The Key to the City is bestowed upon distinguished citizens and residents as well as honoured guests of the City of Toronto.
In Toronto, the act of giving the Key to the City is symbolic, since the city has no gates to unlock. The presentation of a ceremonial key and certificate honour the outstanding civic contributions of each recipient.
Historically, it has been at the discretion of the Mayor to determine who receives the Key to the City. The Mayor has given the key to people who have changed how Toronto feels about itself and those that have contributed positively to the city and the lives of its residents.
Officially presented to Prince Amyn Aga Khan, who received it on the Aga Khan’s behalf on September 25, 2022 at the Ismaili Centre.
His Highness the Aga Khan, in fulfilling his role as the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, has worked to improve the quality of life of all people, regardless of birthplace or background. His efforts over six decades have established a wide-range of institutions and projects, including in healthcare, education, culture, habitat, financial inclusion and other areas. The Key to the City is awarded to His Highness as a long-time friend of the city, exemplifying pluralism, cultural dialogue, and partnership.
In the 50 years since the Ismaili community has made Canada and Toronto home, the Aga Khan has guided the community to build roots and make lasting contributions to civil society. His Highness has also contributed to Toronto’s vibrant diversity by opening the Aga Khan Museum, the Aga Khan Park, as well as the adjoining Ismaili Centre. These landmarks are global destinations and beacons of hope and optimism for all.
Officially presented by Mayor Tory on September 23, 2022 at Toronto City Hall.
Toronto born legend, Deborah Cox is being awarded the Key to the City for her decades-long career as a recording artist, activist, and actress both on and off the screen. With a music career spanning decades, Deborah is one of Canada’s most celebrated R&B artists. Her unique blend of soul, pop and jazz has garnered multiple hits and award nominations, as well as three Junos. In 2022, Deborah made history as the first Black woman to be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, only the second Black musician to be honoured in the Hall. Deborah’s tireless work as an activist for 2SLGBTQ+ rights and advocacy for people living with HIV/AIDS has also brought international recognition. She is a true Toronto icon.
John Honderich was one of Toronto’s pre-eminent storytellers, a city builder who dedicated himself to building a better and fairer city at every opportunity. John truly believed in Toronto, our city’s promise and its unique place in the world. As a larger than life Torontonian, he was always motivated by a desire to make Toronto a better place to live, a place where everyone is included. A giant of journalism, his career went from copy boy to reporter, editor and publisher, leading the Toronto Star to many awards and a Pulitzer Prize. Not only did he care about the future of newspapers in a strong democracy and about the future of Toronto, he also had a deep love for his country. His was dedicated to a society that valued humanity above all.
The Key to the City was awarded posthumously to the children of John Honderich (1946-2022) at the celebration of his life on May 11, 2022.
Officially presented on December 8, 2021 at Massey Hall.
Andy Kim is awarded the Key to the City for entertaining and uniting people for decades through his music and for using his talent to support the many worthy causes that have benefited from his annual Andy Kim Christmas Show. The show, now in its 17th year, has raised more than $2 million in support of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and children’s charities. Andy, who has called Toronto home for many years, created a Toronto tradition that celebrates togetherness, charity and the spirit of the holiday season. Andy Kim’s career started at age 16 and he has received top industry honours including five JUNO Awards as well as membership in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame. Today, Andy’s musical artistry is acclaimed by many who take joy in his craft and helped to support many charitable causes.
Officially presented on November 25, 2021 at Massey Hall.
Citation: Canadian treasure and Toronto icon, Gordon Lightfoot is awarded the Key to the City for his contributions as one of Canada’s greatest songwriters. As a folk rock legend, he has won 17 Juno Awards, five Grammy nominations and been recognized by his peers by being inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and the US Songwriters Hall of Fame. The presentation of the Key to the City marks Gordon’s milestone 170th performance at Massey Hall on the occasion of its reopening. He was the last to perform on its stage prior to the Hall closing for renovations in 2018. Over a long career, his many national, provincial and academic honours and awards recognize his numerous and long standing contributions to performance and song writing. His work continues to inspire and influence folk, folk rock and country artists from his home here in Toronto and around the world.
Officially presented on September 5, 2019 at TIFF.
Citation: The Mayor is presenting this key to Robbie Robertson in recognition of his enduring contribution to music and the arts in Canada and around the world. Born and raised in Toronto, Robbie Robertson was inspired to make music while visiting the Six Nations of the Grant River, beginning to write songs at a very young age. His incredible talent for songwriting propelled him to stardom with The Band and ensured his status as a music legend. A member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, his work continues to influence artists here in Toronto and around the globe. It is a point of national pride that a remarkable Canadian contributed to the establishment of a musical genre known as Americana. We thank him for continuing to be an inspiring Torontonian.
Officially presented on June 17, 2019 at Toronto City Hall.
Citation: This Key to the City is presented to the Toronto Raptors in recognition of the team’s 2019 National Basketball Association Championship win. The 2019 team won the first NBA title in franchise history and brought the Larry O’Brien trophy north of the border to Canada for the first time ever.
This season, the Raptors captured the Atlantic Division regular season title for the sixth time, propelling them to an incredible postseason that saw the team win the Eastern Conference Finals and continue on to win the NBA Finals.
This historic playoff run galvanized and united not only Toronto, but all of Canada, bringing together fans from coast to coast to coast. The victory itself and the events surrounding it will inspire Torontonians, especially young people, for years to come. This key is presented with great joy and gratitude.
Officially presented on July 25, 2018, at Toronto City Hall.
Citation: Judy and Wilmot (Wil) Matthews are civic leaders and philanthropists who give to a wide variety of Toronto-based organizations that support education, medical research and advancement, culture and city-building initiatives. As passionate Torontonians, they are deeply committed to enriching the city and its residents. Wil and Judy are presented with a Key to the City to honour their philanthropic work including their $25 million donation to The Bentway, a unique and innovative public space that transforms 1.75 km underneath Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway into a vibrant new gathering place for our city’s growing population.
Officially presented June 30, 2018, on Pat Moore Drive in Thorncliffe.
Citation: Patricia Moore has lived in Flemingdon and Thorncliffe Park for more than 40 years. Patricia is presented with a Key to the City for working tirelessly to ensure that those without a voice in our city, have one. She is known as an advocate for the underdog on issues related to housing as well as youth and women’s rights. Over the years, her work has contributed to the creation of tenants’ associations, which help to protect the rights of tenants, as well as more available co-op housing within the community. She has raised awareness of the need to stop violence against women and has created community programs to support the growing youth population in her neighbourhood.
Officially presented June 25, 2018, on Nathan Philips Square.
Citation: Fran Sonshine is presented with a Key to the City for being a philanthropic and volunteer leader in Toronto. She is the National Chair of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, which seeks to promote awareness of the Holocaust and its universal lessons through educational and commemorative programming, and played a key role in fundraising to build Canada’s Holocaust Monument in Ottawa. Fran has participated on several boards in Toronto including the Baycrest Centre Board, North York General Hospital Advisory Board, the ROM Board of Governors and the Toronto United Jewish Appeal’s Annual Campaign. Fran has been honoured with numerous awards for her contributions to many organizations and campaigns.
Officially presented June 23, 2018, at the Harbourfront Centre.
Citation: After serving for many years as an educator, Zanana Akande was the first Black woman elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and the first appointed as a Cabinet Minister. She has served many organizations over the years including the YWCA, Centennial College, Harbourfront Centre and the Urban Alliance on Race Relations. Zanana is presented with a Key to the City for dedicating her life’s work to addressing equity issues in the community and improving the social, economic, cultural and political status of women in Toronto.
Officially presented June 22, 2018, at Roy Thomson Hall.
Citation: Peter Oundjian began studying the violin at age seven, before shifting his focus to conducting. After serving as Artistic Director of several international festivals and orchestras, he was named Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) in January 2003 and became the first Canadian to hold the position since 1973. Peter is presented with a Key to the City for invigorating the TSO with recordings, tours, and innovative programming during his tenure. He found ways to grow the audience and improve appeal of the TSO which has strengthened the ensemble’s presence and popularity around the world. As Conductor Emeritus, his final season culminated in June 2018 as part of a month-long musical celebration of his career.
Officially presented May 17, 2018, at Toronto City Hall.
Citation: Susan Gapka is well-known as a tireless and effective campaigner for social justice. Susan is presented with a Key to the City for her long and proud record of addressing issues related to affordable housing, education, mental health, and community safety in the LGBTQ2S community. Susan has actively contributed to organizations such as Central Neighbourhood House, the 51 Division Community Liaison Police Committee, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Save Our Structures, and the Toronto Trans Coalition Project.
Officially presented July 22, 2017, at the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Temple.
Citation: This recognition honours His Holiness as the sixth spiritual guru of Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS). His Holiness travels the world inspiring people with his insightful spiritual discourses and disciplined conduct. The virtuous lifestyle and ideals to which His Holiness adheres are what many people strive to achieve, and he is an inspiration for youth.
His Holiness is the head of a worldwide spiritual and humanitarian organization that is dedicated to community service, peace and harmony through Hindu principles. Toronto has been enriched by many contributions from BAP Charities Canada to health and disaster relief causes. The unique BAPS Mandir, located in Toronto, serves as an architectural masterpiece and adds to the multicultural mosaic of the city and Canada
Officially presented September 28, 2016, at Toronto City Hall.
Citation: Arguably the greatest sports executive in the history of Toronto, Beeston was the first employee the Toronto Blue Jays hired in 1977. Over parts of five decades he served in various senior capacities and retired following the 2015 season. Beeston was team president and CEO during the early 1990s when the Jays won back-to-back World Series championships. He returned to the club in 2008 and helped re-invigorate baseball and its fans, leading the Jays to their first playoffs in more than 20 years. His work has contributed to a powerful sense of civic pride and has inspired young athletes.
Officially presented September 17, 2016, at Lee Lifeson Art Park in Willowdale.
Citation: Rush played a vital role in defining Toronto’s musical identity and have contributed a lot to Toronto through their music, live performances and generous charity support. For more than 40 years, the Rush trio of Lee, Lifeson and Peart defined rock music while inspiring fans and musicians worldwide. Rush ranks third in the world, after The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, for most consecutive gold or platinum albums by a rock band. Their massive international fan base has put a spotlight on Toronto as a music capital.
Officially presented February 12, 2016, at a Toronto Raptors game.
Citation: Drake is one of Toronto’s biggest champions in music, mentorship of local talent and presence on the world stage as an international recording artist, record producer and actor. In 2009, he founded OVO Fest, an annual music festival held in August and in 2013, he was named the global ambassador for the Toronto Raptors. He is involved in various charitable activities, is committed to promoting Toronto’s music industry and contributing to the city’s social harmony and wellbeing, especially as it relates to youth.