The Toronto coat of arms was designed recently (finally approved by Toronto city council in October of 1998) for the newly-amalgamated megacity of Toronto. The symbolism of the shield is obvious (the big T), but at least it isn't cluttered (and they resisted the urge to add an annulet to make it "T-O"). The large blue T in a gold field is also reminiscient of medieval maps of the world (so-called "T-O" maps), with a T-shaped ocean dividing Asia (top) from Africa (right) and Europe (left), with Jerusalem being at the centre of the circular world. It's a standing joke in Canada that Torontonians consider themselves the centre of the universe, so this is rather appropriate.
The beaver and bear are two of the original inhabitants of the area; the beaver also suggests industry and Canada, while the bear (presumably taken from the crest of the provincial arms) represents strength and a tendency to swallow up one's neighbors. They bear medallions with an alder leaf (representing Etobicoke) and a columbine flower (for Scarborough). The golden eagle as the crest is meant to symbolize freedom and to honour the Mississauga First Nations (who held the eagle as sacred). The previous design (shown below) used a bald eagle for this, but it was changed because it looked too American. The mural crown (beneath the eagle) represents civic authority, bears two white roses (for York and East York, two of the municipalities that were assimilated) and a heart (for North York). The compartment shows three rivers (the Don, Humber, and Rouge), flowing into a lake (Lake Ontario). The motto (rather trite, in my humble opinion, but I also think most civic mottoes are) signifies the amalgamation of the various cities into the megacity.
The picture is by Linda Nicholson; image and data taken from Hogtown Heraldry, the newsletter of the Toronto Branch of the Heraldry Society of Canada. The article is reproduced here.
The previous design (image from the Toronto Star) was very similar, with the main changes being the eagle and the maple leaves on the scroll. Other than the eagle, the changes (such as the leaves on the scroll, the way the grass is drawn, how fierce the bear looks, etc.) are all cosmetic, and are not actually part of the grant of arms.
The proposal before that one (image from Hogtown Heraldry, poorly colourized by me) was rejected not because of the shield design (which is excellent- the six blue and white segments representing the six pre-amalgamation municipalities, and the coronet of maple leaves and trillia showing that Toronto is the capital of Ontario) or the crest (nearly taken straight from the previous arms), but because of the monstrous supporters (a lion-ocelot hybrid and a tiger-dragon hybrid). These supporters were used to represent ethnic diversity- each hybrid half comes from a different continent. This, I think, was a rather poor idea, but one cannot blame the Heraldry Authority for this, since Toronto city hall had an internet survey asking what animals people thought should be on the arms (a- lion, b- ocelot, etc, etc). People being basically random in thier opinions, all animals got equal votes, so the heralds were asked to use all of them. It didn't work.
The previous coat of arms (granted to the unamalgamated city) are red, white, and blue (the colours of the Union Jack), and contain three lions in the first quarter (a reference to the War of 1812, in which the English Royal Banner was flown from Ft. York, although the sovereign wasn't there at the time), a white rose (symbolic of York, after which Toronto used to be named), a cog wheel (cliche for industry), and a lake steamer (Toronto owes much of its importance to its position as a port on Lake Ontario) in the last. In the centre is a red maple leaf, meant to represent Toronto's position as the capital of Ontario (although this would have been more properly symbolized by a gold leaf on a green field, which would have severly clashed with the rest of the arms). This shield was supported by a First Nations warrior and by Britannia, and used a beaver as a crest.
Before proper arms were granted, the city of Toronto used the device shown above, which later formed the basis of the granted arms. These arms (quartered, of course, so as to squeeze in as much as possible, just like the similarly bogus device once used by Ottawa) contain the royal lions and the steamer (which, along with the crest of a beaver on a mural crown, survived into the next incarnation), as well as a wheat sheaf (representing agriculture, since these were designed before Toronto was industrially important) and a beaver (representing Canada). The supporters are the same, except the First Nations warrior is rather inappropriately drawn as one from the prairies, not from the area of the Great Lakes.
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