ONTARIO, the Heartland Province

Overview and history

Ontario : points of interest
other provinces

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ONTARIO, also known as the Heartland Province, is one of the 10 provinces and 3 Territories of Canada, and it has the largest population. Its name comes from an Indian word from the Iroquois for "beautiful lake", or a Huron word for "large lake".

In 1867 Ontario joined the Confederation of Canada to become a province. Toronto is the capital, the largest city of Ontario, and the largest city in Canada. Ottawa, Canada's capital, is also located in Ontario.

Ontario's population is approximately 10.5 million inhabitants, or more than one third of entire Canada, with a density of 13 per km2. Ninety percent of the population lives on only 1/10th of the surface of the entire province. The Metropolitan area of Toronto by itself counts almost 5 million inhabitants!

Ontario's surface is about one million km2. There are at least 250,000 lakes in Ontario, and the main river is the St. Laurent. The province is forested for 54 %, and the animal kingdom is well represented with elk, black and polar bears, wolves and deer.

Ontario is Canada's richest province and it has a very diversified economy. Its assets are large natural resources, mines, a large population, and extensive trade with the USA. Ontario's main attractions are the four Great Lakes (Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario), and of course the world famous Niagara Falls!

map of Ontario

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*** Read more about Prehistoric American-Indian cultures ***

By 1600 some 60,000 Indians lived in Ontario, including the Algonquin, Iroquois and Huron. The latter were constantly at war. In 1610 the French Etienne Brûlé, an associate of Samuel de Champlain, explored the area for France. In 1615 Champlain signed a trade agreement with the Huron. Both groups acquired tremendous economic benefits from this trade, but the French also brought European diseases such as measles and scarlet fever with them, against which the Indians had no immunity. In 30 years time the Huron lost half of their population! The Iroquois, their hereditary enemies, made an alliance with Dutch traders from Albany, New York.

In 1626 French Jesuits founded colonies, and the French supported the Huron Indians in their fight against the Iroquois. But these were fearsome warriors, and in 1650 the French even had to retreat to Quebec. However, the French army returned and they defeated the Iroquois in 1666.

In 1670 de la Salle explored the southern part of the province. In the same year, the English Hudson's Bay Company was established in the north. They chased the Dutch and slowly began to threaten the French, but more important, also their lucrative fur trade... The very static French trade base was no match for the rapidly expanding British colonies, which eventually led to the French and Indian War (1754-1763), after which New France went almost completely to the British. Thereupon the British founded the province of Quebec.

After the American Revolution (1775-1783) thousands of Loyalists, British-minded Americans, immigrated to western Quebec. Since the English-speaking population constituted an overwhelming majority, they strove to obtain their own government, independent of the French-speaking eastern Quebec. In 1791 the province of Ontario was established as Upper Canada, when the original colony of Quebec was divided by the British. Quebec itself was renamed as Lower Canada, although it is located higher on the map...

In 1812 another war broke out between Britain and the US. Immigration of Americans was prohibited, and new immigrants flooded in from the U.K. The original French colonists were not too happy with the British form of government and they revolted. In 1841 the British again joined Upper and Lower Canada together, and called it the United Province of Canada. Ontario was named West Canada and Quebec was renamed to East Canada. The obvious political intention was to manoeuver the Francophones into a minority in the new province, but any cooperation between the French-Catholic and the English-Protestant population was extremely rigid.

Given that the population growth was stronger in the English part, the local politicians asked for more power, which ultimately resulted in the request for a confederation. After the American Civil War (1861-1865) the Canadian provinces feared an American invasion, and Great-Britain's primary concern was to get rid of the cost of the military assistance.

In 1867 the British Parliament voted the British North America Act, and the three provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Canada (Ontario and Quebec) became the first four provinces of the Dominion of Canada.

Although in its early days the province was extremely English, by 1900 Ontario became much more cosmopolitan. The diversity of the population is simply astounding, and all nationalities or origins can be found. This is largely due to the tremendous efforts of the government and the Canadian Pacific Railways in the early 20th century, to populate the west of Canada with immigrants.

The extensive propaganda that was made throughout the entire world, but especially in England, to lure new immigrants was rather deceiving. For example, not a single publicity was allowed to mention the words snow or cold. That half of the lands were barren and infertile was another "detail" that was prohibited.

For their investment the Canadian Pacific Railways received a strip of land of 27 kilometers wide on both sides of the entire railroad from east to west. Given the example in the United States and the enormous revenues, the empty provinces absolutely had to be filled, so that the railroad, its investors, the politicians, and the speculators could make more money!

World War I (1914-1918) strongly boosted the economy, and more vast fortunes were earned. When the war ended however, it was immediately followed by a recession, and the fortunes that had been made suddenly disappeared without a trace...

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