Founded as a province on July 1st, 1867. Home of Wasaga Beach, the world’s longest freshwater beach, 8.6 miles in length. The most common names include Liam, Benjamin and Noah, for men, and Olivia, Emma and Charlotte, for women. Home to Toronto Zoo, Canada’s largest, and the Royal Museum, also Canada’s largest. Birthplace of James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, and Joseph Shuster, co-creator of Superman. Also the birthplace of Alanis Morissette, Andrea Cook, Avril Lavigne, Daniel Aykroyd, Eugene Levy, James Carrey, Justin Trudeau, Michael Myers, Neil Young, Ryan Gosling, Sarah Chalke, Stephen Amell, William Arnett, and about a billion other famous people. Home to the CN Tower, the world’s third tallest tower, at 1,815 feet in height. Also home to Labatt Memorial Park, the world’s oldest continually operating baseball ground, opening in 1877. And the official bird is the wonderfully named Common Loon. Indeed. Today, we’re visiting The Heartland Province, Ontario.
Ontario is a province in east-central Canada, bordered by Manitoba and Quebec, plus Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Hudson Bay and James Bay. It is the fourth largest province or territory at nearly 416,000 square miles, with the largest population, with 13.4 million people. The province’s motto is, ‘Ut incepit Fidelis sic permanet,’ which is Latin for the rather curious, ‘Loyal She Began, Loyal She Remains.’ It references the loyalist refugees from the American Revolution who settled in Ontario, eternally loyal to the crown. The province was named after Lake Ontario, thought to come from a Wyandot word meaning ‘great lake’ or ‘beautiful waters’ in the Iroquoian languages. Choosing a name was a toss up between their love of lakes and their love of the crown. They have over 250,000 lakes, in case you’re wondering, whereas there’s only one Queen Victoria and she already had a shit ton of stuff named after her…
The Red Ensign was the popular flag of Canada until rather recently, and, as you can imagine, many Canadians were outraged at the decision to replace it. At least we think it was outrage. At the time, ‘rage’ was a strange, new feeling to most Canadians, who, up until that point, had never had anything to grumble about. Ontarians were particularly aggrieved and, as such, Ontario ended up with the Red Ensign as its flag. With the coat of arms of Ontario added for good measure. The maple leaves on it are, obviously, Canada’s best known symbol, and the cross of St. George recalls the historic connection with Britain and pays tribute to the monarch. The Red Ensign is important to many Canadians as it’s seen as a symbol of the British heritage of Canada and the sacrifices Canadian troops have made under the flag. One politician did oppose Ontario’s new flag, calling it ‘a flag of revenge’ against the new national flag. Revenge? Outrage? This isn’t the Canada I know and love!
The diversity on offer in Ontario knows no bounds, a melting pot of people from everywhere on Earth. The French were the first settlers to arrive here and, as such, French influence remains strong. Every year, countless waves of immigrants arrive, continuing to enhance the culture of this pace. There isn’t a community in Ontario without a microcosm of rich ethnic variety, with more than 80 cultures from around the world represented in this province. Customs and traditions from these communities are very much kept alive. You’ll find Scottish Highland Games in the community of Fergus, Oktoberfest in the cities of Kitchener-Waterloo, and even Caribana in Toronto. It’s a creative land, also home to art and film, to dance and music.
Amongst the rich tapestry of sounds you’ll hear are the soulful tunes of the fiddle, enlivening many of the more than 200 autumn fairs, festivals where Ontarians enjoy everything from ploughing matches to pumpkin contests. They love to celebrate the colourful seasons, indicative of their love of nature. Winter festivals are also prevalent here, such as Winterlude. You’ll also find jazz festivals everywhere, along with classical music and blues festivities. This place is alive with sound.
And the sounds of Ontario also prevail in the worlds of ballet and opera, of symphony and theatre, attracting the third largest theatre going audience in the English speaking world. There are world famous theatres here, and yet more celebrations celebrating the theatre. This is a unique and dynamic place, one of vibrancy and a rich history. A pleasant atmosphere permeates this peaceful land, accommodating and enjoyable in the extreme. This is a province where you will, rather easily, feel more human than anywhere else.
Ontarians are mad about their hockey and their wine, and are a friendly people, warm and kind-hearted, the type of folk who will go out of their way to ensure you are happy and content. They enjoy a slower pace of life, happy with the simpler things, a quiet life of simple pleasures and gratefulness for the truly important things, such as family and friends. They are an accepting people too, people who will talk to you and will go to great lengths to get to know you.
This is a place of serene gorgeousness, famed for its stunning landscapes, plus its forests and lakes. Over 80% of this province is covered by those lands of green and luscious forests, with 20% of this place covered in water. Every corner is a delight, the varieties of colours speak to you, the type of place where you feel not only connected to that nature, but a part of it. This is a province of outstanding natural beauty and exceptional loveliness.
There are sights to enjoy such as the fairytale charm and charismatic wonder that is Casa Loma in the capital city of Toronto, and the grandiose and domineering Colline du Parlement or Parliament Hill in Canada’s capital, Ottawa. The gothic revival buildings atop this mighty green and luscious hill are like a beacon, shining out and standing proud, astonishing and praiseworthy. Truly unique and truly sublime.
And then there’s the irresistible fusion of old and new that is the Musée royal de l’Ontario or the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. The original brick building was constructed in 1912, but greatly enhanced in 2007 by a striking monument to modernism. Like a spaceship has crashed into the fabric of a grand old building, like something plucked from the mind of a drug induced delirium, such harshness and such a clash of cultures should not work, yet, in this place of one thousand nationalities, they meld together as they are: two buildings from different places, but still that: buildings. Such strangeness shouldn’t work yet here, ‘tis normal. An exquisite meeting of two radically different things, united as friends, charming and illecebrous.
But my favourite sight of Ontario is the delightful and divine Albion Falls in Hamilton, speaking to you like an old friend, comforting and warm, embracing you in its alien and ethereal charm. It may be small, but it exudes joy and oozes grace, capturing your heart with little effort. The gorgeous colours sing to you like a soothing lullaby, the trickling water so calming it occupies one’s soul with enthralling majesty, and the rocks, a flawless vista, all coming together like an extraordinary and splendiferous tapestry. A raimentless beauty that tells the tale of this province, gentle and humble, wonderful and ageless.
Ontario. The province of joy, beauty and Loons.
Images (Click on Them to Enlarge)
1) The flag of Ontario
2) Albion Falls
3) The Royal Ontario Museum
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