Province of southeastern–central Canada, in area the country's second-largest province, and its most populous. It is bounded to the north and northeast by Hudson Bay and James Bay, to the east by Québec (with the Ottawa River forming most of the boundary), and by Manitoba to the west. On the south, it borders on, and extends into, all of the Great Lakes except Lake Michigan. From west to east along Ontario's southern boundary lie the US states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York; area 1,068,600 sq km/412,600 sq mi; population (2001 est) 11,874,400. The capital is Toronto (Canada's largest city). Industries include mining (nickel, iron, gold, copper, uranium) and the production of cars, aircraft, iron, steel, high-tech goods, pulp, paper, oil, and chemicals; agriculture includes livestock rearing, and cultivation of fruit, vegetables, and cereals.
History Before European settlement, the region now occupied by Ontario was inhabited by the Hurons and Ottawa, and other Algonquian and Iroquoian peoples. French explorers, who arrived in the early 17th century, immediately formed fur-trading and military alliances with the indigenous population and established a settlement and mission among the Hurons at Sainte-Marie in 1639. However, this was destroyed in 1649 and the Hurons displaced by their great rivals, the Iroquois of New York. Thereafter, colonization by the French continued at a slow pace, along the Ottawa River–Mattawa River–Lake Nipissing–Georgian Bay route in the south. In the north, the English Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) set up trading posts such as that at Moosonee–Moose Factory (1673), but did little to develop these isolated bases. The whole area came under British control at the conclusion of the French and Indian Wars in 1763, which marked the end of French colonial ambitions (‘New France’) in northeastern America.
The American Revolution (War of Independence) brought great upheaval to the region. When the British were defeated by the colonists in 1783, thousands of United Empire Loyalists fled north into the area around the Great Lakes. At that time, this formed the western section of the large, British-administered Province of Québec, but in 1791, it was separated from Québec and became Upper Canada (which encompassed the southern part of what is now Ontario; the present-day province of Québec was known as Lower Canada). Native peoples were also displaced; the Iroquois, who had long been allied with the British, joined the exodus north and settled in great numbers on the Great Lakes peninsula. Around the same time, forest Chippewa moved south from the Shield, occupying areas of central and western Ontario.
In the War of 1812 that broke out between the United States and British Canada, the new capital of Upper Canada at York (later, Toronto) was occupied and sacked by American forces. Conflict raged all along the shores of lakes Erie and Ontario; Lundy's Lane, Queenston Heights, Stoney Creek, and Beaver Dams all saw fierce fighting. At the end of the war, the British promoted mass immigration to the region from England, Scotland, and Ireland. Between 1820 and 1840, around 1.5 million people, mainly farmers and merchants, settled in the fertile south. Concern over the possibility of renewed US aggression prompted the construction of the Rideau Canal, which, together with the Welland Canal (west of Niagara Falls) and Trent Canal (between Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay) provide alternatives to the natural lake-and-river routes. Discontent with the elitist system of government led to an uprising in Toronto in 1837 (‘Mackenzie's protest’); together with an insurrection in Lower Canada in the same year (‘Papineau's rebellion’), this convinced the British to reunite Upper and Lower Canada in 1841. Within the new ‘Province of Canada’, Upper Canada became Canada West. Eventually, when Canada was confederated in 1867, it became the province of Ontario, taking its name from the easternmost of the Great Lakes (Iroquoian: ‘fine lake’). The federal capital was established at Ottawa. In 1874, 1889, and 1912, the province gained territory from the Keewatin district of the Northwest Territories, so expanding to its modern boundaries on James and Hudson bays.
So many people had emigrated to Ontario in the early part of the 19th century that, by the 1860s, little fertile land was left unclaimed. The lack of alternative employment led many people to migrate south into the USA, and the population began to fall. This trend was dramatically reversed by the coming of the railways in the 1880s. The construction of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway to the north of Lake Superior opened up the prairie lands west of the Canadian Shield to settlement. Meanwhile, the Canadian National Railway, which ran through the Clay Belt and into the central Shield, accelerated industrialization by giving manufacturers ready access to some of the richest deposits of raw materials in the world. In addition, as steamer traffic increased on the Great Lakes, heavy and light industry began to boom on the Great Lakes peninsula.
After World War II, Ontario became steadily more industrialized and urban. More than 2 million immigrants, chiefly from Europe, were attracted by the excellent job opportunities and high wages offered by its expanding southern cities. Within Canada, growing numbers of people also left the land to find work there. In the 1970s, many English-speaking Canadians from Québec, alienated by increasingly strident francophone separatism, emigrated west to Ontario. The transfer of businesses and capital to Toronto in this period saw it eclipse Montréal as Canada's main commercial and financial centre. Ontario is now home to over 37% of Canada's total population, and around 75% live in urban areas, far higher than the Canadian national average of 65%. Although the southern fringe of Ontario makes up just 15% of its total land area, it contains fully 85% of the province's population.
Geography Except in the southeast and along the bays in the north, Ontario lies on the Canadian Shield. This upland region is dotted with innumerable lakes; a total of 154,654 sq km/59,696 sq mi, 10.8% of the province is covered by freshwater. The largest lakes in Ontario are Nipigon, Nipissing, and Abitibi; Ontario also contains Georgian Bay and parts of lakes Erie, Huron, Ontario, and Superior. There are also extensive boreal forests in the north of the province (these give way to more mixed forests in the Great Lakes–St Lawrence region and the Carolinean regions further south; overall, some 76% of Ontario is forested). The Shield is drained north toward Hudson and James bays by several major rivers, including the Severn, Winisk, Attawapiskat, Kenogami, and Moose, while those flowing south into the Great Lakes are fewer and shorter. Other rivers are the Ottawa, Albany, and St Lawrence. The highest point of the province (693 m/2,274 ft) is Ishpatina Ridge, southwest of New Liskeard. The Clay Belt, along the Québec border in the Abitibi region, is the only part of the Shield in Ontario that is extensively farmed. Along the Shield's southern edge are ports and processing centres such as Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, and North Bay. Other towns and cities include Hamilton, Ottawa (federal capital), London, Windsor, Kitchener, St Catharines, Oshawa, and Sudbury.
The vast majority of Ontario's people and settlements are to be found in the lowland areas along the Great Lakes and the St Lawrence River, in the southeast. The land on which urban Ontario developed is, for the most part, rolling farm country. The main topographical feature in the far south of the province is the Niagara Escarpment, which runs from the Niagara River (southeast) across southern Ontario, forming the Bruce Peninsula (enclosing Georgian Bay, a northeastern arm of Lake Huron) and Manitoulin Island, before continuing (northwest) into Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The southernmost point in Canada is Pelée Island, in Lake Erie.
Economic activities The province's main industrial area is on the peninsula that is surrounded by lakes Huron, Ontario, and Erie – the ‘Golden Horseshoe’. In this, the most densely populated region of Canada, a wide range of manufacturing activities is carried out. Iron and steel production is centred in and around Hamilton. This provides the raw materials for the area's heavy engineering concerns, as well as for light engineering firms, aerospace and other high-tech industries, and manufacturers of vehicle equipment and agricultural machinery. Other major employers here are flour mills and food-processing plants. Automobile assembly plants are located at Windsor and Brampton (DaimlerChrysler), Ingersoll and Oshawa (General Motors). The oil refineries and petrochemical plants clustered around Sarnia are supplied by a small local oilfield, and by pipeline from Alberta. Some limestone quarrying, and extraction of sand and gravel, also takes place on the peninsula. Overall, Ontario produces over half of all Canada's manufactured goods. Since World War II, service industries have grown in importance on the Great Lakes peninsula; over 50% of the labour force is employed in tertiary industries such as administration, finance, retailing, and wholesaling.
In the area occupied by the Canadian Shield, north of lakes Huron and Superior, the province's main mining centres have developed around rich belts of valuable minerals. For example, the Temiskaming belt produces cobalt, silver, and gold; Sudbury has the world's largest deposit of nickel as well as copper, lead, zinc, gold, silver, platinum, and copper; Timmins is a major producer of gold; and Nipigon of iron ore and gold. New seams continue to be found; Ontario accounts for some 28% of the country's total output of minerals. The extensive forests of the Shield, most of them publicly owned, also provide the raw materials for lumbering and the production of pulp and paper (centred on Kenora and Kapuskasing). Forestry and associated activities are a major industry, employing over 45,000 people in Ontario.
Ontario's huge demand for electricity for its manufacturing has outstripped the production of its many hydroelectric power stations, the largest of which harnesses the immense energy of the Niagara Falls. Several nuclear power plants have been built around the shores of lake Erie and Ontario, following the initial development of a nuclear power station near the Chalk River nuclear laboratories. The province's energy requirements are supplemented by importing power from Québec and Labrador.
Agriculture in Ontario benefits from a wide variety of soils; the proximity of Canada's major urban markets, and the most favourable climate in Canada: warm summers, ample rainfall, and a long growing season. Farming tends to be intensive and specialized because of the relatively limited amounts of land available. Competition both within the region and from other parts of Canada has resulted in the abandonment of marginal, unprofitable land, and an increase in farm size. Livestock-rearing is widespread; cattle, pig, and sheep farming form 41% of all farm units, and dairy herds 30%, although such farms also tend to have a proportion of land under cereal and vegetable crops, including maize and wheat. The emphasis on livestock farming reflects the importance of nearby urban markets for meat and dairy produce; dairy farms and market gardens are also to be found around all large urban areas. Specialist crops include peaches and cherries, grown on the Niagara Escarpment, although urban development continues to encroach on the orchards; tobacco, cultivated in the sandy deltaic deposits of Elgin and Norfolk counties; sugar-beet, farmed in the clay deposits; and market garden produce from the sandy lakeshore strand lines.
Such a high concentration of population and economic activity in southern Ontario took an inevitable toll on the environment, as rivers and other bodies of water began to show alarming signs of pollution by effluents. For example, in the mid-1980s, 18 highly toxic chemicals (including mercury, PCBs and dioxins) were found to be present in the Niagara River alone. To combat this threat, the Niagara River Toxics Management Plan was devised in 1987. This involved international cooperation between the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy, Environment Canada, the federal Environmental Protection Agency in the USA, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Jointly, these authorities identified and monitored 21 sources of pollution in Ontario, which they then set out to neutralize. Between 1986 and 1995, pollution was reduced by 99%. A somewhat smaller reduction was recorded at pollution sites across the US border. Landfill sites and agricultural pollution were also monitored, and contaminated sediments removed from tributaries. The Ontario ministry subsequently concluded voluntary agreements with commercial firms to reduce pollution.
Geology Geologically, Ontario can be separated into three distinct regions: low-lying areas of relatively new rock in the far north, around Hudson and James bays; the Canadian Shield, part of which forms the largest portion of the province, north of the Great Lakes; and the Great Lakes peninsula, extending to the south of Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River.
The rolling terrain and hard rock of the Canadian Shield, a highly eroded Precambrian mountain system between 600 million and 3 billion years old, has been smoothed by intensive glaciation. Extensive areas of bare rock occur, particularly in the north; soil cover is only found in the southern and valley sections of the Shield, where rough moraines (glacial debris) were deposited by the retreating ice-sheets. Vegetation is a mixture of bog and marshland, and coniferous forest, densest in the south.
The Great Lakes peninsula, between lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario, lies at the junction of the Canadian Shield and the sedimentary rocks of the continental interior. Repeated glacial erosion and deposition have created complex landforms. The western and eastern Ontario uplands, divided by Oak Ridge, are gently rolling or undulating till plains; a mixture of mud, gravel, clay, and boulder fragments extending in a southwesterly direction. Numerous drumlins (glacially-formed hills) have been moulded in the loamy till, particularly in the Peterborough area, where drainage was severely disrupted. Extensive clay plains, beach ridges, and sandy deltaic deposits, found around the lake shore, are the remnants of a succession of lakes formed during the late glacial period. The natural vegetation of the peninsula was a mixture of coniferous forest on the rougher soils of the Findlay Rise; deciduous woods in areas of heavy soil and on some morainic ridges; and open grassland on the limestone and lighter soil areas. Little original cover remains due to the long history of settlement and clearance in the region. The Niagara Escarpment, which runs from the Niagara River across the Great Lakes peninsula, marks the southern edge of a major glacial advance.
Climate The north and south of the province differ greatly in climate. To the north, the Polar Continental air mass brings long severe winters, temperatures falling far below sub-zero for at least four months. Summers are short and cool, with fewer than four months over 10°C/50°F. Spring growth is delayed because the ground has to thaw, but the long summer days help to counterbalance the short growing season, and make agriculture possible, although precarious.
The Great Lakes peninsula, with its southerly latitude, low altitude, and presence of large bodies of water, has a more equable climate. Winters are comparatively mild, about −4°C/25°F, occasionally falling to −29°C/−20°F, but the procession of cyclones traversing the area, and the ameliorating influence of the lakes, allows the cultivation of orchards and winter planting. Summer temperatures rise to a maximum of 16°C as the interior of the continent heats up. The growing season is relatively long, 140–170 days, and with a rainfall of 630– 890 mm/25–35 in, the climate is ideal for a wide range of crops.
Transport and tourism Landscape attractions drawing tourists to Ontario include numerous national parks, such as those at Pukaskwa, Bruce Peninsula, Point Pelée, Quetico, and Algonquin (the latter the subject of many works by the noted Canadian modernist ‘Group of Seven’ painters). The cities of Toronto and Ottawa are much visited, as are the spectacular Niagara Falls, the Thousand Islands in the St Lawrence River, and lakes Simcoe and Huron (especially Georgian Bay, with its ‘Thirty Thousand Islands’). Heritage sites reflecting Ontario's past include Upper Canada Pioneer Village, a 19th-century Loyalist settlement near Ontario; and Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, a Roman Catholic Jesuit mission dating from the early 17th century.
People and culture American Indian peoples in Ontario include the Cree, who live in the otherwise uninhabited area in the far north along the shores of Hudson and James bays. On the Great Lakes peninsula, Brantford is the site of the ‘Six Nations' Lands’, Canada's largest American Indian reserve. Ontario's White population, once predominantly of English and Scottish descent, now includes large Slavic, Italian, and Greek communities. French speakers are concentrated in the Ottawa area and the Clay Belt on the Québec border. Black groups include a sizeable immigrant community from the West Indies, and the descendants of African-American slaves who arrived during the US Civil War via the Underground Railroad at such ‘terminals’ as Amherstburg and Dresden.
Ontario can fairly claim to be the leading cultural province of English-speaking Canada. The University of Toronto was founded in 1827, and there are 14 other major universities in the province, for example at Guelph, Waterloo, Hamilton, and Peterborough. Museums and galleries include the Royal Ontario Museum, the second-largest museum in North America; and the National Gallery, Ottawa, which contains the largest collection of Canadian art in the country. Toronto's theatre industry is the third largest in the English-speaking world.
Ontario – flag
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