Hey Toronto, it’s not like you’re the centre of Canada! Geographically speaking, I think that honour goes to somewhere just east of Winnipeg. And why are you the capital of Ontario? You’re at the bottom of the province, nowhere near the centre.
Well, actually, we are. And I’ll tell you why.
Toronto, as many of you might know, is the largest city in Canada. As a mega city, Toronto’s population of just over 6 million is greater than all of the capital cities of all of the other provinces combined. It is the 5th largest city in North America and the 50th largest in the world. It has the 3rd largest transit system in North America. It boasts the 3rd largest theatre district in the world and one of the largest film festivals, Pride and Caribbean festivals in the world. Toronto is also home to the Jays, Maple Leafs, Toronto FC, the Raptors and the Argos. Both the Canadian Opera Company and National Ballet make Toronto their homes. But this is not why Toronto is the centre of Canada.
Toronto is the centre of Canada because of our history. The place that later became known as Toronto, an important overland shortcut between Lake Ontario and the upper Great Lakes, was first discovered by a French explorer Etienne Brule in 1615. For this reason Toronto became a hot spot for French fur traders. While the city itself is less than 200 years old, the first explorers arrived here almost 400 years ago. The land was originally occupied by the Huron, whose name was thought to come from the Iroquois name tkaronto, which translates as “place where trees stand in water.” Fort Rouille was founded on the Exhibition Grounds by French explorers in 1750, but abandoned later.
After the American Revolution, a myriad of United Empire Loyalists, having fled the United States, settled along the upper St Lawrence and lower lakes, with others settling in Lower Canada, Nova Scotia and New Bruswick. The large influx of settlers led to the creation of the province of Upper Canada in 1791 and in 1787, the British purchase of land from the Mississaugas was known as the Toronto Purchase. Lord Simcoe founded the town of York as a commanding position to guard a troubled American boundary and made it capital of Upper Canada in 1793. York was raided by American troops twice during the war of 1812, and even taken briefly in 1813. It transitioned from York to Toronto in 1815, to finally incorporate in 1834, with a population of 9000 people, with William Lyon Mackenzie as its first mayor.
After confederation, Ottawa would become the nation’s capital until our present day, but there were two periods before confederation when Toronto was actually the capital of the united Province of Canada – the uniting of Upper Canada and Lower Canada in 1841 after the Rebellions of 1837 – years 1849 to 1852 and 1856–1858. After the creation of the Province of Ontario in 1867, Toronto became the capital of the province of Ontario, as it had the capital of Upper Canada since 1793.
The Dominion of Canada was established in 1867 with four provinces in total; The Province of Canada was split in two: Quebec and Ontario, along with the colonies Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The remaining provinces entered Confederation before the turn of the century, with the exception of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, which did not become part of Canada until after 1900. Newfoundland, was finally united with our country in 1949.
In summary, Toronto, despite being the biggest city in Canada, is the centre of Canada for its history. As Fort York, it’s the original capital of Upper Canada, and after Confederation, Toronto was made the capital of Ontario for these origins. As Toronto, it has been the capital of the Province of Canada twice, and the capital of one of the four original provinces of Canada at Confederation in 1867.
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