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Toronto is Canada's largest city, North America's fifth largest, and the provincial capital of Ontario. Population: 2,385,000 (1996), Metropolitan Area: 4,263,757 (1996).

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 are unknown; theories have attributed it to both Mohawk? and Huron? languages.

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.

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. Those American colonists 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. 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.

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 never fulfilled its goal, but Yonge Street is sometimes called "the longest street in the world" as it snakes its way for 1,896 kilometers to [Rainy River]?, Ontario on the Manitoba border.

The British settlement was at first named York, but in 1834 reverted to the name Toronto.

In 1813, as part of the War of 1812, York was attacked and partially burned by American forces. It was in retaliation for this that British forces attacked Washington, DC the next year.

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 Toronto.

Up until the 1970s, Toronto was the second largest city in Canada, after Montréal, but a considerable spurt in growth since that time left it half again as large as its nearest rival by 2000.

Landmarks include the CN Tower, a concrete transmission tower that (at 553 meters) is the largest free-standing structure in the world; the SkyDome?, the world's first sporting arena to feature a retractable roof; and the Toronto Islands, a 230-hectare park accessible from the city waterfront via ferry.

See also: Canada, Canadian provinces and territories, Canadian cities, Toronto/Culture and Politics,

This is a comment on the entry to test how things work; not sure if this is the right location to do that (but everything's versioned so it can just be rolled back right?):

If appropriate there could be more economic and cultural information (on immigration, concentration of certain industries in Toronto) perhaps link to in separate topics (eg. I have added one). The phrase "thin on the ground" seemed a bit colloquial so to test how things work I've changed a bit of the phrasing. Not marked as a minor edit due to the comment (is that right?).

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Last edited October 28, 2001 6:24 am by Vicki Rosenzweig (diff)