Your Capital?

Citizens elect different people from their communities to different levels of government to make laws. These lawmakers, or politicians, meet regularly to talk about current laws and to make new ones. They do this in a place called the capital. Ottawa, the national capital of Canada, is where federal politicians meet.


Sometimes you may hear things like, “Ottawa sends soldiers” or “Ottawa makes a decision.” Of course, they do not mean the city of Ottawa; they mean the Government of Canada. Ottawa is the country’s capital. It is your capital. Look in a newspaper and notice how the word Ottawa is used. Is the article talking about something that affects you or your family?


The name Ottawa (or adawe in Algonquin) means to trade and was the name given to the First Nations people who controlled trade along the river.


All Canadian provinces and territories have capitals. Can you name them? What is the capital of your province or territory? Is it the biggest city?

There is always something going on at the Parliament Buildings, even when the Senate and the House of Commons are not sitting. Meetings, committees, official visits and receptions occur every day, and the work of researchers is constant.


Choosing a capital city is not easy!

Should it be in the centre of the country? Should it be the biggest city? Who decides where a capital should be?

In 1857, there were a few cities competing to be the capital city. To settle it, Queen Victoria chose Ottawa because it was centrally located between the cities of Montreal and Toronto, and was along the border of Ontario and Quebec (the centre of Canada at the time). It was also far from the American border, making it safer from attacks.


Some words have two parts, like lawmaker (law + maker). Can you think of other words that use the word law or maker?

The word capital comes from the Latin word caput, which means head. Capital has many different meanings: very serious (capital punishment); money (capital investment); and very important (capital letter, capital city). Here are some other words that come from this same root: to cap something; a baseball or bottle cap; captain; caption.

The English word citizen comes from the Latin word civis, which means a person who lives in a city. Other words in this group include city, civic or civilian. Can you think of other terms that mean the same thing as citizen?