|Subdivision of:||North American League|
|Other:||Outaouais, Kingston, Hamilton, London, Windsor, Thunder Bay|
|Others:||Brithenig, Algonquin, Scots|
|Moderator:||Kelly Leitch (Whig)|
|Area:||c. 1,000,000 square miles|
|Established:||1781, Royal Decree|
|Admission to NAL:||1803 (11th)|
Ontario is one of the founding members of the North American League, every so often referred to as the "Quiet Giant" because it has played a crucial--albeit often unnoticed--role in national history.
The Ontario Covenant of 1781 is the basis for all provincial law, passed at it was by the English and Scottish Parliaments in that year. In fact, it was considered something of a blueprint for the Solemn League and Covenant nearly a generation later.
The Assembly has 163 seats representing ridings elected in a first-past-the-post system across the province. The legislative buildings at Queen's Park in Toronto are the seat of government. Following the Westminster system, the leader of the party currently holding the most seats in the Assembly is head of government and known as the Legislative Moderator and President of the Council (in practice this person is called the "Moderator"). The Moderator chooses the cabinet or Executive Council whose members are deemed "ministers of the Crown". Although the Legislative Assembly Act refers to members of the assembly, the legislators are now called MPPs (Members of the Provincial Parliament) but they have also been called MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly), and both are acceptable.
Politically, Ontario tends to be broken down (somewhat) along religious lines. The Progressive Conservatives, for example, have generally consisted of mainstream Protestant Churches and Eastern Orthodox, with the Whigs drawing upon Catholics, Jews and various native religions as well as the rising tide of neopaganism (although to be sure, this is a very much a minority--but one that votes). Yet this is a rule of thumb rather than anything else, and in truth both major parties are divided into numerous factions. On the Provincial level, the major parties are identical to those of the NAL as a whole. However, there are numerous smaller parties that make themselves felt on the District level, such as the Alliance Français, the Rupert's Land Independence Party and the Catholic Democratic Party.
Another factor is the ethnic divide, between the Francophone South-East Ontario and the generally Anglo-Scottish Central Ontario and the mostly-native West Ontario.
Rumors abound of secret societies that run things from behind the scenes, but most of these "secret societies" (such as the Masons) are in fact well-known organizations.
Ontario is divided into three Districts which are further divided into Ridings (for New Yorkshire and Rupert's Land) or parishes ("paroisses") (for Pay-d'en-haut). The chief executives (i.e. "Lieutenant Moderators") of each District are considered members of the Provincial Executive Council. Each District also has its own District Council elected from its citizens and Lieutenant Moderators.
- Rupert's Land (majority Native/Métis) makes up the northern end of the Province. Although there are several different Native languages spoken here, English is the "work" or common tongue. Native religions as well as various Christian Churches make up the vast majority here. The district capital is York Factory.
- New Yorkshire (majority Anglophone) comprises the western side of Ontario. There is a wide variety of faiths here, with Eastern Orthodox Churches on the rise. Approximately 90% of the province is Christian (everything from Mormon to Baptist to Amish), with most of the rest being Jewish. It is considered the most ethnically diverse district in Ontario. The district capital is Sault Ste. Marie.
- Pays-d'en-haut (majority Francophone) is in the Eastern end of the province and the smallest of the three, yet also the most densely populated. This district is also mostly bilingual (English and French) and approximately 70% French Catholic (95% Christian). An Anglo-Scottish minority make up nearly 20% of the District, with another 10% being Native. The district capital is Outaouais.
Before the arrival of the Europeans, the region was inhabited both by Algonquian (Ojibwa, Cree and Algonquin) and Iroquoian (Iroquois and Huron) tribes. The French explorer Étienne Brûlé explored part of the area in 1610-12. The English explorer Henry Hudson sailed into Hudson Bay in 1611 and claimed the area for England, but Samuel de Champlain reached Lake Huron in 1615 and French missionaries began to establish posts along the Great Lakes. French settlement was hampered by their hostilities with the Iroquois, who would ally themselves with the English and Scots. the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670 began to vie for the lucrative fur trade of the West. When the long series of wars between Britain and France broke out in Europe, they were paralleled in North America by the Wars for American Territory. The Peace of Utrecht (1713) gave Britain the Hudson Bay area down to the Great Lakes, save for one particular region in the north dubbed Pays-d'en-haut. To strengthen their position the French built additional forts to the west of what utlimately became New Francy.
By the last quarter of the 18th century, the plethora of colonies established by different European powers in North America created the circumstances that led to individual leaders maintaining a stalemate militarily. Simply, the different colonial groups tacitly agreed never to engage in formal, direct warfare, no matter what the homelands might be up to at any given time. This led to increased trade. Had the native tribes not successfully adapted (by and large) to the new military realities of their homes, the colonists arriving from Europe might have moved into places we today know as Aquanishuonigy and Cherokee Nation. Instead, many made their way to Ontario. In 1778, the sheer number of people now settling there led to several prominent persons petititioning the crown for a charter. This was granted in 1781 by the Anglo-Scottish Parliaments. The new colony was named "Ontario" after the Great Lake Ontario (an Iroquois word meaning "beautiful lake" or "beautiful water").
With the new charter (which they called a "covenant") in hand, the leaders of the new colony probably exceeded their legal authority in directly negotiating a specific boundary between themselves and the French Colony to their East. The parliaments in London and Edinburgh formally censured the actual negotiators--an act that cost no one anything--but accepted the new borders.
This period was also one of further exploration. Alexander Mackenzie made voyages in 1789 to the Arctic Ocean and in 1793 to the Pacific, searching for the Northwest Passage.
After the formation of the North American League, Pays-d'en-haut (which until then had seen sporadic fighting between Neofrancian and Lousiannan forces) requested and was granted entry into the league. Due to the small population number, the region was attached to the province of Ontario. As part of the treaty, they were guaranteed some form of protection of their tradition and culture, giving them separate school system, allowing the francophones to receive government services in Francien "where needs warrants" and having a "Minister of Francophone Affairs".
Ontario signed the Solemn League Covenant in 1803 and was quickly accepted, but an ill-worded segment of their provincial charter left question about the actual size of province. This was neither noticed nor resolved until the 1940's when questions were raised about the charter and the actually territory comprising Ontario. The populace of Thunder Bay, Ontario were not pleased with the idea of being "ceded" to the Unincorporated Territories and petitioned the Parliament, General Moderator and Council Fire to reconsider the borders of Ontario. This was permitted after months of discussion, and Thunder Bay and some surrounding territory was added to Ontario.
The province consists of three main geographical regions:
- The thinly populated American Shield in the northwestern and central portions, a mainly infertile area rich in minerals and studded with lakes and rivers; sub-regions are Northwestern Ontario and Northeastern Ontario.
- The mostly unpopulated Hudson Bay Lowlands in the extreme north and northeast, mainly swampy and sparsely forested; and
- The temperate, and therefore most populous region, the fertile Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence Valley in the south where agriculture and industry are concentrated. Southern Ontario is further sub-divided into four regions; Western Ontario (sometimes called Southwestern Ontario), Golden Horseshore, Central Ontario and Eastern Ontario.
The weather in Ontario is very diverse. The south, including Greater Toronto Area receives very hot, humid weather in the summer, as the stronger the Bermuda high pressure over the Atlantic Ocean, the more warm, humid air is transported northward from the the Gulf of Mexico. Severe thunderstorms peak in frequency in June and July, most notably in Southwestern and Central Ontario. Northwestern Ontario also receives short periods of hot weather and severe storms.
In the winter, lake effect snow squalls affect three primary areas in Ontario known as the "snow belts", the Algoma District in Northeastern Ontario on the east end of Lake Superior; much of the Georgian Bay shoreline including Killarney, Parry Sound District, Muskoka and Simcoe County; the Lake Huron shore from east of Sarnia northward to the Bruce Peninsula.
Wind whipped snowsqualls or lake effect snow can affect areas much further inland. At other times during winter, all regions of the province may encounter snow squalls.
Ontario's rivers, particularly its share of the Niagara River, make it rich in hydroelectric energy. Trade along and across the Great Lakes is extremely vigorous, as is railroad traffic bringing goods all over the province. Many areas are primarily agricultural, so Ontario is in theory self-sufficient (as a few agitators longing for Ontarian Independence like to point out).
Increasing immigration from all parts of the world, especially to Toronto and its environs, is rapidly diversifying the province's ethnic makeup. About ten per cent of the population of Ontario is Franco-Ontarian.
Yet for most of the province, its open empty spaces are dotted with fairly small towns. Such small towns have gained a reputation of eccentricity and even otherworldliness which many natives of Ontario find strange. Yet it is also true that a rather high number of settlers and explorers have vanished never to be seen again. The most famous of these would have to be the Donnear Party of 1849 although they were not the first, last nor even the largest to so disappear. Many immigrants have found Ontario a place where "live and let live" has been coupled with a sense of isolation, resulting in towns as very specific ethnic identities scattered in the less populous areas (as well as corners of the more settled districts). More than one cross-country traveller has been startled to see onion-domed churches on the horizon, for example.
Adding perhaps to air of mystery are legends of the Wendigo and the Sasquatch, creatures said to haunt the hills outside such towns as Wattville. Similar but not precisely the same are legends of a creature known as "Owl Man".
But outside the cities, the largest subculture undoubtedly centers around the Great Lakes--the fisherman and freighters that traverse those vast bodies of water. Literally dozens and dozens of lighthouses dot the northern shores, operated by what was generally viewed as a crop of oddball loners (not without some reason). Certainly there are many tales of lost vessels and strange happenings on the Great Lakes, including sightings of "sea monsters" and "ghost ships." The most famous of the latter is without doubt the Siobhan Gallagher.
Probably the single most unifying factor in Ontario's culture is a deep devotion by many to the game of ice hockey as well as figure-skating. Devotion to these in some quarters resembles something akin to a religion. The other three "top sports" are (in no particular order), rugby, football and cricket.
- Constantine Joanes
- Gwilliam Lyon MacDowell
- Gloria Dawson
- Sir Clive Parker
- Georg and Lucas Spieldorf
- Atlanta Wells