Quebec is the largest province in Canada, with an area of 1,450,680 square kilometres. Quebec is bordered by Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and several American states (see Provincial Map). The St. Lawrence River is the province's central geographical feature, and links the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes. The St. Lawrence lowlands are dotted with more than a million lakes and rivers. Hudson's Bay dominates the northwestern portion of the province, and Quebec's northern forests are some of the largest in the world.
The province's major cities are Montreal and Quebec City.
Quebec was originally inhabited the Algonquin and Iroquois Aboriginal people in the south and the Inuit in the north. The Europeans arrived with French explorer Jacques Cartier in 1534, and the thriving fur trade brought many French and British colonists. Quebec City, founded in 1608, became the capital of New France and was built into a fortified city, the only one north of Mexico City. The French-English rivalry in North America led to the Seven Years' War which saw the fall of Quebec City to British forces in 1759, when New France became a colony of Britain. Britain did, however, agree to protect the French language and culture in this colony. In 1791, the colony was split to create Upper Canada (now Ontario) and Lower Canada. In 1867, the province of Quebec was created as a founding member of the new Dominion of Canada.
Throughout Quebec's history, the survival of the French culture has been central to the concerns of Quebeckers (or "Quebecois") and contributes to Canada's bilingual character and cultural richness. French continues to be the dominant language in the province, as mandated by the province's strict language legislation. Today, almost 80 percent of Quebeckers live in urban centres located along the St. Lawrence River. Its largest city is Montreal, with a population of over 2.5 million. Quebec City is the province's capital and third-largest city.
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