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What is Ontario?

Ontario's coat of arms depicts a moose, bear, and deer.
Ontario is the most populous province in Canada.
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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2014
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Ontario is one of Canada’s ten provinces, along with Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Québec, Saskatchewan. The rest of Canada’s land consists of three territories: Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon Territory. Located in south-central Canada, Ontario is bordered on the west by Manitoba, on the east by Québec, on the north by Hudson Bay and James Bay, and on the south by the state of Minnesota, four of the Great Lakes: Superior, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River.

Ontario was named for Lake Ontario, the name of which comes from an Iroquois word meaning “beautiful lake.” Ontario is Canada’s second largest province with an area of 415,000 square miles (1,074,845 sq km), and the fourth largest division if the territories are included. It makes up nearly 11% of the land in Canada. The 2007 population of Ontario was 12,803,900, the greatest of any region, and more than a third of the total population of the country.

Ontario, home to the nation’s capital of Ottawa, as well as its own capital in Toronto, is nicknamed the Heartland Province, and the motto of Ontario is Ut incepit Fidelis sic permanet: Loyal she began, loyal she remains. Other important cities include Hamilton, London, and Windsor, which it surprises many people to learn is actually south of Detroit, and a major point of entry to Canada from the United States.

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The provincial emblems are as follows:

  • Floral emblem: White Trillium
  • Mineral emblem: Amethyst
  • Arboreal emblem: Eastern White Pine
  • Avian emblem: Common Loon
  • Shield of Arms: Three golden maple leaves on a green background below a cross of St. George.
  • Coat of Arms: the shield of arms with a black bear above, and a moose and a deer to either side. The motto is also included.
  • Flag: Shield of arms on a red field with a Union Jack in the upper left corner.

Aboriginal peoples, supplemented by immigrants from the United States made up the primary population of Ontario prior to the War of 1812. The Native American population was originally rural, but now includes city-dwellers. Inuit are not native to the region, though some have moved to Ontario. Several waves of British immigration occurred, and then Europeans, as the mining industry developed and a more diverse group of immigrants followed. Although the current population is still primarily of British ancestry, the population has grown more diverse.

The centrality of Ontario’s location in Canada, as well as its access to US markets, well developed transportation, wide array of natural resources, and well-trained population are factors in its productive economy, with manufacturing and service leading the way. Ontario not only has more than half of Canada’s most fertile arable land, a vibrant mining industry, and a strong steel industry, but also a strong information technology sector that has earned it the nickname of “Silicon Valley North.”

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