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 Ottawa is Canada’s capital city. Has a population of 900,000. Has a population of 1.5 million in the National Capital Region. Is not a crowded city. Sits in a known earthquake zone. Has hot, humid summers and long, cold winters. Offers the second highest quality of life of any city in North America. Is the third cleanest city in the world. Has the world’s largest ice-skating rink in winter – the Rideau Canal. Has over one hundred thousand Federal Government employees. Has 64% of people with mother-tongue English, 15% French, and 21% other languages. Is officially a bilingual city. Many government jobs require candidates to be bilingual in English and French.

Where is Ottawa?

Ottawa is in eastern Ontario, on the Quebec border. You can see in the interactive Google Map (left) that Ottawa sits on the south side of a large river – the Ottawa River. Ottawa is also cut in half by the Rideau River.

Ottawa covers a large area: 2,779 square km, while the National Capital Region’s is 4,715 square km.

On the north side of the Ottawa River is the mainly French-speaking city of Gatineau, Quebec.

Ottawa is about four-and-a-half hours by car from Toronto and two hours from Montreal.

Ottawa is a one hour drive from the USA border, where you can cross the St. Lawrence river into New York State. You can drive to Lake Placid (US Winter Olympics Venue) in about three hours from Ottawa.

The Climate

Ottawa has a sunny climate, with colder winters than Toronto.

Snow deeper than 1 cm is seen on about 120 days a year in Ottawa compared with about 65 days in Toronto. Over 2 metres of snow falls in a typical Ottawa winter.

Ottawa can have big temperature swings in spring and autumn, with warm weather one day, followed by snow the next.

Ottawa can have some smoggy days, mainly in summer, but less so than southern Ontario cities like Toronto.


The Ottawa River is an earthquake sub-zone.

The most recent significant earthquake was in 2010, when there was a Magnitude 5.0 shake centred 55 km (35 miles) North East of Ottawa. Damaging quakes are rare in the region.

The People

About one in six of Ottawa’s people are visible minorities; about one in five people were born in countries other than Canada.

Asia is currently the biggest source of immigrants to Ottawa, and China is the biggest current source country of immigrants to Ottawa.

More foreign-born people currently living in Ottawa come from the UK than any other single country.

About one in three people can speak both English and French, with Francophones concentrated on Ottawa’s east side.

Quality of Life

Ottawa performs well in ‘quality of life’ type surveys.

It has a reputation for being a quiet, reserved, family oriented city, where people are laid back, more into sport than nightlife.

Mercer ranks Ottawa as the second best city in the Americas, behind Vancouver, and fourteenth best in the world.

The Economist Intelligence Unit, who also do this type of survey, did not include Ottawa in their city rankings.

The Canadian Magazine MoneySense rates Ottawa as Canada’s best city. Ottawa scores strongly in most categories and particularly strongly for new car ownership, population growth, low crime, number of doctors, and culture.

Healthcare in Ottawa is high quality. It may be difficult when you first arrive to get a family doctor in Ottawa. Fortunately, there are walk-in medical clinics where you will be seen reasonably promptly.

Ottawa’s crime rates are low compared with other Canadian cities.

Canada’s police forces use a Crime Severity Index to measure reported crimes. This takes into account both the number of offences and their severity.

The lower the index, the better; Ottawa scores 46.5; the Canadian average is 69.7.

By comparison, some other scores are: Toronto (45.7), Montreal (59.1), Calgary (78.3), Winnipeg (87.2), Vancouver (96.2), and Edmonton (101.6) .

Ottawa’s violent crime rate is also lower than average, with 616 violent crimes per 100,000 people in 2015.

By comparison, other city violent crime rates were Calgary (779), Toronto (735), Montreal (889), Vancouver (1,043), Edmonton (1,174), and Winnipeg (1,127).

Ottawa’s households have the highest incomes in Canada.

The most recent figures available are for 2014, when the Canadian average household income was $81,300 a year and Ottawa’s was $89,400.

Ottawa’s only below average score was for affordable housing. Despite this, homes in Ottawa are still more affordable than in Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver.

Ottawa’s average house prices are similar to/a bit higher than Montreal’s and Edmonton’s, but incomes in Ottawa are much higher.

Clean Machine
Mercer rated Ottawa as Canada’s second cleanest city, and third cleanest worldwide. Forbes Magazine ranked Ottawa as fourth cleanest out of 300 cities they looked at worldwide.

This quote from the City of Ottawa’s pages gives you an idea of how dedicated they are to keeping the streets clean:

City streets are then swept by a flusher truck, which uses water pressure to flush the debris to the side of the curbs.
A vacuum truck then picks up the majority of grit, debris, small particles and dust.
This operation might be repeated several times to ensure a clean surface.
If vehicles are parked on the street, the unswept area is noted and crews will return to sweep that portion.
If you think a street has been missed, please call 3-1-1 or visit to complete an online request form.

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