Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Queen Victoria

Ottawa's Founding Mother

Although Queen Victoria was not born in Ottawa and did not live in Ottawa, she is mentioned in this blog because she is the one who chose Ottawa as the capital of Canada.

Queen Victoria named Ottawa the capital of the United Province (Quebec and Ontario) of Canada on December 31, 1857.

In the 1840s and 1850s, the location of the capital had been a matter of dispute. It had moved between Kingston, Montreal, Toronto and Quebec City. The rivals could not agree on a permanent capital, so the matter was deferred to the young Queen Victoria.

Ottawa was likely chosen as the capital because it was on the border of the two provinces, had a mixed population of English and French-speaking inhabitants, was easily reached by water, was far from the American border, was seen as a neutral and central location within Canada, being situated on the border between Canada East (Quebec) and Canada West (Ontario) and it was in a secure, easily defended position.

Ottawa also already had publicly held lands available for the construction of government buildings and the stone and wood needed to construct the Parliament buildings. These lands had been acquired by Colonel By. Before being called Ottawa, the city was called Bytown in honour of this colonel.

Ottawa was far from a popular choice at the time as it was a rough lumber town. It has since blossomed into Canada's fourth largest city.


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