SOME OF THE RICHEST AND POOREST areas of Canada are found within the eastern part of the country. The provinces of Ontario and Quebec that lie around the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River form Canada's wealthy industrial region and contain most of the population. Canada's capital, Ottawa, and other major cities, including Toronto and Montreal, are in this region. At the end of Lake Erie, on the border with the United States, is Niagara Falls, one of the main tourist attractions in the region. The Atlantic, or maritime, provinces along the stormy east coast have few natural resources and are suffering from a decline in the fishing industry, but enjoy a distinctive culture, and a rugged coastline and landscape.


Completed in 1959, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system made it possible for ships to travel 2,342 miles (3,769 km) from the industrial center of North America to the Atlantic Ocean. Ships carrying cargoes of grain, lumber, iron ore, and coal descend 600 ft (183 m) from Lake Ontario to sea level through a system of locks. Tolls are charged for ships that use the system. The Seaway is closed due to ice for four months during the winter.


In 1608, Frenchman Samuel de Champlain set up a fur trading post on the St. Lawrence River at a place the native peoples called Kubec. By 1763, the French settlements had been taken over by the British. Under British control, the province grew into a major commercial center. Today, over 80 percent of Canadians whose native language is French live in the province of Quebec. Although laws guarantee the right of French Canadians to their own language, laws, and culture, some Quebecois want to separate from the rest of Canada.


Acid rain is a problem in eastern Canada because many of the water and soil systems in this region are not alkaline and so cannot neutralize acid naturally. Acid rain has affected freshwater supplies and killed fish, and has damaged soil, crops, buildings, and the famous sugar maple trees. Although some sources of acid rain originate in Canada, many of the problems come from factories in the United States, where chemical fumes are carried north by the wind.