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Compare and Contrast US and Canada Capital Cities Essay

Washington dc and Ottawa share much in common in terms of geography, but they have also taken divergent paths in terms of history and culture. Originally inhabited by Native Americans, both were colonized by Europeans and later developed into two independent capitals. By 1500s, the European’s migration to North America had begun CITATION Swe02 l 1033 (Swerdlow, 2002). Europeans came to North America in search of land, valuable minerals, religious and political freedom. The European migrants came from England, France, and Spain, where they settled in colonies. Washington dc was founded on rebellion and the cult of seeking independence while Ottawa was formed through consensus among the public servants CITATION Mil11 l 1033 (Miller, 2011). While both cities share similar histories with regard to their former colonizers the British monarch, they bear divergent attitudes towards their formers colonizers.

In the year 1763, France was forced to abandon most of its North American territory to the British Empire, which was a union of Scotland and England. Conflicts arose between the Native Americans and the colonial settlers as they sought to occupy the land. Most Native Americans were pushed out of their lands and their culture was nearly destroyed as a result of the conflict CITATION Bar13 l 1033 (Barret, 2013). When the British government imposed new taxes and restriction on the freedoms of Native Americans in 1760s, all the thirteen British colonies were angered and they fought against the British to attain independence. The result was a new independent country, the United States of America. Most Americans rejected the British monarchy and set up a republic, a type of government whereby people could elect their own leaders, including the head of states. Consequently, they elected George Washington as their first president CITATION For10 l 1033 (Forsey, 2010).

As some American colonists did not wish to break ties with the British monarch, they sought to leave the newly formed country. Over hundred thousand people known as the loyalist moved out of the United States and settled in the French populated regions of Quebec, which was controlled by the British monarch. In the early 1800s, French and English speaking communities in the British North America were in constant conflict over the colonial government policies CITATION Mil11 l 1033 (Miller, 2011). However, they were soon brought together due to fears of a takeover by the United States. In the year 1867, four of the colonies – Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova scout- united under Prime Minister A. MacDonald, to from the united provinces of the dominion of Canada. This was a new country under the British Empire. Other neighboring areas such as British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, also become provinces of Canada CITATION For10 l 1033 (Forsey, 2010). Nowadays, Canada encompasses the ten provinces and another three territories, the Nunavut, the Yukon Territory and the North West territories.

Currently, both the governments run from Ottawa and Washington dc are democracies with federal systems, whereby the national governments share power with provinces or the state governments CITATION Bel11 l 1033 (Belanger, 2011). However, the United States governments tends to tilt more towards democracy while Canada is more conservative. Indeed, the United States has been amending laws in accordance to the democratic rights of its citizens. This has been had been a strategy stated back in 1787, the united states leaders wanted to create a strong national government whilst preserving the structures individual states and citizens CITATION Bel11 l 1033 (Belanger, 2011). Therefore, a plan called the constitutional amendments was drafted so that the constitution could be adjusted to conform to the countries changing needs. The first ten amendments were known as the bill of rights, and they guaranteed the citizens fundamental rights, such as the freedoms of religion, speech and press.

Canada, on the other hand, was formed as a dominion, which was essentially a self-governing country with close links with the British monarch. Ottawa gained full independence from the British Empire in 1931, but the British governments still held the rights to approve any changes made to the constitution of Canada CITATION For10 l 1033 (Forsey, 2010). It was not until 1982 that this legislative link to the British government was severed. During its founding, Canada had a strong central government, with very little powers shred to the individual provinces. However, over the years, the powers given to the provinces has significantly increased CITATION For10 l 1033 (Forsey, 2010).

The form of government in Ottawa is a constitutional monarch. The executive arm of the Canadian government encompasses the governor general, the prime minister and the cabinet CITATION Bar13 l 1033 (Barret, 2013). In this government, the British monarch is still acts as the head of state. Additionally, the British monarch appoints the governor general in order to act in his or her place. The national legislature is known as the parliament, and it is made up of the senate and the House of Commons. The prime minister is the leaders of the majority political party in the parliament and serves as the actual head of government. The supreme court of Canada is composed of nine judges, and it is the country’s highest court CITATION Bar13 l 1033 (Barret, 2013).

On the other hand, the government in Washington is made up of three branches; the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. The executive arm of the government encompasses the president, the vice president, and all the executive departments that control various division of the federal government CITATION Swe02 l 1033 (Swerdlow, 2002). The president’s cabinet is made up of the heads of these departments. They also double up as special advisors. Elected state representatives makeup the senate and the House of Representatives. The senate and House of Representatives make up the legislative branch of the government. Meanwhile, the judicial branch is made up of the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts.

While English is the official language and the main language in Washington dc, Ottawa has both English and French as the two official languages. Due to the immigration of people from all various parts of the world to Canada and the United States, there are other languages used, albeit in the few minority ethnicities CITATION Mil11 l 1033 (Miller, 2011). The immigrants from Great Britain came with the English language to United States and most parts of Canada. However, in some Canadian provinces such as Quebec and cities such as Ontario and Ottawa, French is included as the official language since some of the provinces population is made up descendants of French settlers who had arrived there between 1500s and 1700s CITATION Bar13 l 1033 (Barret, 2013). Since the French-speaking Canadians in the city wanted more protection for their culture and language, they sought to for the recognition and use of French language as part of the official language in Ottawa.

Although both cities have a number of differences as mentioned above, they also exhibit several similarities. Firstly, Both Ottawa and Washington dc are capital cities of Canada and the United States respectively. Unlike other capitals such as London, Tokyo or Mexico City, both are not the unrivaled centers of gravity of their respective countries CITATION Bar13 l 1033 (Barret, 2013). Fundamentally, both are political capitals and not cultural or economic capital cities. They are both government cities and not megacities. However, they both manage to maintain a cosmopolitan atmosphere and a profile of much bigger proportions than their own size. In addition, neither of them were their countries initial capitals. Although they both have neighborhoods that were formerly colonial towns, the two cities developed around national politics and for most of the time, the government was at the center of everything CITATION Swe02 l 1033 (Swerdlow, 2002).

Both Ottawa and Washington dc exemplify a distinguishing North American federal urbanism. While both cities have a population of less than a million, they have several monuments, museums and embassies CITATION Swe02 l 1033 (Swerdlow, 2002). Tourist visit both cities to experience the historical foundations of the two North American countries, Canada, and the United States. Both Ottawa and Washington dc are filled with stylish Victorian houses and neoclassical public buildings. Additionally, they both have several impressively designed office blocks. For instance, Ottawa has a bureaucratic brutalist wonderland while in Washington dc there is the J. Edgar Hoover building at the pentagon’s scale CITATION Bel11 l 1033 (Belanger, 2011). The two cities have adopted approach to urban development that is centered on housing and amenities targeted to the professional classes, causing a wave of growth that has boosted a renaissance of downtown livability.

Washington dc and Ottawa have a similar educational system. This includes a network of both public and private schools. Both cities have compulsory education requirements. In addition, the Canadian provinces and the United States have a 12-grade school system. There are universities and colleges in both cities. In terms of the rate of literacy, both the US and Canada have literacy rate of 97 percent CITATION Bar13 l 1033 (Barret, 2013).

The cultural influences of the United States and Canada, which are headquartered in Washington dc and Ottawa respectively, is strongest in the discipline of popular entertainment. Indeed, both the United States and Canada have had a profound impact throughout the world through their popular culture CITATION Bel11 l 1033 (Belanger, 2011). In the 1900s, the US was the world’s most dominant source of entertainment and trendy fashion, ranging from the t- shirts and the jeans to the television programs, movies and rock stars. Even nowadays, Hollywood has become synonymous with the film industry. On its part, the Canada film industry which receives backing from Ottawa, is renowned for its shakes hers festivals that are held annually in Ontario. Therefore, the entertainment cultures in both cities has greatly shaped and influenced the entertainment industry thought the world CITATION Bar13 l 1033 (Barret, 2013).

Being the citizens of two of the world’s wealthiest capital cities, people in both Ottawa and Washington dc enjoy a high standard of living. Due to their socioeconomic status or their level of educational income, the citizens of both cities have an advantage over the personal opportunities and choices. Due to the support systems in place that ensure agricultural surplus in both the United States and Canada, foods are fairly inexpensive. The housing varies considerably depending on the needs of families and individuals CITATION Bel11 l 1033 (Belanger, 2011). They range from suburban houses to multifamily row houses to high rise apartments.


 Barret, M. (2013). Interculturalism and multiculturalism: similarities and differences. London: Council of Europe.

Belanger, D.-C. (2011). Prejudice and Pride: Canadian Intellectuals Confront the United States, 1891-1945. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Forsey, E. A. (2010). How Canadians govern themselves. Ottawa: Library of Parliament.

Miller, K. (2011). FOLLOWING THE AMERICAN LEAD: CANADA’S DIPLOMACY. Wellington: Heritage.

Swerdlow, J. L. (2002). The cultural geography of the united states and Canada. New York: National Geographic.

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