Ottawa’s Guarded Location

Rideau Canal near Parliament Hill, Ottawa

I’m pretty good staying abreast of notable political developments, but in many conversations it’s usually a good idea to avoid discussions of politics and religion, and I try to adhere to that conventional wisdom.    However, given that politics is such a big part of the American and Canadian cultures and the fact that a federal election has been called by Canada’s current government, I thought during Canada’s version of what we in the States call the “silly season” I’d find a few political-related things about which to comment.

So, installment 1 is  about a piece of historical / political trivia about Ottawa of which I was unaware.  Given the prominence of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary, among other major cities in Canada, I’ve wondered why it is that Ottawa is Canada’s capital city.  That question was partially answered for me during a conversation earlier this week from a couple of visitors from Toronto. 

How our business-related conversation evolved to include a passing reference to the War of 1812 I cannot recall but one of the visitors noted that Ottawa was chosen as the capital because of the difficulty Americans would have in reaching it compared to other Canadian cities closer to the border following the skirmishes in that last war between our countries (in fairness, Canada, being then controlled by the British, was really a different country).  The feeling was that between the distance and the narrowness of the man-made Rideau Canal for American boats, Ottawa was better insulated from attack.  Things have certainly changed in many ways!

After some additional research, I later learned that Queen Victoria designated Ottawa as the capital city in 1857 for an additional geographical reason:  the simple fact that it was then the largest city between Montreal and Toronto and so represented a compromise to avoid playing favorites of a sort between those larger centers of political and cultural gravity.

(Photo credit:  Ottawa Tourism)

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