Welcome to Toronto
Coordinates: 43°39′N, 79°23′W
Toronto is the largest city in Canada and is the provincial capital of Ontario, making it the seat of the provincial Crown. It is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario With over 2.5 million residents, it is the fifth-most populous municipality in North America, and the 46th most populous in the world. Toronto is at the heart of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and is part of a densely-populated region in south-central Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe which is home to over eight million residents. The census metropolitan area (CMA) had a population of 5,113,149, and the Greater Toronto Area had a population of 5,555,912 in the 2006 Census.
As Canada's economic capital, Toronto is considered a global city and one of the top financial cities in the world. Toronto's leading economic sectors include finance, business services, telecommunications, aerospace, transportation, media, arts, film, television production, publishing, software production, medical research, education, tourism and sports industries. The Toronto Stock Exchange, the world's seventh largest, is headquartered in the city, along with a majority of Canada's corporations.
Toronto's population is cosmopolitan and international, reflecting its role as an important destination for immigrants to Canada. Toronto is the world's most diverse city by percentage of non-Canadian-born residents, as about 49 percent of the population were born outside of Canada. Because of the city's low crime rates, clean environment and generally high standard of living, Toronto is consistently rated as one of the world's most livable cities by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Mercer Quality of Living Survey. In addition, Toronto was ranked as the most expensive Canadian city in which to live in 2006.
Residents of Toronto are called Torontonians. Toronto has a number of sister cities, which are selected based on economic, cultural and political criteria.
When Europeans first arrived at the site of present-day Toronto, the vicinity was inhabited by the Huron tribes, who by then had displaced the Iroquois tribes that occupied the region for centuries before c. 1500. The name Toronto is likely derived from the Iroquois word tkaronto, meaning "place where trees stand in the water". It refers to the northern end of what is now Lake Simcoe, where the Huron had planted tree saplings to corral fish. A portage route from Lake Ontario to Lake Huron running through this point, the Toronto Carrying-Place Trail, led to widespread use of the name.
French traders founded Fort Rouillé on the current Exhibition grounds in 1750, but abandoned it in 1759. During the American Revolutionary War, the region saw an influx of British settlers as United Empire Loyalists fled for the unsettled lands north of Lake Ontario. In 1787, the British negotiated the Toronto Purchase with the Mississaugas of New Credit, thereby securing more than a quarter million acres (1000 km²) of land in the Toronto area.
In 1793, Governor John Graves Simcoe established the town of York on the existing settlement, naming it after Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany. Simcoe chose the town to replace Newark as the capital of Upper Canada, believing the new site would be less vulnerable to attack by the Americans. Fort York was constructed at the entrance of the town's natural harbour, sheltered by a long sand-bar peninsula. The town's settlement formed at the eastern end of the harbour behind the peninsula, near the present-day Parliament Street and Front Street.
In 1813, as part of the War of 1812, the Battle of York ended in the town's capture and plunder by American forces. The surrender of the town was negotiated by John Strachan. American soldiers destroyed much of Fort York and set fire on the parliament buildings during their five-day occupation.
York was incorporated as the City of Toronto on March 6, 1834, reverting to its original native name. The population of only 9,000 included escaped African-American slaves fleeing Black Codes in some states. Slavery was banned outright in Upper Canada in 1834. Reformist politician William Lyon Mackenzie became the first Mayor of Toronto, and led the unsuccessful Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 against the British colonial government. The city grew rapidly through the remainder of the 19th century, as a major destination for immigrants to Canada. The first significant population influx occurred with the Great Irish Famine between 1846 and 1849 that brought a large number of Irish diaspora into the city, some of them transient and most of them Catholic. By 1851, the Irish-born population had become the largest single ethnic group in the city. Smaller numbers of Protestant Irish immigrants were welcomed by the existing Scottish and English population, giving the Orange Order significant influence over Toronto society.
Toronto was twice for brief periods the capital of the united Province of Canada first from 1849-1852, following unrest in Montreal, and later 1856-1858 after which Quebec became capital until 1866 (one year prior to Confederation); since then, the capital has been Ottawa. As it had been for Upper Canada from 1793, Toronto became the capital of the province of Ontario after its official creation in 1867 and has remained so since with the Ontario Legislature located at Queen's Park. Because of its capital status, the city was also the location of Government House, the residence of the vice-regal representative of the Crown.
Toronto Harbour, 1919
A view of Queen Street from Old City Hall, 1920.
In the 19th century, an extensive sewage system was built, and streets became illuminated with gas lighting as a regular service. Long-distance railway lines were constructed, including a route completed in 1854 linking Toronto with the Upper Great Lakes. The Grand Trunk Railway and the Great Northern Railway joined in the building of the first Union Station in downtown. The advent of the railway dramatically increased the numbers of immigrants arriving and commerce, as had the Lake Ontario steamers and schooners entering the port and enabled Toronto to become a major gateway linking the world to the interior of the North American continent. Horse-drawn streetcars gave way to electric streetcars in 1891, when the city granted the operation of the transit franchise to the Toronto Railway Company. The public transit system passed into public ownership in 1921 as the Toronto Transportation Commission, later renamed the Toronto Transit Commission. The system now has the third-highest ridership of any city public transportation system in North America.
In 1954, the City of Toronto was federated into a regional government known as Metropolitan Toronto. The postwar boom had resulted in rapid suburban development, and it was believed that a coordinated land use strategy and shared services would provide greater efficiency for the region. The metropolitan government began to manage services that crossed municipal boundaries, including highways, water and public transit. In 1967, the seven smallest municipalities of the region were merged into their larger neighbours, resulting in a six-municipality configuration that included the old City of Toronto and the surrounding municipalities of East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough and York. In 1998, the metropolitan government was dissolved and the six municipalities were amalgamated into a single municipality, creating the current City of Toronto, where David Miller is the current Mayor.
The Great Toronto Fire of 1904 destroyed a large section of downtown Toronto, but the city was quickly rebuilt. The fire had cost more than $10 million in damage, and led to more stringent fire safety laws and the expansion of the city's fire department.
Subway construction on Yonge Street, 1949
The city received new immigrant groups beginning in the late 19th century into early 20th century, particularly Germans, Italians, and Jews from various parts of Eastern Europe. They were soon followed by Chinese, Russians, Poles and immigrants from other Eastern European nations, as the Irish before them, many of these new migrants lived in overcrowded shanty type slums, such as the "the Ward" which was between Bay Street, now the heart of the country's finances. Despite its fast paced growth, by the 1920s, Toronto's population and economic importance in Canada remained second to the much longer established Montreal. However, by 1934 the Toronto Stock Exchange had become the largest in the country.
Following the Second World War, refugees from war-torn poor Europe and Chinese people who wanted jobs arrived as did construction labourers particularly from Italy and Portugal. Following elimination of racially based immigration policies by the late 1960s, immigration began from all parts of the world. Toronto's population grew to more than one million in 1951 when large-scale suburbanization began, and doubled to two million by 1971. By the 1980s, Toronto had surpassed Montreal as Canada's most populous city and the chief economic hub. During this time, in part due to the political uncertainty raised by the resurgence of the Quebec sovereignty movement, many national and multinational corporations moved their head offices from Montreal to Toronto and other western Canadian cities.
A simulated-colour image of Toronto taken by NASA's Landsat 7 satellite from 1985. Yonge Street can clearly be seen bisecting the city just right of centre in the image, the other prominent road, running east-west, is Highway 401.
Toronto covers an area of 630 square kilometres (243 sq mi),] with a maximum north-south distance of 21 kilometres (13 mi) and a maximum east-west distance of 43 km (27 mi). It has a 46-kilometre (29 mi) long waterfront shoreline. Its borders are formed 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.
The city is intersected by two rivers and numerous tributaries: the Humber River in the west end and the Don River east of downtown at opposite ends of the Toronto Harbour. The harbour was naturally created by sediment build-up from lake currents that created the Toronto Islands. The many creeks and rivers cutting from north toward the lake created large tracts of densely-forested ravines, and provide ideal sites for parks and recreational trails. However, the ravines also interfere with the city's grid plan, and this results in major thoroughfares such as Finch Avenue, Leslie Street, Lawrence Avenue, and St. Clair Avenue terminating on one side of ravines and continuing on the other side. Other thoroughfares such as the Bloor Street Viaduct are required to span above the ravines. These deep ravines prove useful for draining the city's vast storm sewer system during heavy rains but some sections, particularly near the Don River are prone to sudden, heavy floods. Storage tanks at waste treatment facilities will often receive too much river discharge causing them to overflow, allowing untreated sewage to escape into Lake Ontario closing local beaches for swimming.
Much of the current lakeshore land area fronting the Toronto Harbour is actually artificial landfill. In the mid-19th century the lakefront was set back up to 1 kilometre (0.6 mi) further inland than it is today. Much of the Toronto harbour (the quays, formerly known as wharves) and adjacent Portlands are also fill. The Toronto Islands were actually a landspit until a storm in 1858 severed its connection to the mainland, creating a channel later used by shipping interests to access the docks.
Late spring scene in High Park, in Toronto's west end.
Mid-Winter scene at the intersection of Dundas Street and University Avenue.
Toronto's climate is moderate for Canada due to its southerly location within the country and its proximity to Lake Ontario. It has a humid continental climate with warm, humid summers and generally cold winters, although fairly mild by Canadian and many northern continental U.S. standards. The city experiences four distinct seasons with considerable variance in day to day temperature, particularly during the colder weather season. Due to urbanization and proximity to water, Toronto has a fairly low diurnal temperature range, at least in built-up city and lakeshore areas. At different times of the year, this maritime influence has various localized and regional impacts on the climate, including lake effect snow and delaying the onset of spring and fall like conditions or seasonal lag.
Toronto winters sometimes feature short cold snaps where maximum temperatures remain below −10 °C (14 °F), often made to feel colder by wind chill. Snowstorms, sometimes mixed with ice and rain can disrupt work and travel schedules, accumulating snow can fall anytime from November until mid-April. However, mild stretches also occur throughout winter melting accumulated snow, with temperatures reaching into the 5 to 14 °C (40 to 57 °F) range and infrequently higher. Summer in Toronto is characterized by long stretches of humid weather. Daytime temperatures occasionally surpass 35 °C (95 °F), with high humidity making it feel oppressive during usually brief periods of hot weather. Spring and Autumn are transitional seasons with generally mild or cool temperatures with alternating dry and wet periods.
Precipitation is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, but summer is usually the wettest season, the bulk falling during thunderstorms. There can be periods of dry weather, but drought-like conditions are rare. The average yearly precipitation is 83 cm (33 in), with an average annual snowfall of about 133 cm (52 in). Toronto experiences an average of 2,038 sunshine hours or 44% of possible, most of it during the warmer weather season.
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Row houses in urban Toronto.
The many residential communities of Toronto express a character distinct from that of the skyscrapers in the commercial core. Victorian and Edwardian-era residential buildings can be found in enclaves such as Rosedale, Forest Hill, Cabbagetown, the Annex, the Bridle Path and Moore Park.
Wychwood Park is historically significant for the architecture of its homes, and for being one of Toronto's earliest planned communities. The Wychwood Park neighbourhood was designated as an Ontario Heritage Conservation district in 1985. The Casa Loma neighbourhood is named after Casa Loma, a castle built in 1911 that had an elevator, secret passages, and bowling alleys. Spadina House is a 19th century manor that is now a museum.
The City of Toronto encompasses a geographical area formerly administered by six separate municipalities. These municipalities have each developed a distinct history and identity over the years, and their names remain in common use among Torontonians. Throughout the city there exist hundreds of small neighbourhoods and some larger neighbourhoods covering a few square kilometers. Former Municipalities include East York, Etobicoke, North York, Old Toronto, Scarborough, and York.
The inner suburbs are contained within the former municipalities of York and East York. These are mature and traditionally working class areas, primarily consisting of post-World War I small, single-family homes and small apartment blocks. Neighbourhoods such as Crescent Town, Thorncliffe Park, Weston, and Oakwood-Vaughan mainly consist of high-rise apartments which are home to many new immigrant families. Recently, many neighbourhoods have become ethnically diverse and have undergone gentrification, as a result of increasing population and a housing boom during the late 1990s and 2000s. The first neighbourhoods affected were Leaside and North Toronto, gradually progressing into the western neighbourhoods in York. Some of the area's housing is in the process of being replaced or remodelled.
The outer suburbs comprising the former municipalities of Etobicoke, Scarborough and North York largely retain the grid plan laid before post-war development. Sections were long established and quickly growing towns before the suburban housing boom began and the advent of Metro Government, such as Mimico, Newtonbrook and West Hill. Suburban development grew quickly after the second war to include such upscale neighbourhoods as the Bridle Path in North York, the area surrounding the Scarborough Bluffs in Guildwood, and most of central Etobicoke, such as Humber Valley Village, and The Kingsway. One of largest and earliest "planned communities" was Don Mills, parts of which were first built in the 1950s. Phased development mixing single-detached housing with higher density apartment blocks became more popular as a suburban model of development. To some this model has been copied in other GTA municipalities surrounding Toronto, albeit with less population density. More recently, North York Centre that runs along Yonge Street and the Scarborough City Centre have emerged as secondary business districts outside the downtown core. High-rise development in these areas have given North York and Scarborough distinguishable skylines of their own and a more downtown feel with high-density transit corridors serving them.
Toronto is a major scene for theatre and other performing arts, with more than fifty ballet and dance companies, six opera companies, and two symphony orchestras. The city is home to the National Ballet of Canada, the Canadian Opera Company, and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Notable performance venues include the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Roy Thomson Hall, the Princess of Wales Theatre, the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Massey Hall, the Toronto Centre for the Arts, the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres and the Hummingbird Centre (formerly the "O'Keefe Centre"). Ontario Place features the world's first permanent IMAX movie theatre, the Cinesphere, as well as the Molson Amphitheatre, an open-air venue for large-scale music concerts. Each summer, the Canadian Stage Company presents an outdoor Shakespeare production in Toronto’s High Park called "Dream in High Park". Canada's Walk of Fame acknowledges the achievements of successful Canadians, with of a series of stars on designated blocks of sidewalks along King Street and Simcoe Street.
The Hockey Hall of Fame, housed in a former bank erected in 1885, is located at the intersection of Front Street and Yonge Street in Downtown Toronto.
The Distillery District is a pedestrian village containing boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, artist studios and small breweries, including the well-known Mill Street Brewery. A new theatre in the district, the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, is the home of the Soulpepper Theatre Company and the drama productions of nearby George Brown College.
The production of domestic and foreign film and television is a major local industry. Many movie releases are screened in Toronto prior to wider release in North America. The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the most important annual events for the international film industry. Europe's largest film studio, Pinewood Studios Group of London, is scheduled to open a major new film studio complex in west-end Toronto, with five sound stages, with the first two to open by fall 2008.
Toronto's Caribana festival takes place from mid-July to early August of every summer, and is one of North America's largest street festivals. For the most part, Caribana is based on the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, and the first Caribana took place in 1967 when the city's Caribbean community celebrated Canada's Centennial year. 40 years later, it has grown to attract one million people to Toronto's Lake Shore Boulevard annually. Tourism for the festival is in the hundred thousands, and each year, the event brings in about $300 million.
Pride Week in Toronto takes place in mid-June, and is one of the largest LGBT festivals in the world. It attracts more than one million people from all over the world, and is one of the largest events to take place in the city. Toronto is major centre for gay and lesbian culture and entertainment, and the gay village is located in the Church and Wellesley area of Downtown.
Greektown brightens Christmas and Winter at Alexander the Great park.
Toronto is currently ranked 14th in the world with over 4 million tourist arrivals a year . Toronto's most prominent landmark is the CN Tower, which currently stands as the second tallest free-standing land structure in the world at 553 metres (1,815 ft). To the surprise of its creators, the tower held the world record for over 30 years, before losing its title to the Burj Dubai in 2007.
Toronto is a major international centre for business and finance. Generally considered the financial capital of Canada, Toronto has a high concentration of banks and brokerage firms on Bay Street, in the Financial District. The Toronto Stock Exchange is the world's seventh-largest stock exchange by market capitalization. All of the Big Five banks of Canada are headquartered in Toronto.
The city is an important centre for the media, publishing, telecommunications, information technology and film production industries; it is home to Thomson Corporation, CTVglobemedia, Rogers Communications, Alliance Atlantis and Celestica. Other prominent Canadian corporations in Toronto include Four Seasons Hotels, the Hudson's Bay Company and Manulife Financial.
Although much of the region's manufacturing activities take place outside the city limits, Toronto continues to be an important wholesale and distribution point for the industrial sector. The city's strategic position along the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor and its extensive road and rail connections help support the nearby production of motor vehicles, iron, steel, food, machinery, chemicals and paper. The completion of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 gave ships access to the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean.
|Toronto population by year, within present boundaries
The last complete census by Statistics Canada estimated there were 2,503,281 people residing in Toronto in June 2006. The city's population grew by 4% (96,073 residents) between 1996 and 2001, at an annualized rate of 0.8%. Persons aged 14 years and under made up 17.5% of the population, and those aged 65 years and over made up 13.6%. The median age was 36.9 years. Foreign-born people made up 49.9% of the population.
As of 2001, 42.8% of the residents of the city proper belong to a visible minority group, and visible minorities are projected to comprise a majority in Toronto by 2017. According to the United Nations Development Programme, Toronto has the second-highest percentage of foreign-born population among world cities, after Miami, Florida. Statistics Canada's 2006 figures indicate that Toronto has surpassed Miami in this year.
While English is the predominant language spoken by Torontonians, many other languages have considerable numbers of local speakers, including French, Italian, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Tagalog, and Hindi. Italian is the second most widely spoken language at work. As a result, the city's 9-1-1 emergency services are equipped to respond in over 150 languages.
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is the third largest public transit system in North America after the New York City Transit Authority, and Mexico City Metro. The TTC provides public transit within the City of Toronto. The backbone of its public transport network is the subway system. The TTC also operates an extensive network of buses and streetcars.
The Government of Ontario also operates an extensive rail and bus transit system called GO Transit in the City of Toronto, as well in its suburbs. With thirty-eight trains, and seven train lines, GO Transit run 179 trips, and carry over 160,000 passengers in the Greater Toronto Area every day. An additional 288 GO buses feed the main rail lines.
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