Once considered the most dangerous town in British North America, Bytown (later Ottawa) was a breeding ground for conflict. With the completion of the Rideau Canal in 1832, hundreds of Irish labourers found themselves unemployed. Many banded together as “the Shiners” and resorted to strong-arm tactics to acquire jobs in the lumber camps traditionally dominated by French Canadians. Confrontations between religious and cultural identities, fueled by alcohol consumption, often turned violent.
Fast forward one hundred years to an Ottawa more familiar to today’s residents. During the Second World War, Ottawa became a site of refuge for the Dutch royal family. While in exile, Princess Juliana gave birth to her third daughter, Princess Margriet, in a wing of the Ottawa Civic Hospital declared “extraterritorial” by the Canadian government. This temporary cession allowed the royal family to circumvent Canada’s “jus soli” principle (automatic Canadian citizenship given to those born on Canadian soil) and ensured that the princess would be born a royal Dutch citizen. As a token of her appreciation, Princess Juliana sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa following her return to the Netherlands. This gift became an Ottawa tradition celebrated with our annual Tulip Festival, for which thousands of tulips are carefully arranged in parks around the city.
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