Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario, and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. With over 2.5 million residents, it is the seventh most populous municipality in North America. Toronto is at the heart of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and is part of a densely populated region in Southern Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe, which is home to over 8.1 million residents—approximately 25% of Canada's population. The census metropolitan area (CMA) had a population of 5,113,149, and the Greater Toronto Area had a population of 5,555,912.
As Canada's economic capital, Toronto is considered an alpha world city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) study group and is one of the top financial centres 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 city is also a major centre of higher education and research, home to many colleges and universities, including the University of Toronto, consistently ranked as one of the top universities in the world and highest-ranked in Canada. The Toronto Stock Exchange, the world's eighth largest in terms of market value, is headquartered in the city, along with the most Canadian corporate headquarters of a major Canadian city.
Toronto's population is cosmopolitan and international, reflecting its role as an important destination for immigrants to Canada. Toronto is one of the world's most diverse cities by percentage of non-native-born residents, as about 49% of the population were born outside Canada. As a result, the city was recognized by UNESCO as the most ethnically-diverse city in the world. 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.
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.
Toronto's climate is moderate for Canada owing to its southerly location within the country. The city experiences four distinct seasons, with considerable variance in day to day temperature, particularly during the colder weather season. Owing to urbanization and its proximity to water, Toronto has a fairly low diurnal temperature range (day-night temperature difference). The denser urban scape makes for warmer nights year around and is not as cold throughout the winter than surrounding areas.
Toronto buildings vary in design and age with many structures dating back to the mid-19th century, while other prominent buildings were just newly built in the first decade of the 21st century. Defining the Toronto skyline is the CN Tower. At a height of 553.33 metres (1,815 ft 5 in) it was the world's tallest freestanding structure until 2007. It is still the tallest tower in the western hemisphere surpassing Chicago's Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower) by 110 metres in height. It is an important telecommunications hub, and a centre of tourism in Toronto. Toronto is a city of high-rises, having over 2,000 buildings over 90 metres (300 ft) in height, second only to New York City (which has over 5,000 such buildings) in North America. Most of these buildings are residential (either rental or condominium), whereas the central business district contains the taller commercial office towers.
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,Cabbagetown, The Annex, and Yorkville. 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 storybook castle built in 1911 complete with stunning gardens, multiple turrets, massive stables, 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 kilometres. Former municipalities include East York, Etobicoke, North York, Old Toronto, Scarborough, and York.
The Old City of Toronto covers the area generally known as downtown. It is the historic core of Toronto and remains the most densely populated part of the city. The Financial District contains the largest cluster of skyscrapers in Canada, including the First Canadian Place, Toronto-Dominion Centre, Scotia Plaza, Royal Bank Plaza, Commerce Court and Brookfield Place. From that point, the Toronto skyline extends northward along Yonge Street. Old Toronto is also home to many historically wealthy residential enclaves, such as Yorkville, Rosedale, The Annex, Forest Hill, Lawrence Park, Lytton Park, Moore Park, and Casa Loma, most stretching away from downtown to the north. These neighbourhoods generally feature upscale homes, luxury condominiums and high-end retail. East and west of Downtown, neighbourhoods such as Kensington Market, Leslieville, Cabbagetown and Riverdale are home to bustling commercial and cultural areas as well as vibrant communities of artists with studio lofts, with many middle and upper class professionals. Other neighbourhoods in the central city retain an ethnic identity, including two Chinatowns, the popular Greektown area, the trendy Little Italy, Portugal Village, and Little India, along with others.
The outer suburbs comprising the former municipalities of Etobicoke (west), Scarborough (east) and North York (north) 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 emergence of Metro Government, existing towns or villages such as Mimico, Islington and New Toronto in Etobicoke; Willowdale, Newtonbrook and Downsview in North York; Agincourt, Wexford and West Hill in Scarborough where suburban development boomed around or between these and other towns beginning in the late 1940s. Upscale neighbourhoods were built such 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.
Over the last few decades, the North York Centre that runs along Yonge Street and theScarborough City Centre have emerged as secondary business centres 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 has a diverse array of public spaces, from city squares to public parks overlooking ravines. A group called the Toronto Public Space Committee was formed to protect the city's public spaces. Nathan Phillips Square is the city's main square in downtown, and forms the entrance to City Hall. Yonge-Dundas Square, a newer square not far from City Hall, has also gained attention in recent years as one of the busiest gathering spots in the city.
Other squares include Harbourfront Square, on the revitalized Toronto waterfront, and the civic squares at the former city halls of the defunct Metropolitan Toronto, most notably Mel Lastman Square in North York.
There are many large downtown parks, which include Grange Park, Moss Park, Allan Gardens, Little Norway Park, Queen's Park, Riverdale Park, Trinity Bellwoods Park, Christie Pits, and the Leslie Street Spit, which mainly consists of Tommy Thompson Park and opens on weekends. The Toronto Islands have several acres of park space, accessible from downtown by ferry. Large parks in the outer areas include High Park, Humber Bay Park, Centennial Park, Downsview Park, Guildwood Park, and Rouge Park. An almost hidden park is the compact Cloud Gardens, which has both open areas and a glassed-in greenhouse in downtown Toronto.
Toronto is a major scene for theatre and other performing arts, with more than fifty ballet and dance companies, six opera companies, two symphony orchestras and a host of theatres. The city is home to the National Ballet of Canada, the Canadian Opera Company, theToronto Symphony Orchestra, the Canadian Electronic Ensemble, and the Canadian Stage Company. 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 Sony Centre for the Performing Arts (originally the "O'Keefe Centre" and formerly the "Hummingbird Centre").
Toronto is the only Canadian city with representation in seven major league sports, with teams in the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, Canadian Football League, Major League Soccer,Canadian Women's Hockey League and USL W-League. The National Football League's Buffalo Bills also play select home games in the city. The city's major sports venues include the Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre (formerly known as SkyDome), Ricoh Coliseum, and BMO Field.
Toronto is home to a number of post-secondary academic institutions. The University of Toronto, established in 1827, is the oldest university in Ontario and a leading public research institution. It is a worldwide leader in several fields including biomedical research. It houses North America's fourth-largest university library system, after those of Harvard, Yale and Berkeley. The Osgoode Hall Law School, affiliated with Toronto's York University, houses the largest law library in the Commonwealth of Nations. Toronto is also home to Ryerson University, OCAD University, and the University of Guelph-Humber.
There are four diploma-granting colleges in Toronto. These are Seneca College, Humber College, Centennial College and George Brown College. The city is also home to a satellite campus of the francophone Collège Boréal. In nearbyOshawa, usually considered part of the Greater Toronto Area, are Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, while Halton Region is home to Sheridan College.
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 had 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 intersection of Parliament Street and Front Street (in the Corktown–St. Lawrence area).
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 to the parliament buildings during their five-day occupation. The sacking of York was a primary motivation for the Burning of Washington by British troops later in the war. 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 brought a large number of Irish to 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 and long lasting 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 beforeConfederation); since then, the capital of Canada has remained 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, the seat of government located at the Ontario Legislature located at Queen's Park. Because of its provincial capital status, the city was also the location of Government House, the residence of the vice-regal representative of the Crown.
Following the Second World War refugees from war-torn Europe and Chinese job-seekers arrived. So too 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 owing 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.
In 1954, the City of Toronto and 12 surrounding municipalities were 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, police services, water and public transit.
In 1967, the seven smallest municipalities of Metropolitan Toronto were merged into their larger neighbours, resulting in a six-municipality configuration that included the old, i.e. pre-1954 City of Toronto and the surrounding municipalities of East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough and York. In 1998, the metropolitan government was dissolved by the Provincial Government in the face of vigorous opposition from the smaller component municipalities and all six municipalities were amalgamated into a single municipality, creating the current City of Toronto, with Mel Lastman as its first mayor (after being mayor of North York). David Miller was the second mayor, and Rob Ford is the third and current mayor. The city celebrated its 175th anniversary on March 6, 2009, since its inception as the City of Toronto in 1834.
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