Ottawa-Hull is a centre-point and meeting place for Canada -- sometimes a microcosm of the country. Here north meets south, and the rocky splendor of the Canadian Shield, which stretches across much of Canada's north, meets the fertile farmlands of the south. It is a meeting of rivers -- the Ottawa, the Gatineau, the Rideau and many others nearby -- all flowing into the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes system. Most significant in a bilingual federation such as Canada, it is the meeting place of the two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec, and the two official linguistic groups, English and French. Yet Ottawa is far from the nearest provincial capitals -- more than four hours by road. The surrounding country is sparsely populated. Though starting to change, it lacks the much of multicultural mosaic that is such a dominant feature of Canada's other cities. It is predominently middle class. To the rest of the country, the city is often seen as distant, aloof and not quite real.

1999 Richard McGuire

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