It is with great pleasure that I present our first guest writer here on The Alder Fork Blog. This is the second part of an ongoing series entitled 6 Things You Didn’t Know… Today the Greater Toronto Area is our topic, and Iwona Szkudlarek is our host on this amazing journey. She is a good friend of mine, a University of Toronto student, and a kindred spirit. If you’d like to check out the first entry in the series you can find it here. If you want to learn about Alberta click here. Without further ado I bring you:
6 Things You Didn’t Know About the Greater Toronto Area
I love the area I live in. I grew up in Oshawa and have called downtown Toronto home for the last few years. This makes it really difficult to decide on only six things about the GTA that I consider to be interesting, important or little known. Despite that, I have agonized for days over it and here is my take on a few cool things about the area. 🙂
• As we all probably know, diversity is the great pride of Canada and, to be honest, it is largely because of our metropolitan areas. With in mind, I discovered that over 100+ languages are spoken in the GTA! Among these, Chinese, particularly Cantonese, is the most widely spoken in this area after English. On a side note, I attempted to find the number of languages spoken in the world for comparison but there doesn’t seem to be a definite statistics because of definition disputes (though I believe 6,000ish is a good guess). Regardless, 100+ is pretty awesome. Also, the the region becomes even more diverse with each passing day, since a large portion of immigrants to Canada choose the GTA as their new home. This definitely increases the diversity I encounter in my daily life, at the very least.
• One quarter of Canada’s population lives within a 160 km radius of Toronto. This fact end up including more than just the GTA (I’m cheating a little) but it’s still significant. Being packed in like sardines seems to be the preference of many Canadians, if you consider how many live near the major city centres. Also, 3 GTA cities are in the top 20 most populated cities in Canada. Toronto is the most populated city in the nation, with Mississauga is 6th on the list and Oshawa as 15th. All this probably comes to no surprise for GTAers, especially those who have to commute through area during rush hour!
• The Iroquois Shoreline is one of those facts that I’m never sure if people are aware of or what they may know about it. Well, it’s the shoreline of the glacial lake that existed where Lake Ontario is now. The shoreline of this ancient lake extended inland 5km in Burlington and continued at various depths, east until the Scarborough Bluffs. It is really noticeable just south of St. Clair in Toronto, between Bathurst and the Don Valley. As a reminder of the last ice age, which happened 13,000 years ago, it was created when a giant chunk of ice blocked drainage from the lake and causing it to flood surrounding plains. If you look really closely at the topography of the GTA, you can see ridges and valleys that mark areas that were once underwater. This means that around 12,000 years ago, a good chunk of the Southern GTA was underwater. It’s amazing how much the area has changed since then! I recommend checking out the Scarborough bluffs and the ridge just south of St. Clair West, they both have beautiful views of the lake and the GTA.
• Also on the edge of this shoreline, at Spadina and Davenport in Toronto, sits the only true castle in Canada. I admit, I’m a history buff and living near Casa Loma absolutely feeds my love for castles, so this is a huge bias on my part. Regardless, it’s a beautiful structure with an amazing view of the GTA from it’s turrets. Construction began in 1911, by Sir Henry Pellatt, a man who was clearly very wealthy. He never finished the project and eventually ended up bankrupt but the house landed in the hands of the Kiwanis Club of Toronto, who maintain the castle and land and run it’s tourist operations. It is also a popular, if not expensive place, to hold a wedding. The Conservatory, with it’s gorgeous windows and fountains is regularly used for this purpose. It is also rented out for the purposes of film making and recently has been used for The Love Guru and X-Men. It is also might be used as a location of the up coming Scott Pilgrim movie, which is based on a Toronto based comic series. All in all, it’s a pretty cool site!
• Oshawa also has it’s own giant mansion, one that was home of the estate of R. S. McLaughlin. He was the founder of McLaughlin Carriages (later McLaughlin Motor Car Company Limited), which became the catalyst for bringing General Motors into Canada. While in this day and age, people might argue as to whether GM is something to be proud of (with the environmental movement locking horns with the auto industry on a daily basis), Mclaughlin was an important guy for Oshawa. Not only did he start McLaughlin Carriages, he became the major of Oshawa and was the first president of the YMCA in the area. His company, and later GM and it’s subsidiaries, have provided tens of thousands of jobs for people in the GTA. Plus, McLaughlin’s mansion is really nice and has served as a set for movies like Billy Madison and X-Men.
• After mentioning several filming sites in the GTA already, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the impact that film and television has on the area. The entertainment industry has a large stake in the GTA, particularly the movie industry. Since there is such a diversity of locations, significant tax breaks and a large amount of professionals around, it’s a fairly lucrative business. A lot of people know that movies are filmed in Toronto but most people don’t realize that it is a big moneymaker for the cities and businesses involved, bringing millions, if not billions into the economy of the GTA. The area is home to massive number of professionals, from hair and makeup, extras, actors, and crew who help this business thrive (and endure crazy hours and interesting locations to bring you the entertainment you enjoy on your screens). Everything from The Hulk to the American Pie franchise movies (we’re up to six, if you can believe it) are filmed in the area. While it’s no Hollywood, it’s important to our economy and a good place to start if you’re looking for a career in film and/or television. If you look closely while you watch movies, you might recognize a place that you are very familiar with!
Any information I used to support my information came from personal experience and Wikipedia.com.