There has been human habitation in Ontario for several thousand years, with various aboriginal groups settling in the region. At the time of first European exploration into the region in 1610, dominant native groups were Algonquian and Iroquoian. After the first arrival of French explorer Étienne Brûlé in 1610, efforts were made by the French, lead by Samuel de Champlain, and the English, lead by Henry Hudson, to colonize the area. Eventually the French were able to establish permanent trading settlements all along the Great Lakes, despite fierce resistance from native groups that had allied with the English. The resistance of these peoples was largely broken beginning in the 1640s with the introduction of European diseases to the area. The late 17th century saw the establishment of English trading stations around Hudson Bay. The struggle for domination of the whole of North America came to a head with the Seven Years' War, beginning in 1754. Its conclusion in 1763 marked the cession by France of almost the entirety of their North American holdings, including modern-day Ontario, to Britain.
This was followed by a period of relative stability in which much of the area was annexed to modern-day Quebec as the Province of Quebec. The influx of Loyalist refugees, fleeing the American Revolution, destabilized the region severely, and English-speaking Loyalists were encouraged to migrate away from the predominantly French regions to the less-settled areas around the Great Lakes. This lead to the 1791 splitting of the province into Upper and Lower Canada, with Lower Canada retaining the French language and law, while Upper Canada adopted the English language and values of the new immigrants. During the War of 1812, Upper Canada was targeted by American troops for invasion, and briefly occupied York before being pushed back. Following the war, the area underwent significant economic and population growth. Despite this, the seeds of nationalist sentiment were planted by increasing dissatisfaction with unelected government of the region. This lead to a rebellion in Lower Canada, swiftly followed by a rebellion in Upper Canada, that demanded responsible government. Both rebellions were swiftly put down, but spurred the british government to action, ultimately resulting in the provinces being reunited as the province of Canada in 1840, with Upper Canada gaining the designation Canada West. Responsible self-government was granted in 1848. In the mid-1800s Canada West had a period of population boom and economic prosperity that firmly established Canada West as a powerful entity. In 1867, following years of campaigning by various Canadian politicians, The British North America Acts united the province of Canada (now Ontario and Quebec) with the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to form the Dominion of Canada. Ontario's borders were officially established in 1889.
Through the 19th century Ontario established itself as a political and economic powerhouse, despite a slowing population growth at the tail-end of the century. The introduction of prohibition in the United States was followed by a partial prohibition in Ontario in 1916. However, distillery continued in the province, and it soon became a hotbed of liquor smuggling. Prohibition was repealed in 1927, and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario was established, which keeps liquor production and sale strictly under provincial control. As in the rest of the country, Ontario was severely impacted by the Great Depression, however it began to recover during the Second World War, and had a significant post-war economic and population boom, with hundreds of thousands of immigrants making their homes in Ontario throughout the mid-to-late twentieth century. English-speaking Quebecers were also driven into Ontario during the rise of Quebec nationalist sentiment during the 1960s and 1970s. Ontario continues to attract immigrants from other countries and other provinces.
Ontario is an east-central province of Canada. It is bounded to the north by Hudson Bay and James Bay, to the east by Quebec, to the south by a number of American states and the Great Lakes, and to the west by Manitoba. Its capital and largest city is Toronto, which is also the largest city in Canada. It is also home to the federal capital, Ottawa.
Ontario is the most populous province in Canada, with just over 13,505,000 people. It is known for its ethnic diversity, particularly in Southern Ontario. A small majority identifies their ethnic origin as English, with just over 24% claiming this origin. 23% of the population claims Canadian ethnicity. There are also major populations claiming Scottish, Irish, French, German, Italian, Chinese, East Indian, or Dutch descent. There are also populations claiming other ethnic origins, that do not exceed 4% of the total population. Christianity is the dominant religion, with just under 75% of the population claiming adherence to some Christian denomination. There are also small populations of other religions, including Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish adherents, that do not exceed 5% of the total population. Just over 16% of the population claim no religion.
A majority of the population speaks English, with just over 70% of the population claiming it as a mother tongue. Native French speakers make up a further 4% of the population. Other populations speaking Italian, Chinese, Spanish, Punjabi, Tagalog, Portuguese, Arabic, German and other languages also exist, with none making up more than 2.5% of the total population.