dundas street toronto

This is why one person says Toronto streets shouldn't be named after people

Honouring a man who delayed abolishing slavery and has virtually no connection to Toronto should never happen again, one former mayoral candidate suggests.

After a petition calling for the renaming of Dundas Street launched in June 2020, the City of Toronto considered the issue and is finally officially recommending that the street should be renamed.

Henry Dundas was an 18th-century Scottish politician who had a hand in delaying the abolition of slavery in the British Empire for years.

His only connection to Toronto appears to be that he was friends with John Graves Simcoe, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, who named the town of Dundas after him, and streets leading to Dundas were named after the town.

Not long after the recommendation to rename Dundas Street came down, so too did the suggestions for a new name.

Civil rights activist Viola Desmond was suggested, as was Toronto activist, author and journalist Desmond Cole.

But this week, former mayoral candidate and chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat suggested the city shouldn't name the street after another person.

"Naming streets, places and institutions after people is a terrible tradition that should end," Keesmaat wrote on Twitter. "It is a vanity of primarily powerful men."

Instead, the city should name streets after natural features or stories. This would be "more meaningful and memorable, too," she suggests.

At least a few people agree.

"No person's name - history is fickle," one person wrote.

Dundas Street is home to 97,673 residents and more than 4,970 properties. The total cost of the renaming is estimated as ranging from $5.1 million to $6.3 million over two years, 2022 through 2023.

The decision to rename will go to the executive committee on July 6, and then, if approved a Community Advisory Committee made up of Black and Indigenous residents and business owners will be created.

The Advisory Committee will develop a shortlist of potential names with community input and bring it to city council in 2022.

Lead photo by

Jason Cook


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