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Ottawa is the capital of Canada, a municipality and the second largest city 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.
Connected by several bridges to its Quebec neighbour, the city of Gatineau on the northern shores of the Ottawa River, the two cities and surrounding areas 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. The National 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. Ottawa has 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 is also considered the 4th cleanest city in the world by Forbes magazine 
Ottawa enacted official bilingualism policies in 2002, making all municipal services available in both of Canada's official languages. 314,000 people, or roughly 40% of Ottawa's population, are able to speak both languages, with rates approaching 80% in the age category under-25 due to wide-scale education programs. As such it is the largest city in Canada with both English, and French as co-official languages, Moncton is the only other bilingual city with over 100,000 citizens.
The Ottawa region was long the home of the Odawa or Odaawaa First Nations people. The Odawa are an Algonquin people who called the river the Kichi Sibi or Kichissippi meaning "Great River" or "Grand River". Historical evidence indicates that the Algonquins over time have occupied portions of the lands of the Ottawa River watershed and travelled through surrounding territory as a hunting and gathering society.[ The Algonquins of Ontario assert that they never surrendered its territory by treaty, sale, or conquest and have made such claims since 1772. In 1983, the Algonquins of Golden Lake (Pikwàkanagàn) presented to the Government of Canada a claim to Aboriginal rights and title within the Ontario portion of the Ottawa and Mattawa River watersheds. Negotiations are ongoing.
Early European explorers of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers sought new territories, claimed lands in the names of their kings and queens, and sought western passages to India and Asia as well as gold and other precious commodities. Among the first of commercial enterprises to evolve in the New World after fishing, the fur trade industry, largely influenced by the Hudson Bay Company, used the Ottawa River and its tributaries as the local conveyance for the delivery of fur products to Europe through Montreal and Quebec City.
The first settlement in the region was led by Philemon Wright, a New Englander from Woburn Massachusetts who, on March 7, 1800 arrived with 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. Food crops were not sufficient to sustain the community and Wright began harvesting trees as a cash crop when he determined that he could transport timber by river from the Ottawa Valley to the Montreal and Quebec City markets, which also exported to Europe. His first raft of squared timber and sawn lumber arrived in Quebec City in 1806.
Liked by many European nations for its extremely straight and strong trunk in heavy construction for shipbuilding and housing as well as for furniture, the white pine (Pinus strobus) was found throughout the Ottawa Valley, soon booming based almost exclusively upon the timber trade. By 1812, the timber trade had overtaken the fur trade as the leading economic activity in the area as Ottawa became a centre for lumber milling and square-cut lumber in Canada and North America.
In the years following the War of 1812, along with settling some military regiment families (such as the 100th Regiment of Foot (Prince Regent's County of Dublin Regiment) at Richmond, Ontario), 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 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.
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". Lowertown was then a crowded, boisterous shanty town, frequently receiving the worst of disease epidemics, such as the Cholera outbreak in 1832, and typhus in 1847.
Bytown was renamed Ottawa in 1855, when it was incorporated as a city.
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 many important reasons: first, 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; 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 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 over 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 happened 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.
In 1866, the legislature was finally moved to Ottawa, after a few years of alternating between Toronto and Quebec City. See also: Capitals of the Province of Canada.
After World War I much of the National Capital was in disrepair. Many of the wooden frame structured buildings had been neglected during the war and the area was in need of many upgrades. The original Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa was destroyed by fire on February 3, 1916. French urban planner Jacques Greber was hired to work on a master plan for the National Capital Region (the Greber Plan). Jacques Greber was the creator of the National Capital Greenbelt, as well as many other projects throughout the NCR. 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.
In 2001, the old city of Ottawa (estimated 2005 population 350,000) was amalgamated with the suburbs of Nepean (135,000), Kanata (85,000), Gloucester (120,000), Rockcliffe Park (2,100), Vanier (17,000) and Cumberland (55,000), Orleans (84,695), 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. Before 1969 and the creation of Ottawa-Carleton, the city of Ottawa was part of Carleton County.
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. Situated between Centretown and the Ottawa River, the slight elevation of Parliament Hill is home to many of the capital's landmark government buildings, including the Peace Tower, and the legislative seat of Canada. As of June 29, 2007, the Rideau Canal, which stretches 202 km (126 mi) to Kingston, Fort Henry and four Martello towers in the Kingston area was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The City of Ottawa has a main urban area but there are many other urban, suburban and rural areas within the city's limits. The main suburban area 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 community of Blackburn Hamlet (pop. 8,527), the community of Orléans (pop. 110,000). The Kanata suburban area consists of Kanata (pop. 90,000) and the former village of Stittsville (pop. 20,000). Nepean is another major suburb which also includes Barrhaven (pop. 70,000) and the former village of Manotick (pop. 7,545). There are also the communities of Riverside South (pop. 8,000) on the other side of the Rideau River, Morgan's Grant (pop. 8,000) and Greely (pop. 4,152), southeast of Riverside South. There are also a number of rural communities (villages and hamlets) that lie beyond the greenbelt but are administratively part of the Ottawa municipality. Some of these communities are Burritts Rapids (hamlet, pop. 300); Ashton (hamlet, pop. 300); Fallowfield (hamlet, pop. 600); Kars (village, pop. 1,539); Fitzroy Harbour (village, pop. 1,549); Munster (village, pop. 1,390); Carp (village, pop. 1,400); North Gower (village, pop. 1,700); Metcalfe (village, pop. 1,810); Constance Bay (village, pop. 2,327) and Osgoode (village, pop. 2,571) and Richmond (village, pop. 3,301). There are also a number of towns in the national capital region but outside the city of Ottawa, one of these urban communities is Almonte, Ontario (town, pop. 4,649).
Across the Ottawa River, which forms the border between Ontario and Quebec, lies the city of Gatineau, itself the result of amalgamation of the former Quebec cities of Hull and Aylmer together with Gatineau. Although formally and administratively separate cities in two separate provinces, Ottawa and Gatineau (along with a number of nearby municipalities) collectively constitute the National Capital Region, with a combined population exceeding one million residents, which is considered a single metropolitan area. One federal crown corporation (the National Capital Commission, or NCC) has significant land holdings in both cities, including sites of historical and touristic importance. The NCC, through its responsibility for planning and development of these lands, is an important contributor to both cities.
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.
Ottawa is a single-tier municipality, meaning it is in itself a census division and has no county or regional municipality government above it. Ottawa is bounded on the east by the United Counties of Prescott and Russell; by Renfrew County and Lanark County in the west; on the south by the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville and the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry; 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 eleven historic townships, ten 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.
Ottawa has a humid continental climate (Koppen Dfb) with a range of temperatures from a record high of 37.8 °C (100°F), recorded July 4, 1913, to a record low of -38.9 °C (-38 °F) recorded on December 29, 1933, the fourth coldest temperature recorded in a capital city (after Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; Astana, Kazakhstan and Moscow, Russia). This extreme range in temperature allows Ottawa to boast a variety of annual activities—more notable events such as the Winterlude Festival on the Rideau Canal in the winter and the National Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in July—and the requirement of a wide range of clothing. Because of its relatively warm summers, Ottawa is the seventh coldest capital in the world by annual average temperature; however, by mean January temperature, Ottawa ranks third behind Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and Astana, Kazakhstan, and has a colder average January temperature than Moscow, which is much farther north than Ottawa.
Snow and ice are dominant during the winter season. Ottawa receives about 235 centimetres (93 inches) of snowfall annually. Its biggest snowfall was recorded on March 3-4, 1947, with 73 cm (2.5 feet) of snow. The average January temperature is -10.8 °C (13 °F), although days well above freezing and nights below -30 °C (-22 °F) both occur in the winter. The snow season is quite variable; in an average winter, a lasting snow cover is on the ground from mid-December until early April, although some years are snow-free until beyond Christmas, particularly in recent years. The 2007–08 winter season snowfall (432.7 cm / 170.3 inches) came within 12 cm (5 inches) of the record snowfall set in 1970-1971 (444.1 cm / 174.8 inches). High wind chills are common, with annual averages of 51, 14 and 1 days with wind chills below -20 °C (-4 °F), -30 °C (-22 °F) and -40 °C (-40 °F) respectively. The lowest recorded wind chill was -47.8 °C (-54.0 °F) on January 8, 1968.
Freezing rain is also relatively common, even relative to other parts of the country. One such large storm caused power outages and affected the local economy, and became known as the 1998 Ice Storm.
Summers are fairly warm and humid in Ottawa, although they are moderate in length. The average July maximum temperature is 26 °C (80 °F), with occasional northerly incursions of comfortable, cool air which drop humidity levels, although daytime temperatures of 30 °C (86 °F) or higher are commonplace in most summers. A maximum temperature of 39.5 °C (103 °F) was recorded in the summer of 2005 at certain locations. During periods of hot weather, high humidity is often an aggravating factor, especially close to the rivers. Ottawa annually averages 41, 12 and 2 days with humidex (combined temperature & humidity index) above 30 °C (86 °F), 35 °C (95 °F) and 40 °C (104 °F) respectively. The highest recorded humidex was 48 °C (118 °F) on August 1, 2006.
Spring and fall are variable, prone to extremes in temperature and unpredictable swings in conditions. Hot days above 30 °C (86 °F) have occurred as early as March (as in 2002) or as late as October, as well as snow well into May and early in October (although such events are extremely unusual and brief). Average annual precipitation averages around 943 millimetres (37 inches). The biggest one-day rainfall occurred on September 9, 2004 when the remnants of Hurricane Frances dumped nearly 136 mm (5½ inches) of rain in the city. The all-time monthly record is 243.4 mm (13.75 inches) set in July 2009.  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 remnant effects from hurricanes are rare, but all have occurred in the Ottawa area. Some of the most notable tornadoes in the region occurred in 1978 (F2), 1994 (F3), 1999 (F1), 2002 (F1), 2004 (F1) and west end Ottawa 2009 (F0).
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. The Jock River runs through the southern portion of the city, East through Richmond, and pours into the Rideau River near Manotick. It is a small tributary and is popular for canoeing and kayaking.
The Rideau Canal, which starts in Kingston, Ontario, winds its way through the city. Just past Mooney's Bay the waterway splits into two separate channels. The western channel is a navigable canal which flows through the core of the city and terminates at a large and dramatic set of locks between Parliament Hill and the Chateau Laurier Hotel. The Eastern channel is kept in a natural state and meanders through the eastern side of downtown, terminating at the beautiful Rideau Falls, after which the river itself was named. Rideau is a French word that means 'Curtain' in English, and the falls resemble a curtain, hence the name. During the winter season the navigable West canal is usually open and is a form of transportation downtown for about 7.8 kilometres (4.8 mi) for ice skaters (from a point near Carleton University to the Rideau Centre) and forms the world's largest skating rink.
There is a large network of paved multi-use pathways that wind their way through much of the city, including along the Ottawa River, Rideau River, and Rideau Canal. These pathways are used for transportation, tourism, and recreation. Because most streets either have wide curb lanes or bicycle lanes, cycling is a popular mode of transportation in the region throughout the year. There are over 220 kilometeres of bike path located throughout the city There are also some downtown streets that are restricted to only bicycle or pedestrians.
The city's "Transportation Master Plan". http://www.ottawa.ca/city_hall/master_plans/tmp/index_en.html. summarizes expansion and improvement plans.
Ottawa is home to a wealth of national museums, official residences, government buildings, memorials and heritage structures. 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.
In 2006, the National Capital Commission completed work on the long-discussed Confederation Boulevard, a ceremonial route linking key attractions in National Capital Region, on both sides of the Ottawa River, in Ottawa as well as Gatineau, Quebec.
The Ottawa skyline has remained conservative in skyscraper height throughout the years due to a skyscraper height restriction. First installed to keep Parliament Hill visible from most parts of the City, that initial restriction was changed to a more realistic law many years later. The restriction allows no building to overwhelm the skyline, keeping almost all the downtown building around the same 25-30 story range. Other cities with building height restrictions like Ottawa's include Washington, D.C., USA, Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Saint Petersburg, Russia, amongst others.
Ottawa's primary employers are the Canadian federal government and the hi-tech industry. Ottawa has become known as "Silicon Valley North.
Ottawa is home to both the National Hockey League's Ottawa Senators who play out of Scotiabank Place located in the westend suburban community of Kanata, and the Ontario Hockey League's Ottawa 67's who play out of Lansdowne Park's Civic Centre. The city also has a professional women's hockey team, the Ottawa Senators (CWHL). Ottawa recently hosted the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championships and hosts the annual Bell Capital Cup tournament.
Ottawa was home to a minor league professional baseball team, the Ottawa Voyageurs of the Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball, which played at the Ottawa Baseball Stadium. The Voyageurs were formerly known as the Ottawa Rapidz. The Voyageurs/Rapidz folded after only one year. Ottawa was also home to a AAA minor league baseball team, the Ottawa Lynx of the International League. The team was sold in 2006 and the Lynx left Ottawa following the 2007 season, moving to Allentown, Pennsylvania. In 2010, the Inter-County Baseball League awarded Ottawa a franchise, the Ottawa Fat Cats, and the team is set to begin play during the 2010 season. Ottawa also is home to one of the largest amateur senior baseball league's in Canada, the National Capital Baseball League, officially formed in 1990. The league consists of 35 teams in 4 "Tiers" from around the Ottawa Region including Kingston, Winchester, Gatineau and Aylmer.
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. The Ravens are nationally ranked in basketball. The Gee-Gees are nationally ranked in football.
Ottawa had a significant presence in the Canadian Football League with the Ottawa Rough Riders football team and an attempted revival with the Ottawa Renegades (established 2002 - suspended operations in 2006, due to financial difficulties and poor fan attendance). Football was played at Frank Clair Stadium. On March 25, 2008, CFL commissionner Mark Cohon awarded a conditional franchise to a group led by 67s owner Jeff Hunt. Ottawa is also home to a semi-professional football team in the Empire Football League, the Ottawa Demon Deacons and 3 Major Junior Football teams in the QJFL and CJFL, the Ottawa Junior Riders, Ottawa Sooners and the Cumberland Panthers.
Ottawa's top association football (soccer) 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 off Highway 7. The Rideau Canoe Club, located at Hog's Back Park on the Rideau River, produces and supports many national- and international-level paddlers.
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, Rideau Canal, and Rideau River in summer, playing Ultimate all year round (especially through the O.C.U.A.), skiing and hiking in the Greenbelt and the nearby Gatineau Park, 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. Ottawa has many cricket clubs for people of all ages. Eastern Ontario's top rugby players are members of the Ottawa Harlequins which competes each summer in the Rugby Canada Super League.
Ottawa has the highest per capita concentration of engineers, scientists, and residents with PhDs in Canada. It is known as the "most educated city in Canada" with over half the population having graduated from College and/or university.