dundas street name change

Toronto is now only one vote away from renaming Dundas Street

Momentum continues to build for the push to rename Toronto's Dundas Street in honour of somebody who didn't support slavery, with only one final hurdle left to jump before the city bids farewell to a moniker that, at this point, is basically interchangeable with "Racist Guy Road."

Mayor John Tory's Executive Committee voted unanimously this afternoon (6-0, as two councillors were absent) to move forward with the renaming process.

This paves the way for the City of Toronto to change a major street name and all other civic assets paying homage to Henry Dundas,  a Scottish politician who actively campaigned to delay the abolition of slavery and has few, if any, ties to Toronto.

With the Executive Committee's approval, the motion to "initiate a public engagement process" to rename Dundas Street will now go before City Council on July 14. If approved there, Dundas will officially get a new name — but not right away.

A City Manager report recommending the name change explains that, if the motion is approved, staff would develop a framework for implementing what would undoubtedly be a huge and very expensive change involving some 730 street signs, two subway stations, three parks, a public library, 625 Bike Share stations, 60 businesses and more.

A Community Advisory Committee made up of Black and Indigenous residents and business owners will develop a shortlist of potential names for consideration by City Council during the second quarter of 2022, according to the report.

If all goes well, "new names for the street and civic assets could be put in place approximately one year after their approval by Council." So, by spring of 2023.

Calls for the renaming of Dundas began more than a year ago as word spread in Toronto about the dark legacy of the street's namesake. City Council responded to a petition signed by more than 15,000 people by coming up with four options to address the problem.

Nothing had yet been decided when the campaign gained a new rush of support in June, but both Tory and City Manager Chris Murray have now expressed support for a full renaming, despite the fact that it could cost up to $6.3 million.

"It is very clear that engaging the public on any option other than a full renaming of Dundas Street and civic assets runs counter to the commitments Council has made to equity, reconciliation and inclusion," reads Murray's report, as set to go before council next week. 

"The continued commemoration of Henry Dundas — who is described in peer-reviewed academic research as having played an instrumental role in delaying the abolition of the slave trade — is in direct conflict with the values of equity and inclusion that the City of Toronto upholds."

"Taking steps to right wrongs, challenge systemic institutionalized racism, and build a more inclusive Toronto is more important than ever," the report continues. "Addressing the historical legacy of Dundas Street is one of these steps."

Lead photo by

Jason Cook

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