Toronto, city (1998 est pop. 2,400,000), provincial capital, S Ont., Canada, on Lake Ontario. Toronto is the largest city in Canada and since the 1970s has been one of the fastest-changing cities in North America, experiencing an enormous growth in foreign-born residents. In 1998, the cities of Metropolitan Toronto (Toronto, York, East York, North York, Etobicoke, and Scarborough) were merged as Toronto, instantly becoming the continent's fifth largest city.
The city is a port of entry and an important commercial, financial, and industrial hub as well as Canada's banking and stock-exchange center and chief wholesale-distribution point. Its importance as a port and transshipment point has increased since the opening (1959) of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Ontario's wealth of raw materials and hydroelectric power make Toronto an industrial powerhouse. The city and surrounding area produces more than half of Canada's manufactured goods.
Toronto's industries include slaughtering and meatpacking, printing and publishing, and the manufacture of aircraft, farm implements, electrical machinery, and metal products. The city has the country's leading service sector and attracts a growing amount of high-tech businesses. It is also a major tourist center. The influx of many Arab, Asian, African, and Caribbean immigrants has dramatically diversified the ethnic composition; roughly a tenth of the population is now ethnically Chinese. Suburbanization and redevelopment of the downtown and waterfront have changed the city's character.
Toronto has many parks and historic buildings. Exhibition Park is the site of the annual Canadian National Exhibition. The Toronto city hall is a modernistic structure completed in 1965. The 1,815-ft (553-m) CN Tower (1976), a telecommunications spire, is the world's tallest freestanding structure. The Skydome, a baseball stadium for the Toronto Blue Jays, was completed in 1989. The Maple Leafs (National Hockey League), Raptors (National Basketball Association), and Argonauts (Canadian Football League) also play in the city.
The Univ. of Toronto was chartered in 1827 and opened in 1843 as King's College. It was renamed in 1850 and is Canada's largest university and most important graduate research center. York Univ. and Ryerson Polytechnical Institute are also in Toronto. Other notable institutions are the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies; the Osgoode Hall law school; the Ontario Science Centre; and the Royal Ontario Museum, housing an important collection of Chinese art. Toronto has Anglican and Roman Catholic bishoprics and is the headquarters of the United Church of Canada.
The site was an early fur-trading post. The French built (1749) Fort Rouille there to counteract British influence in the Niagara country, but the post was destroyed (1759) to prevent its occupation by the British. The British purchased the site from the Native Americans in 1787 and it became the home of many American Loyalists. It was chosen by Sir John Simcoe in 1793 to be the capital of Upper Canada (see Ontario) and was named York. In the War of 1812 the city was raided twice by the Americans, and many buildings were destroyed. In 1834 it was incorporated as Toronto. The city was the scene of the insurrection led by William Lyon Mackenzie in 1873.