dundas street toronto

City of Toronto reveals four options for renaming Dundas Street

City of Toronto officials are making good on their promise to explore the renaming of Dundas Street in light of concerns over who the historic, arterial road was originally named for: A Scottish politician named Henry Dundas who's best known for actively working to delay the abolition of slavery.

Yeah. Not a good look.

Fortunately, the municipal government took swift action after receiving a petition in June with nearly 15,000 signatures asking that the city "begin a public process to rename Dundas Street... to honour a more appropriate person, place or event."

Mayor John Tory revealed during a press conference on June 10 that he had asked City Manager Chris Murray to form a working group of staff that could explore options for addressing the request, noting that "there is no place for anti-Black racism in our city."

Murray reported back with a seven-page-long briefing note, published by the city today, in which he lays out four possible options for responding to the community petition:

  1. Do nothing
  2. Retain the legal street names and add ceremonial street names and/or interpretation (e.g., plaques) along each street
  3. Retain the legal street names but rename three parkettes and one public library branch with Dundas in their names, and rename Yonge-Dundas Square
  4. Change the legal names of Dundas Street East, Dundas Street West, Dundas Square, and Old Dundas Street, as well as other civic assets carrying the Dundas name.

The report is careful to note that staff are not recommending option 1 (do nothing.)

It also details the rationale for changing Dundas Street's name, the potential impacts of such a move, and processes through which a name change could be carried out.

You can read it all right here, along with information about the scope, history, evolution and demographics of people living along Dundas Street, but the key takeaway is that proposed changes will impact a lot more than the name of one Toronto street.

Some 730 street signs, two subway stations, numerous transit shelters, 13 park signs, 31 Bike Share stations, 8 Toronto Community Housing Corporation residences, a fire station a museum and an entire Toronto Public Library branch would be impacted by the move, costing what could amount to millions of dollars (though no set amount of resources have yet been mentioned as part of the process.)

More importantly, regardless of what happens with the name, the city has undertaken a wider review of "how systematic racism and discrimination are embedded in City assets, commemorative programs, and naming policies."

"This review might ultimately touch all named City streets, parks and facilities, public monuments, and civic awards and honours," reads the briefing note.

"Taking a proactive stance might mean revising existing policies or creating new ones; it might also mean identifying notable Torontonians who have yet to be recognized in the city's landscape."

Staff are now working on a report that will be presented to the executive committee at its meeting on September 23. After that, city council will decide how to respond to the Dundas renaming petition.

"The decisions of Council and the City of Toronto's motto, Diversity Our Strength, make it clear that we must continue to take action to address anti-Black racism – as well as racism against Indigenous communities and equity-seeking groups – in order to build a city that is more inclusive, progressive and reflective of the values of its diverse members," said Tory in a statement on Tuesday.

"Considering the renaming of Dundas Street is just the beginning of the work we need to do to build a Toronto where we all belong."

Lead photo by

Lauren O'Neil

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