Ottawa - capital of Canada and seat of Carleton County, southeastern Ontario, at the confluence of the Ottawa, Gatineau, and Rideau rivers. Its metropolitan area lies astride the Ontario-Quebec border.
The first descriptions of Ottawa's future site were written by the founder of New France, Samuel de Champlain, in 1613. The rivers served as passageways for explorers and traders over the following two centuries. The Napoleonic Wars increased Britain's need for shipbuilding timber, and the Ottawa Valley offered just such resources. In 1800 an American, Philemon Wright, had begun timbering across the Ottawa River in what became the city of Hull. During the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States, the Rideau provided the British with a safe shipping route from the Ottawa River to Kingston, on Lake Ontario, thus spurring settlement of Ottawa. It was hastened by the arrival in 1826 of Lt. Col. John By of the Royal Engineers to work on canalizing the river, and the town became Bytown.
Ottawa might still be a modest city had not political quarrels between Quebec city and Toronto and between Montreal and Kingston induced leaders to call upon Queen Victoria to designate a capital for United Canada. In 1855 Bytown was incorporated and rechristened Ottawa after the Indian tribe. It became the fastest growing metropolis in eastern Canada, a development due largely to the presence of the national government. In 1937 Prime Minister William L. Mackenzie King brought the architect Jacques Grйber from France to begin the redevelopment of the national capital district.
The fur trade and lumbering have diminished in importance, and industry now employs only a small fraction of the labour force. The federal government is the major employer. Many commercial and financial associations from around the country as well as embassies and trade associations are also located there.
Ottawa is served by both of Canada's major railroads and several airlines. There is bus service throughout the city. Navigation on the Ottawa and Rideau rivers, except for pleasure craft, is a thing of the past.
The major cultural centres remain the city's three universities. The University of Ottawa and St. Paul University are bilingual institutions, whereas instruction at Carleton University is entirely in English. A large community college, Algonquin, provides technical training. Ottawa also houses the National Arts Centre, which includes an opera house and two theatres, the National Library and Public Archives Building, the National Museum of Science and Technology, and the National Gallery of Canada. Pop. (1991) city, 313,987; Ottawa-Hull metropolitan area, 920,857.