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Encyclopedia > Toronto, Canada
For other uses, see Toronto (disambiguation).
City of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
(in detail)
Motto: Diversity Our Strength
Map of Ontario Counties, Toronto being red
Area: 641 sq. km.
Distance - East to West: 43 km.
Distance - South to North : 21 km.

 - Total (2004)
 - Metropolitan
 - Cdn. CD Rank:
 - Cdn. Mun. Rank:

 - Density

Ranked 1st
Ranked 1st

Time zone Eastern: UTC-5


43°41' N
79°38' W

Mayor David Miller
Governing body Toronto City Council
Chief Administrative Officer Shirley Hoy
Jean Augustine, Carolyn Bennett, Sarmite Bulte, John Cannis, Roy Cullen, Ken Dryden, John Godfrey, Bill Graham, Tony Ianno, Jim Karygiannis, Jack Layton, Derek Lee, John McKay, Dan McTeague, Maria Minna, Jim Peterson, Yasmin Ratansi, Judy Sgro, Mario Silva, Alan Tonks, Joe Volpe, Tom Wappel, Borys Wrzesnewskyj
Lorenzo Berardinetti, Laurel Broten, Michael Bryant, Donna Cansfield, David Caplan, Mary Anne V. Chambers, Marilyn Churley, Mike Colle, Joseph Cordiano, Alvin Curling, Brad Duguid, Gerard Kennedy, Monte Kwinter, Rosario Marchese, Gerry Phillips, Michael D. Prue, Shafiq Qaadri, Tony Ruprecht, Mario Sergio, George Smitherman, Kathleen O. Wynne, David Zimmer
City of Toronto (http://www.toronto.ca/)

Toronto, is Canada's largest city and the provincial capital of Ontario, the most populated province with 12,536,031 people. Toronto's population is 2,518,772 (Torontonians) (2004 Statistics Canada estimate); that of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is 5,715,386 (2004). Toronto is part of the Golden Horseshoe region of Ontario, a densely populated region of around 7 million people. Approximately one-third of the Canadian population lives within a five-hour drive of Toronto, and about one-sixth of all Canadian jobs lie within the city limits.



Known as the "economic engine of Canada", Toronto is considered a major world city, exerting significant regional, national, and global influence. Toronto is often described as the world's most multicultural city, with more than half its population (52%) having immigrated from other countries. Every summer the city even plays host to the "Largest Street Festival" in North America, Caribana.

While English is the predominant language, Statistics Canada reports that there are significant populations of others, such as Chinese and Italian. Fewer than 2% of Torontonians claim French (Canada's other official language) as their mother tongue.

Toronto has the largest concentration of head offices, the highest concentration of cultural workers and institutions, and the largest arts community in Canada. Indeed, in January 2005, it was designated by the federal government as one of Canada's cultural capitals. It is one of the safest cities to live in North America; its crime rate is one of the lowest in Canada and North America.

Toronto skyline on a summer day, including the CN Tower

The City of Toronto covers an area of 641 km² (247 square miles) and is bounded by Lake Ontario to the south, Etobicoke Creek and Highway 427 to the west, Steeles Avenue to the north, and the Rouge River to the east. According to provincial law, the southern boundary of the city actually extends to the US boundary in the centre of Lake Ontario.

The GTA extends beyond the city boundaries and includes the regional municipalities of Halton, Peel, York and Durham.

The GTA is part of a larger, natural ecosystem known as the Greater Toronto Bioregion. This ecosystem is bounded by Lake Ontario, the Niagara Escarpment, and the Oak Ridges Moraine, and includes several watersheds that drain into Lake Ontario. It is also the northern extent of the Carolinian forest zone.

Until the 1970s, Toronto was the second largest city in Canada, after Montreal. The economic growth of Toronto was greatly stimulated by the development of the auto industry and of large mineral resources in its hinterland, and by the completion in 1959 of the St. Lawrence Seaway which allowed ships access to the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean. Further growth in the Toronto area is often attributed to the rise of Quebec nationalism, though the extent of its influence is still contested by some who argue that its effect was exaggerated by the English media (cf.[1] (http://english.republiquelibre.org/myths-and-fallacies.html)). During the 1970s, the Quebec Liberal Party and the Parti Québécois enacted several French-language laws that were perceived as unfavourable towards English-language businesses and English-speaking Montrealers, and many relocated to Toronto where the French language is not necessary for business. A continuous influx of newcomers from Atlantic Canada, and large numbers of immigrants from around the world have contributed to the steady growth of Toronto and its surroundings since the second World War. Today, Toronto is the main destination for new immigrants to Canada.

The current mayor of Toronto is David Miller.



Located on the northern shore of Lake Ontario, Toronto was originally a term of indeterminate geographical location, designating the approximate area of the future city of Toronto on maps dating to the late 17th and early 18th century. Eventually the name was anchored to the mouth of the Humber River, the end of the Toronto Carrying-Place Trail portage route from Georgian Bay; this is where the city of Toronto is located today.

The source and meaning of the name remains a matter of debate. Most common definitions claim that the origin is the Huron word toran-ten for "meeting place". However, it is much more likely that the term is from the Mohawk word tkaronto meaning "where there are trees standing in the water," a reference to a specific location at the northern end of what is now Lake Simcoe, then known as Lake Toronto. The portage route up the Humber River eventually leads past this well-known landmark. As the portage route grew in use, the name became more widely used and was eventually attached to a French trading fort just inland from Lake Ontario on the Humber. [2] (http://geonames.nrcan.gc.ca/education/toronto_e.php)

Part of this confusion can be attributed to the succession of peoples who lived in the area during the 18th century: Huron, Senecas, Iroquois, and Mississaugas (the latter having lent their name to Toronto's modern-day western suburb). Until the beginning of British colonization there were no permanent settlements, though both native peoples and the French did try, including the construction of another small fort near the mouth of the Humber, currently buried on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition.

European settlement

European settlement in central Canada was quite limited before 1788, amounting to only a few families, but it began growing quickly in the aftermath of the American Revolution. The French established a trading fort, Fort Rouillé, on the current Exhibition Grounds around 1750, but it was abandoned in 1759. United Empire Loyalists, American colonists who refused to accept being divorced from the United Kingdom, or who felt unwelcome in the new republic, fled the US to the unsettled lands north of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario; some had fought in the British army and were paid with land in the region. In 1788 the British negotiated the purchase of more than a quarter million acres (1,000 km²) of land in the area of Toronto. The site was then chosen by Governor John Graves Simcoe on July 29, 1793 as the new capital of the newly organized province of Upper Canada, moving from Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario) on February 1, 1796.

Specifically the town, then known as York, was built inland from the Toronto Islands, a chain of small islands leading into a marsh at their eastern end, with an opening at the western end. This formed a natural protected harbour, one that was defended with the construction of Fort York at the entrance on what was then a high point on the water's edge with a small river on the inland side (Garrison Creek). The town proper was formed closer to the eastern end of the harbour, near what is now Parliament Street.

Governor Simcoe was concerned with opening military communications between the settlements in the southwest of Upper Canada (notably Newark), and those to the east (Kingston, then points east to the border with Lower Canada). Dundas Street was the western route, leading to the town of the same name near Hamilton, but then continued west instead of southeast towards Niagara, and today it ends near the US border at Windsor. Kingston Road today forms the basis of the major Toronto-Montreal route. A third route, Yonge Street, was opened northward to Lake Toronto (later renamed Lake Simcoe) and cut in three years. Yonge Street now forms the dividing line between east and west in Toronto, and is sometimes called "the longest street in the world" as it snakes its way for 1,896 kilometers to Rainy River, on the Minnesota border.

In 1813, as part of the War of 1812, York was attacked and partially burned. It was in retaliation for this that British forces attacked Washington, DC, the next year. Fort York was lightly manned at the time, and realizing that a defence was impossible, the troops retreated and set fire to the magazine. It exploded as the US forces were entering the fort, and many US soldiers were killed in the explosion. After the US forces left a new and much stronger fort was constructed several hundred yards to the west of the original position. Another American attack in 1814 was defeated with ease, the landing force never being able to approach the shoreline. This newer fort now lies hundreds of yards inland due to landfill being dumped into the lake, and what was then a high point is largely invisible behind the Gardiner Expressway.

In 1834 the town reverted to the name Toronto to distinguish it from about a dozen other localities in the province (including the county in which Toronto was situated) and this was the name the city was incorporated under on March 6 of that year, with William Lyon Mackenzie as its first mayor. Toronto was the site of the key events of the Upper Canada Rebellion in 1837.


Growth continued to be slow and even in the late 1800s one artist managed to paint a map of the town including every individual building. Nevertheless modern amenities came to Toronto, including an extensive streetcar network in the city (still operational) plus long-distance railways and radial lines. One radial line ran mostly along Yonge Street for about 80 km to Lake Simcoe, and allowed daytrips to its beaches. At the time Toronto's own beaches were far too polluted to use, a side effect of dumping garbage directly in the lake. The Grand Trunk Railway and the Great Northern Railway joined in the building of the first Union Station in the downtown area.

As the city grew it became naturally bounded by the Humber River to the west, and the Don River to the east. Several smaller rivers and creeks in the downtown area were routed into culverts and sewers and the land filled in above them, including both Garrison Creek and Taddle Creek, the latter running through the University of Toronto. At the time they were being used as open sewers, and were becoming a serious health problem.

Bloor Viaduct

The Don has an especially deep ravine, cutting off the east at most points north of the lakeshore. This was addressed in 1919 with the construction of the Prince Edward Viaduct, better known today as the Bloor Street Viaduct, linking Bloor Street on the western side of the ravine with Danforth Avenue on the east. The designer, Edmund Burke, fought long and hard to have a lower deck added to the bridge for trains, a cost the city was not willing to provide for. Nevertheless he finally got his way, and thereby saved the city millions of dollars when the TTC subway started using the deck in 1966.

In 2003, the "Luminous Veil" (a 5-metre high fence constructed of 10,000 steel rods) was installed along the sides of the bridge, which had long been a popular suicide spot (second in North America to the Golden Gate Bridge).

The Prince Edward Viaduct represented a turning point in Toronto's history. Now linked to what were formerly separate towns, Toronto "filled out" in the first half of the 20th century, becoming a single larger city.

In 1904 a large section of the downtown was destroyed in the 1904 Toronto fire, but it was quickly rebuilt.

Recent history

As the rural areas surrounding the city began to be transformed into suburbs during the postwar boom, the need for more coordination of city services became apparent. As a result, in 1953, the new Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto was created, and came into being on January 1, 1954, as a new regional level of government. It encompassed East York, Etobicoke, Forest Hill, Leaside, Long Branch, Mimico, New Toronto, North York, Scarborough, Swansea, Toronto, Weston, and York. These thirteen townships, villages and cities continued to exist and provide services, with the so-called "Metro" government gradually taking over services that crossed municipal boundaries, such as water supply, transit, and expressways.

On January 1, 1967, several of the smaller municipalities were amalgamated with larger ones, reducing their number to six. Forest Hill and Swansea became part of Toronto; Long Branch, Mimico, and New Toronto joined Etobicoke; Weston merged with York; and Leaside amalgamated with East York.

This arrangement lasted until 1998, when the regional level of government was abolished and the six municipalities (Toronto, Etobicoke, North York, East York, York, and Scarborough) were amalgamated into a single 'giant' municipality or "megacity". Many people criticized this change, which came on top of a massive "downloading" of provincial services to the municipal level, with little to no new revenue available. The overwhelming majority of the citizens of Toronto opposed amalgamation, as proven by a referendum in that year. However, the Province of Ontario under Premier Mike Harris had the power to ignore this referendum, and did so. Mel Lastman, the long-time mayor of North York before the amalgamation, was the first mayor of the new "megacity" of Toronto.

At this point the definition of Toronto itself came into some doubt. In the 2000 Toronto municipal elections, over 88% of those voting did so for a mayor that had discussed forming a new Province of Toronto - the second-place finisher Tooker Gomberg (8%) strongly favoured this move, while Mel Lastman (80%) also voiced his support. His statements were far more likely an attack on the provincial government, rather than a serious proposal, however, and after winning the election did nothing to advance this idea. The notion was also favoured by urban activist Jane Jacobs. In all probability such a separation is legally difficult or impossible - under the Canadian constitution the municipalities have no actual power; they are just permitted to make use of provincial authority.

This of course was one of the main problems that had concerned the activists - a few small groups, notably the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, advocated an extended campaign of property damage and resistance to Ontario's government. This led to Toronto's first large-scale riot in the summer of 2000 - a violent confrontation in front of the provincial legislature - as well as several smaller such events in 2001. When prominent federal politicians including Paul Martin and later Jack Layton (New Democratic Party of Canada leader and for 20 years a Toronto City Councillor) began promising a "new deal for cities", and large banks began issuing papers on it, the rhetoric in general became more muted and support for violent or radical solutions had faded. None of these deals have, however, been realized.

In 2002 Toronto hosted the World Youth Day 2002 and Pope John Paul II. The municipal government's two largest unions, Locals 79 and 416 of CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) went on strike a few weeks before the scheduled event, meaning that services such as libraries, day care, parks programs, and other important services were not available. Since city workers also pick up garbage and recycling, city parks were piled high with trash; some parks were designated official dump sites for the duration of the strike, while others were used as illegal dumps. The Ontario government tabled back-to-work legislation to end the strike, so the city was back to normal before World Youth Day started.

In 2003 Toronto was hit by the SARS epidemic. Although the disease was primarily confined to hospitals and health-care workers, tourism in Toronto significantly suffered because of media reports. To help recover the losses the city suffered in industries and tourism, the city held a "SARS Benefit Concert," colloquially called 'SARSStock,' featuring many famous bands such as AC/DC, Rush, The Guess Who, Justin Timberlake, and headlined by The Rolling Stones. The concert attracted some 450,000 people, making it one of the largest concerts in history, second only to Woodstock in 1969 (which had 500,000 people). The city was also affected by the 2003 North America blackout. The results were chaotic, with the city grinding to a halt, the streets being deserted and power not being restored for more than 12 hours in many cases, and in some areas for three days.

In the 2003 Toronto election David Miller was elected to replace Mel Lastman as mayor, after running a successful campaign which included the promise to cancel a proposed fixed link to the Toronto Island Airport.

In 2004, Toronto balanced its budget for the first time in years. This came from a GST exemption for cities, modest property tax increases, and bailouts from higher level governments.

According to a United Nations report, Toronto has the second-highest proportion of immigrants in the world, after Miami, Florida. Almost half of Toronto's residents were born outside Canada. [3] (http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2004/07/16/migrants040716.html) The resulting cultural diversity is reflected in the numerous ethnic neighbourhoods of the city; and the proliferation of authentic shops and restaurants derived from cultures around the world makes the city one of the most exciting places in the world to visit. Moreover, the relative tranquility that mediates between such diverse populations is a testament to the tolerant character of Canadian society.

City issues

The Toronto skyline as seen from Toronto Island.

Although crime (including violent crime) in Toronto has been steadily decreasing over the past decade, concern over gun and gang related crimes has come to the attention of the media. Although Toronto's homicide levels are extremely low compared to similar sized American cities (in 2003 Toronto had 65 homicides, while similar sized Chicago had over 590) and Toronto has lower crime rates than most cities in Canada, there are many calls to take action to prevent what is seen as a slide towards an increase in crime. American gang experts have been brought in and increased funding for programs in troubled neighbourhoods have been recently initiated.

Toronto is also struggling to come to grips with a growing homeless problem. Many programs and responsibilities have been recently downloaded to the city from provincial and federal government, with many arguing that the City must come up with new ways to raise revenue, to fund these new responsibilities.

Toronto has an extensive public transit system - the TTC - but transit advocates argue that the system has been grossly underfunded in recent years. Recently, higher level governments have indicated that they are prepared to fund the system further, so this situation may change.

For decades, the lack of development of the Toronto waterfront has been a major issue, as it is blighted by an elevated expressway (the Gardiner Expressway) that severs the city from the lake. The formerly industrial area is now largely vacant and awaiting redevelopment. In 2004 hundreds of thousands of dollars were sent by the province of Ontario to encourage further development. Currently a movie studio is being built on the site of the R.L. Hearn Power Plant.

A dominant issue in Toronto's municipal politics in recent years has been the Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry, which has been investigating allegations of impropriety involving computer contracts between the city and MFP Financial Services.

Another important issue is the city's garbage. Currently Toronto's trash is shipped to Michigan, but concerns with the border and opposition from residents in Michigan has promoted the need to look for alternate sites or expand the recycling program. Besides the blue box (plastic and metal) and grey box (paper) programs, the city has instituted a green bin program to recover compostable materials. Its use began in Scarborough and Etobicoke and has since been expanded to the rest of the city except the former City of North York, which will participate in 2005.

In the city

Overhead view of Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome), with the roof closed, as seen from the CN Tower
Dundas Square is a flashy public square located near the Eaton Centre


Performing arts

Toronto is home to a vibrant live theatre scene, where such companies as Soulpepper, the Canadian Stage, and Tarragon produce plays. As well, many Broadway theatrical hits originated in Toronto, such as Show Boat, Ragtime, and Tafelmusik, an internationally-known baroque orchestra and chamber choir.

Toronto is the third largest centre for English language theatre in the world, behind New York City and London. Venues for theatre include the Canon Theatre (formerly Pantages Theatre and Pantages Cinema), the Elgin Winter Garden and Theatre, the Princess of Wales Theatre, the Royal Alexandra Theatre, the Poor Alex Theatre, and the Harbourfront Centre.

Musical venues in Toronto include the Toronto Centre for the Arts in North York, Roy Thomson Hall, home to Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO), and Massey Hall, the former home of the TSO and Canadian Opera Company.

The National Ballet of Canada is based in Toronto and performs at the Hummingbird Centre and formerly at the Walter Carsen Centre. It will move to the Four Seasons Centre in 2006.

As Canada's largest city and the main centre of its recording industry, Toronto is also home to many Canadian pop, rock, and hip hop artists. This includes both musicians native to Toronto and those who have moved to Toronto from other towns and cities. The live music scene in Toronto is centred primarily in the Queen Street West area, part of what is known as the Entertainment District, although not all of Toronto's music venues are in this neighbourhood. More established acts play at venues such as Lee's Palace, The Opera House, The Horseshoe Tavern, The Phoenix Concert Theatre, and Kool Haus (formerly known as the Warehouse).

Major concert tours by stars are usually booked into larger venues such as Air Canada Centre, Hummingbird Centre, and Molson Amphitheatre at Ontario Place.

Toronto's neighbourhoods

Main article: List of neighbourhoods in Toronto

Toronto has over 200 neighbourhoods within its borders, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the "city of neighbourhoods."

Toronto's "905" suburbs

Before 1993, the telephone area code 416 included the entire Golden Horseshoe region from Clarington to Niagara Falls, Ontario. The area code was then split, with Metropolitan Toronto (now Toronto) alone remaining in 416, while the rest of the area became 905. In informal usage in Toronto, "905" quickly began to be used as shorthand for the belt of suburbs and exurbs surrounding the city, but not for places like Niagara Falls or Hamilton. Toronto itself may similarly be referred to as "416". (Subsequently both area codes 416 and 905 were overlaid with new codes, 647 and 289 respectively, but popular usage has not been affected by this.)

The major "905" suburbs or exurbs surrounding Toronto are:

A simulated colour image of Toronto, taken by Landsat 7


Peel Regional Municipality

  • Mississauga
  • Brampton
  • Caledon

Halton Regional Municipality

  • Oakville
  • Milton
  • Burlington
  • Halton Hills


York Regional Municipality

  • Richmond Hill
  • Markham
  • Vaughan
  • Aurora
  • Newmarket


Durham Regional Municipality

  • Pickering
  • Ajax
  • Whitby
  • Oshawa

Note: Oshawa and Whitby fall into the Oshawa Census Metropolitan Area and Burlington falls into the Hamilton Census Metropolitan Area. However, all three of these 905 communities are viewed by the provincial government as part of the Greater Toronto Area, unlike Hamilton or Niagara Falls.

For more information on the suburbs of Toronto, see Greater Toronto Area.


Toronto is a centre of many industries in Canada. It is the second centre of Canada's film industry, after Vancouver, with many American-based movies and television productions. Toronto is the primary centre of theatre, art, and music in Canada, and the third largest for theatre in the world after New York City and London. Toronto is also the business and financial capital for the country, containing the Toronto Stock Exchange, the fourth largest stock exchange in North America by value traded. The Toronto financial industry is based in Bay Street, Downtown Toronto. Toronto also has a large tourism industry.

A number of major corporations are based in the city, as prominent and diverse as the Hudson's Bay Company, Royal Bank of Canada, Celestica, Four Seasons Hotels, and many others. Numerous other companies are based in the Greater Toronto Area outside of the city limits.

See: List of major corporations based in Toronto


Toronto is home to three noted universities: the University of Toronto, York University, and Ryerson University. In addition, the city is also home to the Ontario College of Art and Design, Centennial College, George Brown College, Humber College, and Seneca College.



See also: List of Toronto, Ontario roads

Highway 407 does not operate within Toronto proper, but is a major highway in the Greater Toronto Area. It is a toll route.

Public transportation

  Results from FactBites:
Toronto - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (6268 words)
The City of Toronto covers an area of 641 km² (247 square miles) and is bounded by Lake Ontario to the south, Etobicoke Creek and Highway 427 to the west, Steeles Avenue to the north, and the Rouge River to the east.
Toronto's climate is moderated by Lake Ontario; its climate is among the mildest in Canada east of the Rocky Mountain range.
Toronto is the core of support for liberal causes like same-sex marriage and interventionist policies such as gun control in Ontario (and Canada), which puts it at odds sometimes with the rural and suburban areas, and even the rest of Canada (excluding Quebec) which are far more conservative.
  More results at FactBites »



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