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Toronto, Ontario

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For alternate meanings of Toronto see Toronto (disambiguation)

Toronto skyline
Toronto is Canada's largest city, North America's fifth largest, and the provincial capital of Ontario. Population: 2,481,494 (2001), Surrounding 'Greater Toronto Area': 4,682,897 (2001). Approximately 1/3rd of the Canadian population lives within a 2 hour drive, and about 1/6th of all Canadian jobs lie with the city limits.

Up until the 1970s, Toronto was the second largest city in Canada, after Montreal, but a considerable spurt in growth since that time left it half again as large as its nearest rival by 2000. Much of this was due to the growing separation movement in Quebec and the election of the Parti Québécois in 1976, when a large group of English-speaking Montrealers left for Toronto. It is also the result of the majority of Canada's immigrants settling in Toronto, and only some going to Montreal.

Located on the northern shore of Lake Ontario, Toronto was originally a term of indeterminate geographical location, designating the approximate area of the future town 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 a 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 for "meeting place", "toran-ten". However, it may be from the Mohawk term referring to "the place where trees grow over the water", a reference to a specific location at the northern end of what is now Lake Simcoe[?], but was then known as Lake Toronto[?]. The portage route up the Humber River eventually leads to this point. The theory is that the name referred to the portage route itself.

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 a small fort near the mouth of the Humber, currently buried on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition[?].

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. United Empire Loyalists, American colonists and who refused to accept being divorced from the United Kingdom, or who felt unwelcome in the new republic, often came north 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 of land in the area of Toronto. The site was then chosen by Governor John Graves Simcoe as the capital of the newly organized province of Upper Canada in 1793.

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 harbor, 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. The town proper was formed closer to the eastern end, near what is now Parliament St.

Governor Simcoe was concerned with opening military communications between the settlements in the southwest of Upper Canada (notably Niagara[?], then Newark[?]), and those to the east (Kingston, then points east to the border with Quebec). Yonge Street[?], which is today the center line of the city, was intended as a military highway for the north-south direction, while Dundas Street linked east and west. The latter ended up heading west only, and into Western Ontario rather than Niagara. Today it extends to Windsor on the American border. Yonge Street was more successful and is sometimes called "the longest street in the world" as it snakes its way for 1,896 kilometers to Rainy River[?], Ontario, 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 defense was impossible, the troops retreated and set fire to the magazine. Many US soldiers were killed in the resulting explosion, and the fort was later re-built several hundred yards to the west. The 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 several highways.

In 1834 the town reverted to the name Toronto and this was the name the city was incorporated under on March 6 of that year. 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.

Toronto's government was reorganized in 1953 to reflect its growing population. Rather than annexing nearby towns and suburbs, the region was divided into six regions: Toronto, Scarborough, Etobicoke, York, North York[?], and East York[?]. The six, while still retaining their identities as cities, were then granted a regional government known as The Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto.

This arrangement lasted until 1998, when the regional level of government was abolished and the six cities were amalgamated into a new ("megacity of") Toronto. Many people critcized this downloading of provincial services to the municpal level. The overwhelming majority of the citizens of Toronto opposed amalgation, as proven by a referendum in that year. However, the Province of Ontario[?] under Premier Mike Harris[?] had the formal power to ignore this referendum, and did so.

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[?] strongly favored this move, while Mel Lastman also voiced his support. His statements were far more likely an attack on the provincial goverment, 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 seperation is impossible in that under the Canadian constitution[?] the municipalities have no actual power, they are just permited to make use of provincial authority.

Landmarks include

Important Annual Events Include:

Interesting sites to see include:

The city is the seat of the University of Toronto, York University, Ryerson Polytechnic University, and several other institutes of higher learning. Transportation needs are served by the TTC subway and streetcars.

Toronto is home to several professional sports franchises and annual sporting events, including

Toronto's nicknames include Hogtown, T.O. (from Toronto, Ontario), and t-dot (short for "t-dot o-dot"). Canadians often pronounce the name as "Trana", "Trono", or "Tchronno" (a reflection of expedience, not accent).

See also



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