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Toronto city profile | city data
  • Toronto is Canada’s leading production centre for film and television, the third largest in North America
  • More than 50% of the city’s population is foreign-born
  • The City’s cultural policies aim to combat economic and cultural disparities across Toronto, and to provide opportunities and access to City funded programmes. The City is focused on three key areas: equity and inclusion; affordable space and access to space; and talent and innovation.

City data: Key facts

  • Geographical area: 630 sq. km
  • Total population: 2,929,886
  • GDP (PPP) million: US$ 156,108

The land on which Toronto sits has been home to Indigenous peoples for 11,000 years. Its name is derived from ‘TKaronto’, a Mohawk word meaning ‘trees in standing water’. It has been part of the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, and the Anishinaabe peoples, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the New Credit. In 1787, the British Crown bought most of the land that now comprises the city in a deal called the Toronto Purchase. Fort York was established in 1793, and Toronto became the capital of Ontario in 1867. In 1997, the Province of Ontario passed the City of Toronto Act, joining seven municipalities, establishing the city as it is today.

In the 20th century, Toronto established itself as English Canada’s centre of commerce, industry, media and culture, rivalling Montréal’s role in French Canada. Until the mid-1960s, Toronto’s culture was dominated by colonial and European influences and the cultural institutions established in this period were a reflection of this, including the city’s symphony, opera, ballet companies and museums. Post World War Two brought extraordinary economic growth and a wave of nationalism leading up to and following Canada’s Centennial in 1967 and new cultural organisations, infrastructure, theatres, festivals, and science museums focused on telling contemporary Canadian stories. Major professional sports teams in Toronto increased throughout the 1980s and 1990s, bringing new sports facilities. Old stadiums and exhibition centres were replaced by venues such as SkyDome (now the Rogers Centre), followed by the Air Canada Centre in 1999 (now the Scotiabank Arena), which replaced Maple Leaf Gardens.

Today, Toronto is a very diverse city with nearly half the population born abroad. It is developing rapidly, and neighbourhoods are in a constant state of change and renewal. The creative and cultural sectors have enhanced the city’s international profile. Toronto is known worldwide as a centre of film and broadcasting, particularly for the Toronto International Film Festival. Its festivals such as the Toronto Carnival and Pride are among the most celebrated in the world. The Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet tour globally and co-produce internationally, and the city is home to global hip-hop stars, Drake and The Weeknd. Emerging clusters of art and design result in West Queen West being voted the ’second coolest neighbourhood in the world’ by Vogue magazine.

Toronto’s development, however, faces key challenges. Limited public transportation infrastructure investment has resulted in severe congestion. Housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable: there are more than 90,000 people on the waiting list for affordable housing, with just a few thousand public housing units being built per year. As in other world cities, rising rents and rising income inequality are leading to increased poverty in suburban areas and increasingly racialised poverty poses a potential threat to Toronto’s social fabric and its global reputation as a welcoming place for immigrants and newcomers. Arts and culture plays a crucial role in civic discourse, building social capital, and integrating the past with the present.

The City’s cultural policies aim to combat economic and cultural disparities across Toronto, and to provide opportunities and access to City funded programmes. The City is focused on three key areas: equity and inclusion; affordable space and access to space; and talent and innovation. Specific measures to increase the affordability of space for business and culture include supporting new shared spaces and creating networks for information and resources related to business space.