ottawa River, which forms the border between Ontario and Québec, lies the city of Gatineau. Although administered separately, the two cities both fall within the remit of the National Capital Commission and for many purposes are considered a single metropolitan area, called the National Capital Region.

Ottawa itself is a single-tiered city, meaning it is in itself a census division and has no county or regional municipality government above it. Ottawa is bounded on the west by Renfrew County and Lanark County; on the south by the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville and the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry; on the east by the United Counties of Prescott and Russell; and on the north by the Regional County Municipality of Les Collines-de-l'Outaouais and the City of Gatineau.

Ottawa is made up of 11 historic townships, 10 of which are from historic Carleton County and one from historic Russell. They are Cumberland, Fitzroy, Gloucester, Goulbourn, Huntley, March, Marlborough, Nepean, North Gower, Osgoode and Torbolton.


Snow and ice are dominant during the winter season. Ottawa receives close to 250 cm (100 inches) of snowfall over the course of an average winter and snow usually remains on the ground for a couple of months, at minimum. However in recent years, there seems to be a trend towards snow free periods, even in mid-winter. Average January temperature is -11°C (12°F), although days well above freezing and nights below -30°C (-23°F) are both not uncommon in the winter. The snow season is quite variable; in an average winter, a lasting snow cover is on the ground from late November until early April, although some years are snow-free until around or past Christmas.

Ice storms are also relatively common, even if compared with other parts of the country. One such large storm caused power outages and affected the local economy, it came to be known as the 1998 Ice Storm.

Summers are fairly warm and humid in Ottawa, although they are typically short in duration. The average July maximum temperature is 27°C (80°F). Temperatures occasionally exceed 32°C (90°F), although temperatures of 38°C (100°F) or higher are extremely rare. During periods of hot weather, high humidity is often an aggravating factor.

Spring and fall are changabale seasons, prone to extremes in temperature and unpredictable swings in conditions. Hot days above 30°C (86°F) have occurred as early as April or as late as October, as well as snow well into May and early in October (although such events are unusual). Average annual precipation averages around 950 mm (37 in.). There are about 2,060 hours of average sunshine annually (47% of possible). Destructive summer weather events such as tornadoes, major flash floods, extreme heat waves, severe hail and effects from hurricanes are rare, but all have happened.


The O-Train, Ottawa's light rail train system

Ottawa is served by VIA Rail passenger service, by a number of airlines which fly into Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport (called by that name only outside of Canada. In Canada, it is better known as Ottawa International) and by a number of long distance bus companies, including Greyhound .

The capital city of Canada is also served by a network of freeways, the main one being provincial Highway 417 (called The Queensway), Ottawa-Carleton Regional Road 174 (Formerly Provincial Highway 17), and the newly constructed Highway 416 (Veterans' Memorial Highway), connecting Ottawa to the rest of the 400-Series Highway network in Ontario. Highway 417 is also the Ottawa portion of the Trans-Canada Highway. The city also has a few Scenic Parkways (Promenades), such as the Ottawa River Parkway, and has a freeway connection to Quebec Autoroute 5, in Hull. For a complete listing of the parkways and roads in Ottawa, see the List of Ottawa roads.

Ottawa's main mass transit company is OC Transpo, a service provided by the City of Ottawa. The bus transit system includes the Transitway, a network of mostly grade-separated, extremely high-frequency, reserved bus rapid transit lanes with full stations instead of stops. There is also a pilot-project diesel light rail system called the O-Train. See Ottawa Rapid Transit. Both OC Transpo and the Quebec-based Société de transport de l'Outaouais (STO) operate bus services between Ottawa and Gatineau.

The Rideau Canal, which starts in Kingston, Ontario, winds its way through the city. The final flight of locks on the canal are between Parliament Hill and the Château Laurier. Also, during the winter season the canal is usually open and is a form of transportation downtown for about 7.8 km for ice skaters (from a point near Carleton University to the Rideau Centre)and forms the world's longest skating rink.

There is a large network of pedestrian and cycling trails that wind their way through much of the city, including trails along the Ottawa River, Rideau River, and Rideau Canal. In combination with a growing network of on-street bicycle lanes, it is possible to cycle between many of the major sites and office areas in the region.

Ottawa sits at the confluence of three major rivers: the Ottawa River, the Gatineau River and the Rideau River. The Ottawa and Gatineau rivers were historically important in the logging and lumber industries, and the Rideau as part of the Rideau Canal system connecting the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River with the Ottawa River.

See also List of airports in the Ottawa area.

Notable buildings and institutions

File:Chateau Laurier at night.jpg
The Château Laurier in downtown Ottawa.

Some of the notable buildings in Ottawa include the Parliament Buildings, where Canada's government resides; 24 Sussex Drive, the home of the Prime Minister of Canada; and Rideau Hall, the home of the Governor-General of Canada. Ottawa also has most of Canada's national museums, including the National Gallery of Canada, Canadian War Museum, Canada Science and Technology Museum, Canada Aviation Museum and Canadian Museum of Nature. The Canadian Museum of Civilization is located across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec. Ottawa is also the home of the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Algonquin College, and La Cité Collégiale. Federal buildings in the National Capital Region are managed by the Public Works Canada, while most of the federal lands in the Region are managed by the National Capital Commission or NCC; its control of much undeveloped land gives the NCC a great deal of influence over the city's development.

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

See also: list of Ottawa buildings

Annual events

  • Winterlude is an annual winter carnival held each year in February. It is focused on the Rideau Canal.
  • Canada Day is one of Ottawa's most important holidays and people from across the nation visit to celebrate the nation's birthday.
  • Ottawa SuperEX is an eleven-day exhibition with entertainment and amusements that takes place every August.
  • Hope Volleyball Summerfest is the world's largest volleyball tournament with more than 25,000 players and spectators attending a gigantic beach party with funds going to local charities.

Primary industries

Ottawa's primary employers are the Canadian federal government and high technology. Major companies such as MBNA Canada Bank, Nortel, Alcatel, JDS Uniphase, Mitel, Bell Canada, TELUS, IBM, Corel and Cognos have offices in the city.


Ottawa is home to two major league sports teams, the Ottawa Senators ice hockey team (established 1992) of the National Hockey League and the Ottawa Renegades (established 2002) Canadian football team of the Canadian Football League. The Senators play at the Corel Centre and the Renegades at Frank Clair Stadium. Ottawa is also home to a minor league baseball team, the AAA farm team of the Baltimore Orioles, the Ottawa Lynx of the International League. Ottawa also has a major junior ice hockey team, the Ottawa 67's of the Ontario Hockey League. Ottawa's two major universities, Carleton University and the University of Ottawa both have athletic associations; the team names are the Carleton Ravens and the Ottawa Gee Gees respectively. Ottawa's top soccer (football) team is the Ottawa Fury who play in the women's W-League and the men's USL Premier Development League. Harness and Horse racing can be found at Rideau Carleton Raceway off Albion Road and Auto racing can be found at the Capital City Speedway of Highway 7.

The city also supports many casual sporting activities, such as skating on the Rideau Canal or curling in winter, cycling and jogging along the Ottawa River and Rideau Canal in summer, playing Ultimate all year round (especially through the O.C.U.A.), skiing and hiking in the Greenbelt, and sailing on Lac Deschenes, part of the Ottawa River or golfing on many of the golf courses in the Ottawa area. During the coldest parts of winter there is ice fishing on the Ottawa river.


In addition to being the capital of Canada, Ottawa is politically diverse with regard to local politics. Most of the city traditionally supports the Liberal Party, although only some parts of the city are consistent Liberal strongholds. Perhaps the safest areas for the Liberals are the ones dominated by francophones, especially in Vanier and central Gloucester. Central Ottawa is usually more left-leaning, and the New Democratic Party can win ridings there as government unions and activist groups are fairly strong. Some of Ottawa's suburbs are swing areas, notably central Nepean and, despite its francophone population, Orléans. The southern and western parts of the old city of Ottawa are generally moderate or slightly left of centre but periodically swing to the Conservative Party The farther one goes from the city centre - into suburban fringes like Kanata and Barrhaven and rural areas - the voters tend to be increasingly conservative, both fiscally and socially. This is especially true in the former Townships of West Carleton, Goulbourn, Rideau and Osgoode, which are more in line with the staunchly conservative areas in the surrounding counties. However not all rural areas support the Conservative Party. Rural parts of the former township of Cumberland, with a large number of francophones, traditionally support the Liberal Party, though their support has recently weakened.

See also: Canadian federal election results in Ottawa

Ottawa became Northwest Territories capital when it reverted to 1870 constitutional status, after Alberta, and Saskatchewan were carved out in 1905. From 1905 to 1951 almost all of the council members were civil servants living in Ottawa. From 1951 to 1967 the territory alternated legislative sessions with various Northwest Territories communities. Ottawa only held legislative sessions of the council. Fort Smith, Northwest Territories became the administrative center and officially housed the civil service from 1911 to 1967.

See also: List of Northwest Territories capitals


The Ottawa region was long home to First Nations peoples who were part of the Algonquin. The first European settlement in the Ottawa region was that of Philemon Wright who started a community on the Quebec side of the river in 1800. Wright discovered that transporting timber by river from the Ottawa Valley to Montreal was possible and Ottawa was soon booming based almost entirely off timber. The region grew even further in importance when the Rideau Canal was completed and constructed by Colonel John By in 1832 to connect Ottawa with Kingston and Lake Ontario. After the work was completed on the canal, the camp further grew based on it becoming the center for lumber milling as the industry quickly expanded further up the Ottawa River. Sometimes violent disturbances would arise amongst competing interests within the timber trade itself, often fuelled by alchohol. Ottawa was then known as Bytown, named after Colonel By until it was renamed Ottawa in 1855.

Original city leaders of Bytown include a number of Wright's sons, most notably Ruggles Wright. Nicholas Sparks, Braddish Billings and Abraham Dow who were the first to settle on the Ontario side of the Ottawa river.

Map of Ottawa's annexation history.

On December 31, 1857, Queen Victoria was asked to choose a common capital for Canada East and Canada West (modern Quebec and Ontario) and chose Ottawa. There are old folk tales about how she made the choice: that she did so by sticking her hatpin on a map roughly halfway between Toronto and Montreal, or that she liked watercolours she had seen of the area. While such stories have no historical basis, they do illustrate how arbitrary the choice of Ottawa seemed to Canadians at the time. While Ottawa is now a major metropolis and Canada's fourth largest city, at the time it was a someimtes 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. In fact, the Queen's advisors had her pick Ottawa for two important reasons: first, it was the only settlement of any significant size located right on the border of Canada East and Canada West (Quebec/Ontario border today), so it was a clever compromise between the two colonies and their French and English populations; second, the War of 1812 had shown how vulnerable the major cities were to American attack, since they were all located very close to the border. 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 (about 500 km as the crow flies) 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.

File:Byward Market.jpg
The Byward Market provides fresh produce throughout the warm months

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

The National War Memorial, in Confederation Square.

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 RCMP refused to take the documents, since 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 being searched, Gouzenko finally persuaded the RCMP to look at his evidence, which provided proof of a massive Soviet spy networking 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.

In 2001, the old city of Ottawa (estimated 2005 population 350,000) was amalgamated with the suburbs of Nepean (135,000), Kanata (70,000), Gloucester (120,000), Rockcliffe Park (2,100), Vanier (17,000) and Cumberland (55,000), and the rural townships of West Carleton (18,000), Osgoode (13,000), Rideau (18,000) and Goulbourn (24,000), along with the systems and infrastructure of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, to become one municipality. Ottawa-Carleton used to be just Carleton County before 1969 and consisted of what is now the City of Ottawa except for Cumberland.

See also: List of Ottawa mayors


Map of Ottawa showing the francophone concentrations

According to the Canada 2001 Census, there are 774,072 people, 310,132 households, and 210,875 families residing in the city. The population density is 278.6/km².

The lingustic makeup (mother tongue) of the city is 63.6% anglophone, 15.0% francophone, 0.9% both languages, 20.3% allophone. Provincial law requires the City of Ottawa to have a policy respecting its use of French and English; accordingly, City Council has passed an official bilingualism policy recognising both of Canada's official languages as having the same rights, status and privileges within the municipal government. This policy is controversial. See also Bilingualism in Ottawa for a greater discussion of the City's official bilingualism policy.

Other languages include (20% sample data):

Ethnic origin

The racial makeup of the city is 80.90% White, 4.54% Black, 3.62% Chinese, 2.84% South Asian, 2.67% Arab, 1.14% Southeast Asian, 1.13% Aboriginal, 0.85% Latin American, 0.66% West Asian, 0.64% Filipino, 0.20% Japanese, 0.19% Korean, 0.31% other, 0.33% multiple responses.

The European or White population is very diverse, but three groups dominate. The French, English and Irish each represent over 20% of the population and if grouped together, constitute almost 70% of the total population. However, those who claim Scottish, German, and Italian backgrounds are sizable. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, new immigrants from Bosnia, and Yugoslavia created a substantial Eastern European population.

For many years, the Black population in Ottawa was very small, and was chiefly those of Jamaican origin. In the 1990s, Haitian refugees fleeing poverty and political unrest gave the Black population an increased influx. In the past three years, Ottawa has seen sharp growth in the Somali, and Ethiopian population.

The Chinese have been in Ottawa since the 1800s, but in the 1990s, Ottawa saw growth in the Chinese population as many moved from Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Many of them are wealthy adherents to Buddhism and forms of Christianity.

Arabs have also lived in Ottawa for many generations. However, there numbers were quite small until the late 1980s to 1990s when substantial numbers of Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, and later Egyptians started to enter motlsy as refugees.

Others races include Asians, Hispanics, and Filipino.


43.0% of Ottawans are Roman Catholic, 9.5% belong to the United Church of Canada, 8.8% are Anglican, 1.8% are Presbyterian, 1.3% are Baptist, 1.3% are Lutheran. 5.2% are Muslim. 1.5% are Jewish. 1.2% are Buddhist. 1.1% are Hindu. 0.12% are Bahá'í. 15.3% have no religion.

Family and age

There are 210,875 families, of which 72.8% are married couples living together, 11.1% are common-law couples, and 13.2% have a female householder with no husband present.

The age profile of the city is spread out: 25.3% are under the age of 19, 6.9% from 20 to 24, 32.5% from 25 to 44, 23.8% from 45 to 64, and 11.5% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 36.7 years. For every 100 females, there are 95.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 92.1 males.

The median income for a working individual in the city is $39,713, and the median income for a family is $73,507. Males have a median income of $47,203 versus $31,641 for females. The per capita income for the city is $23,061.

File:Rideau Canal in winter.jpg
The Rideau Canal serves as a waterway in summer and a skating rink in winter.
Old city of Ottawa New city of Ottawa
Population (2001) 337,031 774,072
Population (1996) 323,340 721,136
% Change (1996-2001) 4.2 7.3
Private Dwellings 155,536 310,132
Density (per sq. km.) 3059.7 278.6
Land area (sq. km.) 110.15 2,778.64

Local media

See List of Ottawa media outlets.


See also List of Ottawa schools

Items of interest

File:Ottawa from McKenzie King Bridge.jpg
Parliament Hill from the Mackenzie King Bridge

The National Research Council of Canada's shortwave time signal station, CHU, is located in Ottawa.

Geographical features



External links

Template:Canadian City Geographic Location


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