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Toronto, city, capital of Ontario, Canada, on Lake Ontario, at the mouths of the Humber and Don rivers in the southern part of the province. A city that has redefined itself in the past 50 years, Toronto has grown to become the financial and cultural centre of Canada. Combined with the neighbouring cities of Etobicoke, Scarborough, York, North York, and the borough of East York, Toronto is the largest metropolitan area in the country. The city is part of the "Golden Horseshoe", an urban region bounding the western shore of Lake Ontario. Once primarily made up of people of British descent, Toronto is now a cosmopolitan city with a diverse cultural and ethnic make-up.


Toronto is the primary financial, commercial, and manufacturing centre of Canada. Virtually all of the largest Canadian banks and insurance companies are based in the city, and the Toronto Stock Exchange is one of the largest in North America, second only to the New York Stock Exchange. The city also contains the headquarters of many of the leading non-financial firms operating in Canada. The varied manufacturing base of the city includes printing and publishing, television and film production, processed foods and beverages, transport equipment, metal goods, electronic and electrical products, chemicals, clothing, and paper items. Toronto also has a large and thriving tourist industry.

The city is an important port on the St Lawrence Seaway and is served by major roads and railways and by Pearson International Airport. An underground railway was opened in 1954 and subsequently extended; this system is part of a transport network that is one of the most heavily used in the world.

Points of Interest

Toronto is mostly laid out on a grid plan, with Yonge Street the major north-south artery. Bay Street is in the heart of the financial district. Central shopping is focused on Yonge, Bloor, and Queen streets and includes Toronto Eaton Centre, a large retail and office complex opened in 1977. University Avenue is in an area containing large institutions such as hospitals, the Ontario Parliament Buildings, the University of Toronto, and the Royal Ontario Museum, which has a famous collection of Chinese art. Dominating the central district is City Hall, a striking complex that opened in 1965 and which includes two tall, curved office buildings. Also here is the CN Tower (1976), at 553 m (1,815 ft) one of the tallest free-standing buildings in the world. The Lake Ontario area is the site of the annual Canadian National Exhibition. Also there is Ontario Place (1971), with recreational and entertainment facilities; and Harbourfront, a redeveloped industrial region containing the Canadian Railway Museum, several restaurants, and pedestrian walkways along the water's edge.

Among other cultural facilities in Toronto are McLaughlin Planetarium; the Ontario Science Centre; the Art Gallery of Ontario, with an important collection of sculpture by Henry Moore; Massey Hall (1894); Roy Thompson Hall, home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; and the O'Keefe Centre, home of the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada.

The state-of-the-art SkyDome stadium complex was completed in 1989, and features a retractable roof that can open in 20 minutes to expose the playing field and most of the 60,000 seats to the open air. It is the home of professional American football and baseball teams, including the Toronto Blue Jays, winners of the 1992 and 1993 baseball World Series (the first non-US team to win professional baseball's championship), while the Toronto Maple Leafs play ice hockey in Maple Leaf Gardens. The city also has a large zoo. Canada's largest university, the University of Toronto, was founded as King's College in 1827. Other educational institutions include York University (1959), Ryerson Polytechnic University (1992, founded as a technical institute in 1963), and the Ontario College of Art (1876).


The name "Toronto" comes from a Huron word that probably means "meeting place". The Toronto Passage, as it was known, was used as early as 1615 as an overland short-cut between Lake Ontario and Lake Huron. Well known to French fur traders, the location became the site of a French garrison, Fort Rouillé, in the mid-18th century. The fort was burnt by the British in 1759, and the area was subsequently settled by Loyalists who came north after defeat in the American War of Independence. This community, part of a British strategic settlement scheme for Upper Canada (now Ontario), was established in 1793. It was given the name York, after Frederick Augustus, Duke of York. York became the capital of the British dependency and, through the activities of a Tory élite, emerged as a transport junction and commercial centre. In 1813, during the War of 1812, the community was occupied and partly destroyed by American troops. The settlement benefited from the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 and from the arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century. Large industries were established here in the late-19th century, and the city's economy was boosted after 1900 by mineral discoveries in its north-western hinterland.

By 1951 Toronto had become a substantial commercial and manufacturing centre, with a population of 1.2 million. Three years later, on January 1, 1954, Toronto and 12 of its neighbouring communities merged into the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. In the next two decades the population doubled, partly because of immigration from Europe, and Toronto acquired a reputation for dynamism and ethnic diversity. This growth and diversity have been augmented by large numbers of immigrants from Asia and the West Indies in more recent years. In the late 1970s, upper-income suburbanites began moving to the city to renovate older areas near the centre, including the waterfront district. Population (1991) Toronto proper 635,395; Toronto metropolitan area 3,893,046.