DiversityClose to 100 cultures, more than 140 tongues, nearly 3 million immigrants (Toronto has the third-highest percentage of foreign-born residents in the world), five Chinatowns.
The numbers are compelling. Toronto is a picture of diversity. But the picture can’t be painted by numbers alone. It’s the degree to which immigrants, lesbians and gays shade and sculpt the city that truly exemplifies its diversity. It’s the measure of a city’s inclusivity that defines its multiplicity.
And inclusivity is what Toronto does best.
Ask immigrant Roland Deschamps why he chose Toronto as his new home and he’ll tell you: “This city truly is a cultural tapestry. Immigrants have the freedom to stay true to the values and beliefs of their country of origin, but still embrace all that is uniquely Toronto.”
Exactly. In Toronto, varied cultures, beliefs and orientations are embraced in everyday life and celebrated in schools, celebrations and civic pride.
Diversity by the NumbersBoasting more people from more nations than almost any other city, Toronto truly is a mosaic of cultures. Here’s how the numbers break down. Learn more >>
The Neighbourhoods of Greater TorontoToronto is a vibrant urban centre made up of eclectic, lively neighbourhoods. Few cities in the world bring so many diverse cultures, festivals and businesses together in a single place. Walking through the city and surrounding regions, it feels small. Yet Toronto is the fifth-largest city in North America and the largest in Canada, and it continues to grow by leaps and bounds. And at the centre of it all are some of Toronto’s best stories — its neighbourhoods. Learn more >>
Gay & Lesbian (LGBT) Toronto
Toronto just might be the gayest city on the planet. Canada’s progressive human rights record and its embrace of multiculturalism extends to the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered community. There are few places on earth where gays and lesbians so seamlessly integrate into the fabric of city life and, because of Toronto’s diverse makeup, there are few gay communities more vibrant in their variety. The city is both a global destination for gay tourists and a refuge for those born into less inclusive cultures.
Canada decriminalized homosexuality in 1969 and legalized gay marriage in 2003. Since then, Canada – and Toronto in particular – has been a magnet for gays from around the world
It’s also a great place to live. Toronto gays live and work openly throughout the city and in every industry. They are employed as police officers and firefighters, civil servants, journalists, teachers and elected politicians. Canada’s biggest financial institutions actively recruit employees from the LGBT community.
Most businesses in Toronto are “gay friendly” and there are bars, restaurants and shops catering specifically to gays and lesbians throughout the city. The city’s gay epicentre, however, is in the Village, a retail strip of bars, restaurants, bathhouses and services along Church Street between Wellesley and Carlton streets. Here you find the sculpture erected in honor of Alexander Wood, the early 19th-century merchant and magistrate, who once lived close by. In 1810, Wood was the centre of a sex scandal after he personally inspected the genitals of men suspected of raping a local woman. Today, visitors rub the statue for good luck.
The spirit of Alexander Wood lives on along Church Street where men congregate in bars such as Woodys, The Black Eagle, and The Barn and Fly, and the women meet and mingle at legendary establishments like Slack’s Restaurant and Bar. On the weekend, Latinos, and those who love them and the music, head west, to College Street and El Convento Rico, a favorite hangout of the city’s gay latin community and home to some of the most flamboyant drag shows north of Mexico City.
But the biggest party of all is the city’s annual Pride festival (June 25-July 4), which attracts a crowd of 1.2 million and is the largest of its kind in North America. Drag queens, leather men and buff boys mix with friends, family, co-workers and the curious for 10 days of concerts, dancing, shopping and activism in the Village. Parents with children in tow mingle with bodybuilders and lesbian drag kings to watch the Dyke and Trans marches. But the climax of the week is the big parade, when Yonge Street is crammed with marchers representing Toronto’s religious, corporate, government, political and social organizations. Bands, music, floats and outrageous costumes fill the street. Even the mayor gets into the action by pumping water from the back of a convertible on to a jubilant crowd.
The party and the city’s gay community make a sizeable contribution to Toronto’s economy. In 2009, the Pride celebration alone pumped an estimated $136 million into the local economy, $94 million of that from tourists, according to Pride Toronto.
Other gay festivals and events in the city may not be as big, but they add to its vibrancy. They include the Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film and Video Festival (May), the Toronto International Pride soccer Cup (June 13-14), the Annual Queer West Arts & Culture Festival (Aug. 7-15), and the Church Street Fetish Fair (Aug. 15).
Whether as a place to work or play, Toronto’s gay community is proud of its city and takes pride in sharing it with others. Simply witness the smiles all round at city hall as yet another same-sex couple ties the knot.
Gateway to Ontario
For most international travellers, Toronto is the front door to the province of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province and second-largest in size. Near the geographic centre of Canada, Ontario is home to a striking diversity of people and landscapes, cities and towns.
The national capital, Ottawa, sits at Ontario’s eastern edge. Home to Canada’s parliament and many national institutions, Ottawa is also a bustling city featuring the UNESCO-recognized Rideau Canal and the eclectic Byward Market.
Just south of Toronto, near the United States border, is the Niagara region and world famous Niagara Falls. The spectacular Falls is part of an extensive park system along the Niagara River. With over 100 wineries, the Niagara region is increasingly just as well known for its outstanding wines and is the world’s leading region for icewine.
Stretching far to the north at Hudson Bay and west to encompass most of the Great Lakes system, Ontario brings together natural wonders with urban excitement. Click here to learn more about Ontario’s culture, tourism and business landscape.