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Toronto History

Toronto history is lengthy. What is now Toronto has been attracting visitors since the last Ice Age; the area’s earliest admirers had sights such as mastodons and mammoth on their Must See list. It wasn’t until 1000BC that the first settlers—ancestors of the Iroquois—laid down their spears and proclaimed this lakeside spot “home.” The Iroquois’ rivals, the Huron tribe, gave the first European—Étienne Brûlé—a glimpse of what was then a string of small villages along the brim of Lake Ontario. From that moment in September 1615 on, Toronto was hot property, but the rivalry between the Iroquois and the Huron paled alongside that of the French and the British and alongside that of the Americans and the British. The French lost Toronto in 1763, the Americans in 1814 during the War of 1812, but only after invading the city—then known as York—with 14 ships and 1,700 troops, and burning the parliament to the ground. The British Army took retaliatory action and set on fire the U.S. presidential residence in Washington, D.C. A white paint job covered the charred wood—giving the White House its name. The 1800s saw thousands of newcomers arrive in Toronto, fleeing eviction in the Scottish Highlands, famine in Ireland and slavery in the U.S. Meanwhile, newly industrial Toronto lost out to Ottawa as capital of Canada when the country gained independence from Britain in 1867, but the city became the capital of the new province of Ontario. The 20th century brought immigrants in the hundreds of thousands; New Torontonians from Russia, Poland, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Italy, Jamaica and China flocked to Toronto and established enclaves. By 1960, only 50% of this once-staunchly Anglo-Saxon city’s population had British ancestry. Today, 47% of Toronto’s population identifies as being a visible minority—and only 19% identify as being of British or Irish descent. It’s the marvelous multiculturalism of the city that gives it its character—and its incredible bounty of restaurants and festivals.
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