BIG Region – Ontario

Photo Credit: Camera Eye Photography (Flickr)

Canada’s largest and most populated province also has the longest international boundary, and the most diverse set of border crossings. These crossings range from the largest land and air ports of entry into the country to numerous smaller land and water crossings extending from Cornwall in the east to Lake of the Woods in the west. The Windsor-Detroit crossing is one of the largest in the world. Some crossings pass through the reserves of indigenous peoples such as Akwesasne/St. Regis reservation. Other crossings are located at world famous tourist destinations, most notably Niagara Falls. Most of the multi-billion-dollar per day trade between Canada and the U.S. flows through the four major bridge points of Windsor, Buffalo, Niagara and Thousand Islands/Lansdowne, as well as Pearson International Airport in Toronto, and the ports along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Also, it is here where most Canadians and Americans make their crossing between Canada and the U.S.

Research questions focused on, amongst other issues, the Northern Ontario/Southern Ontario division in this vast province, a subject that extends to considerations of border definition, outlook, and policy definition and implementation. Any research in the Ontario border region needed to acknowledge this division and account for it in studies.

Similarly, Ontario is bounded naturally to the south by the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence waterway. This natural boundary has been both a convenient route way and border for human populations that have occupied the watershed since the end of the last glaciation. Border history and culture inform understanding of how this border has emerged, prevailed and been contested.

Migration and immigration flows cross both national and regional boundaries. The flows have been extensive; the most massive in Canada, and these flows have impacted all sub-regions of the province. Ontario remains the major immigrant destination in Canada. The economic, social and cultural implications of these cross-border migrations are profound. In recent years, security concerns have become linked to immigration.

Whereas Ontario remains the dominant border actor in Canada, this border region is not necessarily the agent of border policy innovation and change. Thus researches also explored how innovations in border visioning, policy development and policy implementation appear to originate in other border regions more distant from the Canadian core.

Relatedly, regional security is essentially synonymous with national security due to the high concentration of population and economic activity in Ontario, and poses many challenges for securing large ports of entry by air, land and water, as well as the extensive expanses of the Great Lakes and land borders in largely uninhabited areas.

Tourism and cross-border shopping meanwhile are particularly vulnerable to border security enhancements.

Any investigation into this area cannot ignore that Ontario borders the largest number of U.S. states of any Canadian border region: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Its economy also engages with eastern, mid-western and plains regions in the U.S. This phenomenon of one governance system interacting with many complicates border policy development and implementation, and results in a reverse border asymmetry.

Finally, recognition of the need for resource sustainability in the Great Lakes region has been the catalyst for many agreements and accords that set standards for water and air quality across the border between Canada and the U.S. These accords in turn have been impacted by enhanced security measures along the border.

Dr. Victor Konrad at Carleton University led the Ontario region.