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Ontario Facts, History & Culture

General Facts About Ontario

Population: With a population of more than 13 million, Ontario is home to one in three Canadians.

Size: Ontario is Canada's second-largest province, covering more than one million square kilometres (415,000 square miles)

Land: 894,639 square kilometres (344,092 square miles)

Water: 177,398 square kilometres (68,490 square miles), including 250,000 lakes and about one-third of the world's fresh water.

Capital: Toronto (pop; 4,000,000 app.), located on Lake Ontario, is Canada's largest city. It is also the commercial, industrial and financial centre of Canada.

Time Zones: Most of Ontario is in the Eastern Standard Time Zone. Some of Western / Northern Ontario is in the Central Time Zone.

Ontario's Emblems

Official Flag: The flag of Ontario is the Red Ensign. It includes the Union Jack, representing Ontario's ties to Great Britain, and the Coat-of-Arms of the Province.

Coat-of-Arms of Ontario: The Coat-of-Arms of the Province consists of a green shield with three golden maple leaves surmounted by the Banner of St. George, a red cross on a silver background. The banner indicates Ontario's close ties with Britain, while green and gold are Ontario's official colours; green symbolizes the land. Above the shield is a bear, with a moose and a deer supporting the shield; all representing the rich animal life of Ontario. The Latin motto is translated as "Loyal She Began, Loyal She Remains." The shield was granted by Royal Warrant of Queen Victoria in 1868, and the crest, supporters and motto by Royal Warrant of King Edward VII in 1909.

Official Flower: The official flower of Ontario is the trillium, a delicate white three-petalled flower that grows in profusion in the wild woodlands of the province in early spring.

Official Gem: Amethyst, the rich purple semi-precious stone, is the official gem of Ontario. Large deposits are found in Northwestern Ontario.

Official Tree: The Eastern White Pine, Ontario's official tree, was an important source of income and trade during days of early settlement, and continues to be a valuable resource for Ontario today.

Official Bird: The Common Loon was adopted as Ontario's official bird on June 23, 1994.

Ontario's History & Culture

It was 10,000 years ago when the first Aboriginal people arrived in what is now Ontario. While some Aboriginal nations settled down to erect villages and farm the land in the south, other nations continued to wander. There were battles between the nations, but by the 1600s they had begun to band together into confederacies and had developed a democratic system of government.

The French were the first Europeans to arrive in Ontario, following the path of explorers in the early 1600s. The "Voyageurs" paddled canoe-loads of fur that would eventually be sold to Europe's elite. The lucrative fur trade drew the English to the wild shores of Hudson Bay only a few years later, but settlement in earnest began with the Loyalists moving north after the War of American Independence around 1779.

Today, there are two Aboriginal language groups in Ontario: Algonquian, spoken by the Algonquin, Ojibwa and Cree; and Iroquoian, spoken by the Iroquois. The French culture is still a part of Ontario, with Franco-Ontarians representing five per cent of the province's population of approximately 12.5 million. Successive waves of immigrants have continued to enrich Ontario's culture, and its cities are microcosms of the world in their rich ethnic variety. Today, Ontario is home to more than 80 cultures.

The word "Ontario:" is thought to mean "beautiful waters" in the original Iroquoian - and it couldn't be a more appropriate description. While 80 percent of the province is covered by forests, 20 per cent is comprised of water, with over 250,000 lakes gouged into the rock of the Canadian Shield by the last ice age. Covering more than one million square kilometres (415,000 square miles) - an area larger than France and Spain combined - Ontario is Canada's second largest province. Ontario's most northerly communities are close to the same latitude as London, England. Ontario's southernmost point of land - Middles Island, in Lake Erie south of Point Pelee - is roughly parallel to Barcelona, Spain.

Ontario is one of 10 provinces and three territories that form Canada. Both Ontario and Canada have political systems based on the British parliamentary and constitutional monarchy model.

Ontario is Canada's most populous province and is the economic engine that powers the country. Ontario is the nation's manufacturing leader and produces 60% of all manufactured goods exported out of Canada. Ontario's highly diversified economy offers excellent opportunities in all sectors ranging from automotive, plastics, aerospace to information and telecommunications technology and the life sciences. Agriculture and natural resources are also important economic sectors.

Many famous celebrities are originally from Ontario, including Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Justin Bieber, Shania Twain, Matthew Perry, Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Alanis Morrisette, Avril Lavigne and Christopher Plummer.

Ontarians enjoy a rich history and a dynamic, vibrant life today. There are countless interesting and exciting things to see and do.