Canada Capital – History, Economy, and Population

What is the capital of Canada? Have you been asking the same question and would like to know the right answer? All you have to do is to ensure you read this article to the end.

The capital of Canada is Ottawa. It is located in the east of southern Ontario, near the city of Montréal and the U.S. border.

Sitting on the Ottawa River, it has at its centre Parliament Hill, with grand Victorian architecture and museums such as the National Gallery of Canada, with noted collections of indigenous and other Canadian art. The park-lined Rideau Canal is filled with boats in summer and ice skaters in winter.


It was Queen Victoria who chose Ottawa as Canada’s capital in 1857 as it was a defensible location that is situated on the border between Quebec and Ontario, the two provinces making up the country at the time.

The Ottawa Valley was not habitable until about ten thousand years ago when the Champlain Sea drained from the region.

The region became more a useful location for harvesting wild edible foods, hunting, fishing, agriculture, trade, and travel. People used this area for these activities for over 6,500 years. 

The land of present-day Ottawa is the traditional land of the indigenous Algonquin people. “Ottawa,” the Canada capital city name, comes from the Algonquin language.

It comes from the word for “trade” in the Algonquin language, which was the name given to the Ottawa River.

The people of Ottawa valley are best known for trading and travelling for over thousands of years, and evidence of this is depicted in several archeological sites in the area with arrowheads, pottery, and other artifacts.

Ottawa was formerly called Bytown as it was named after John By who was the engineer that handled the Rideau Waterway Project, now known as the Rideau Canal.

This canal connects Ottawa to Lake Ontario and was constructed in 1832 as a precaution in case of war with the United States. 

In 1855, the city was officially renamed Ottawa and given city status. Two years later, in 1857, Queen Victoria was asked to choose a capital city of Canada. See Calgary in Canada.

This request was a symbolic gesture intended to demonstrate respect for the Queen, and Canadian Prime Minister John A. Macdonald had actually assigned the responsibility to the government’s Executive Branch.

However, the Queen made a decision fairly quickly and named Ottawa as Canada’s capital city. Reasoning for her decision included the fact that the city was midway between Toronto and Montreal, two of the country’s largest cities, it was easily defensible, and its small size made it less susceptible to political mobs.

By the time Ottawa was chosen as Canada’s capital, it was already becoming an important center for timber trade.

Sawmills were established in the Ottawa River Valley and timber was transported by water to Montreal, which boosted the city’s economy and provided employment for residents.


Ottawa is a prosperous city with a relatively stable economy. But like other cities, its economy is subject to significant demographic, social and technological shifts.

Talent, investment capital and other economic resources have also become increasingly mobile, leading to increased competition to secure the conditions traditionally seen as necessary to a thriving economy.

 And in the face of these pressures, support for local and regional versus export-oriented economic activity is often overlooked.

While the federal and provincial governments hold some key levers to influence our economy, municipal investment decisions and policies and programs are also significant.

Ottawa’s economy is not diverse: Economic diversity relates to the number of sectors that contribute to the economy and the amount of activity in each sector. Greater diversity is generally linked to resilience in the face of economic change.

With the diversity of Canada’s economy as a reference point set at 1, Ottawa’s economy has a diversity level of 0.37.

This is by far the lowest among Canada’s six largest cities — less than half that of Calgary, the next lowest ranking of the six cities.

Ottawa’s low economic diversity reflects a concentration of jobs in the public service sector, driven by the role the federal government plays in the city’s economy.

Counterbalancing the concern about low diversity is the fact that federal government employment and spending provide a buffer against economic downturns.


Ottawa boasts a population of 870,250, which represents an increase of 7.9% since 2001. This growth rate is faster than Ontario’s rate (6.2%) and Canada’s rate as a whole (4.8%).

Ottawa accounts for approximately two-thirds of the population of the greater Ottawa-Gatineau area, which has a combined total population of 1,282,500.

The population is growing

The population growth is expected to continue. The City’s 2003 Official Plan predicted growth of 37% over the next 15 years.

Recent growth trends have been somewhat slower than originally predicted, and this estimate may be revised in 2007. Even with the revision, it is clear that actual growth rates remain above average.

Immigration is a major reason Ottawa’s population continues to grow faster than that of Ontario or Canada.

While Ottawa residents are slightly younger than the provincial average (11.5% aged 65 and over in Ottawa versus 12.9% aged 65 and over for the province), a significant demographic shift is occurring in Ottawa as the population ages, which is also part of a national demographic change.

The population is aging

The proportion of children in Ottawa has been dropping since the 1960s. Children below the age of 19 made up 40% of the city’s population in 1966.

Today, that age group represents approximately 25% of the population. Their share will drop even more to approximately 20% of the total population in 2021. In fact, every age group below age 55 will see a decline in its share of the overall population by 2021.

While the proportion of young adults (aged 20-34) was as high as 29% in the mid-1980s, it is now approximately 22%.

This age group will increase its share of Ottawa’s population between 2001 and 2016, reflecting the passage into adulthood of baby boomers’ children (baby-boom echo). By 2021, young adults will account for less than 20% of city residents.

Mature adults (aged 35-64) made up approximately 32% of the population in the mid-1960s. They now account for 41%, and their share will rise to 43% by 2021.

Seniors (aged 65 and over) represented approximately 7% of Ottawa’s population in the 1960s. Their share has steadily risen to reach 11.5% as of the 2001 Census, and is predicted to represent just over 16% of Ottawa’s population in 2021.

Changes in demographics influence the mix of City services provided to Ottawa residents.

Immigration is growing

Ottawa is becoming a significant point of entry into Canada for immigrants from around the world. Statistics Canada data show that immigrants to Canada tend to settle mainly in big cities.

Immigrants who settle in Ottawa are attracted by high-paying professional jobs or post-secondary studies. They are typically more educated, earn higher wages, and have higher levels of employment than immigrants who settle in other cities.

Ottawa also receives the highest percentage of refugees and family-related immigration of any major Canadian centre.

Between 1996 and 2001, Ottawa welcomed almost 25,000 immigrants from around the world. Recent immigrants – those who settled here in the past 10 years – make up 6.8% of the population, up from 4.2% in 1981.

There are 70,500 recent immigrants now living here, representing the fourth highest concentration in the country.

Overall, 185,000 people born outside Canada reside in Ottawa. They make up almost 18% of our metropolitan population.

While Toronto and Vancouver receive the most immigrants among the nation’s big cities, Ottawa’s immigrant population had the third highest growth rate (14.7%) between 1996 and 2001, tied with Toronto and trailing Vancouver (16.5%) and Calgary (15.5%).


  • Ottawa has Canada’s third-largest West Indian community, and the second-fastest growing after Toronto. As of 2001, there were 11,000 people of West Indian origin living here.
  • We have Canada’s fourth-largest African community, and the second-fastest growing after Calgary. As of 2001, there were 19,000 people of African origin living here.
  • Our Chinese community is the smallest of Canada’s five largest centres (17,500 people), but it was the country’s fastest-growing (65%) between 1996 and 2001.
  • Our Middle Eastern community is Canada’s fourth-largest, with 22,000 people.
  • Our European community is the smallest of Canada’s five largest cities, but it grew by 2% between 1996 and 2001. Calgary had the only other growing European community among the top five cities. In Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver, the European-born population shrank over the same five years.

I hope you have found this article helpful. If you have any other questions about Canada Capital, kindly use the comment section below.

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