Director`s Forward:

I came from Montreal with my nose firmly at an upper angle; sneering really, at Hogtown. I grew up on tales of "Toronto the Good" and "The City that Always Sleeps." I knew it vaguely as an Orange Town with boarded up bars and brittle old biddies from the Temperance League. Toronto stood in my mind with the stiff dignity of an old soldier; inhabiting my imagination in shades of plaid, or the pastel colours of ladies-in-waiting. In fact the whole city reminded me of the Queen Mum: regal, stoic, privileged, temperate and so awfully boring. It's my town now, though not my hometown. The distinction allows me the license to comment. Toronto had a lot to prove to me as I combed its archives and long-ago layers. I didn't love it easily, but in increments, as I followed the few definite threads that wove through its history. It took almost two years to research, write, direct and edit the series - with over three hundred people holding me up. Toronto is still a little tight around my skin, but I live in it more comfortably now, familiar with its many selves and its secret epiphanies.

The Honourable Edwin Goodman

It wasn't my idea to make a series on Toronto - not at all where my instincts would have taken me. But enthusiasm is contagious and makes the mind race late into the night. It was Toronto lawyer Edwin Goodman, who wanted to document the place before amnesia swallowed up its history. Born in 1918, the whole century seemed to wind around Eddie. He'd seen and lived much of it. When I was ushered into the hush of his Eaton Centre office and listened to his stories, my jaw dropped. Eddie Goodman stood at the very intersection of Toronto history, he'd seen the place stutter and re-start through the Depression and seen the Christie Pitts riot; he'd served in WWII and watched the post war immigration boom; Hurricane Hazel and Northern Dancer. He knew the regimental history, the social and political history; worked with the Boy Scouts, arts, law and human rights legislation. His Toronto was full of characters, causes and heart. It was such a different place than the one I'd grown up hearing about.

Attempting the first Canadian documentary on Toronto was a little daunting. It took a long time to discern the shape of the place, the patterns and tics of its character. Toronto expands and contracts around various identities, perhaps that's its greatest strength. There's something elusive about it; amorphous. Maybe secretive. Montreal pulls me to her with certain distinctiveness and playfulness, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver all have more straightforward, orderly histories. Toronto is like a shape shifter, rabidly one thing, and then suddenly something else. Often oblivious to its own pulse.

At its root, the place is well meaning and awkward, like a kid almost grown into herself at the cusp of greatness. Toronto is self-conscious but lurches forward, anyway. I've come to like its understated-ness, the idea of earning instead of expecting; of civility instead of entitlement. Its Protestant work ethic feels cold sometimes, and exacting. But Toronto's instinct towards generosity is astonishing, based I think, on founding principals of fairness and pragmatism. John Graves Simcoe, the first Lt. Governor of Upper Canada, made the place into the shape of his better self. He abolished slavery here first, thirty years before anywhere else in the British Empire. He did it gradually, to assure the resistance of local slave owners whose loyalty he needed. Loyalists were the first assisted refugees in Toronto, and while they thought York was made in their image, they tolerated the "other" who wandered in because they had to. Irish Catholics, Chinese, East European Jews and Italians all huddled against Toronto's frigid indifference until their sheer numbers forced the city to make room for them. That it did with only a few incidences of mob lunacy, is astounding.

It's easy to reduce Toronto to its most ridiculous components, to howl at its anal retentiveness. But the obvious rarely reveals meaning. Toronto is far more than the "Family Compact" or later, the Orange Order. It's more than its silly Lord's Day Act and obsessiveness with morality. It was multi-cultural before the English language even had a word for it. And far more capable of change than any other city in Canada.


Despite the perception that Toronto was built by the English and Scottish, it was heaved up by the bare hands of the French, Irish, Germans, Black Americans, Italians, Jews, Africans and Caribbeans. Governance and privilege were certainly British, but the guts of the place - the roads and bridges, the cultural life, the mood on the streets - belonged to others. It's through the prism of the immigrant experience, through their achievements in lifting this city to greatness, that Toronto's real history can be intuited.

Toronto is of course, hell to shoot in. The noise, congestion and hurried, harried citizens are razor sharp against the heart. American money is spoiling the place - some heritage sites and old homes are used to Hollywood dollars and aren't as generous with local filmmakers. But the little people, the amateur historians and the descendants of immigrants, are still civil and eager to speak. And to listen. So too, are the actors who lent their talent to this project and the famous, who cared enough to lean away from the unforgiving schedules. There are funders who believed in this; an amazing crew and production staff who worked themselves skinny; researchers who chased down small details like detectives. All of them remaining curious along the road that Eddie Goodman pointed me down. There's so much of them I just couldn't fit into three television hours of television. I grieve for what had to be left on the cutting room floor; for the missing pieces of Toronto's heartscape. I do hope I am forgiven.