Rename Dundas Street to Yonge-Dundas Square, according to a report from city officials



Dundas Street, Yonge-Dundas Square, and more could be renamed within the year, with city officials recommending a process to remove the late Scottish attorney’s name from public property.

The report, published Monday morning, is the result of a public petition calling for city property to be renamed in memory of Henry Dundas, a man alleged to have slowed the end of the slave trade and participated in the colonial structures that harmed indigenous peoples.

And Dundas – a name that occurs throughout the province, including Dundas, Ontario. – can’t be the only one to be changed. City officials said they will report to the city council by April next year on a new framework for commemorating the city’s personalities and events.

The Dundas report mentions that at least 60 other street names have already been identified by employees in Toronto that could be changed or removed on a case-by-case basis – including at least 12 named after slave owners, according to the report.

Monday’s report will be discussed by Mayor John Tory’s executive committee on July 6th. A final decision will be made in the council later this month.

In a strongly worded statement, Tory said he supported the “careful renaming” of Dundas Street and other landmarks.

“This is a moment when it is important to make a statement to the entire community about including those who have been marginalized and realizing the significant impact the past can have on life today.”

Tory said the renaming was not “erasing history” – citing the language of staff in their report and against critics who opposed the removal of statues, plaques and other colonial monuments.

“As we continue with this change, we as a city are sending a strong message about who we collectively honor and remember in public spaces, and we reaffirm our commitment to fight against racism against blacks and reconciliation with indigenous communities.”

The total cost of the renaming process is estimated at $ 5.1 million to $ 6.3 million, according to data from city officials, affecting more than 97,000 residents and 4,500 businesses. The largest single cost is signage replacement at an estimated $ 1.3 to $ 2.2 million; TTC signage and system changes are estimated at $ 1.6 million. The funding is not yet known.

The staff estimate that it can take up to a year for all signage to be replaced once a new name is chosen.

It is recommended that an advisory committee be formed this summer to seek suggestions for names from the community with the aim of being shortlisted by late fall. The public will be asked about this shortlist, with the aim of getting a new name approved by the council by April 2022.

Andrew Lochhead, who started the Dundas Street petition, told Star Monday that he was happy with the recommendations but said there was more to be done.

“Those weren’t new calls,” he said. “The calls to address a memorial landscape that celebrates enslavers, genocides and other forms of colonial violence has been going on for black and indigenous communities for decades, if not longer.”

He said an additional recommendation from staff to create a memorial frame beyond the Dundas issue was the most exciting outcome of the petition.

Dundas Street – which stretches 15 miles between Highway 427 and Leslieville, and runs through eight boroughs and dozen of neighborhoods – is named for Henry Dundas, a Scottish lawyer who worked in the late 18th century.

Aside from more than 730 street and highway signs, omitting the name Dundas would also mean signage for two subway stations and TTC surface routes, Yonge Dundas Square, a dozen parks and recreational facilities, a library branch, more than 600 signs at BikeShare. to replace and Green P parking lots, several dozen signs on the PATH and city signage, and a sign for the Toronto Police Department. Internal systems and databases would also have to be updated.

After a petition called for the street to be renamed with nearly 14,000 signatures, Tory asked city officials to review the demands. In September, staff said doing nothing was not an option and the council directed staff to come up with a plan.

According to the staff – on appeal more than 15 pages of peer-reviewed academic research – Dundas decided to amend a bill submitted to Parliament in 1792 to immediately abolish the slave trade by adding the word “little by little”. In a speech, Dundas said: “This trade must ultimately be abolished, but with moderate measures that must not break into the property of any individual nor too suddenly shake the prejudices of our West Indies.”

Staff wrote that some historians see the change as a compromise that allowed the law to be passed and eventually repealed. Others see his amendment as motivated by “fear of radical change,” as Scottish historian Glen Doris wrote, and that as Secretary of War Dundas may have been motivated to maintain slavery during the war in order to strengthen the British Army.

“Whatever the motivation behind his amendment, the consequences of Dundas’ actions are clear,” the staff wrote. “Whether viewed as a cynical or a pragmatist, his actions, and those of the British government he served, helped continue the enslavement of the people.”



The Slave Trade Act was not passed until 1807. Meanwhile, more than half a million slaves have been sold, many to British colonies, according to the report.

Staff wrote that Dundas’ role in maintaining imperial rule and the “continuing subjugation” of indigenous peoples should also be considered, and noted that researchers have traced the western portion of Dundas Street back on an indigenous path.

“The naming of this road, which takes the path of a traditional indigenous route after a colonizer, erases the indigenous presence from the landscape and further questions the appropriateness of the commemoration with the name Dundas.”

Regarding the potential business impact, staff wrote that a transition plan to assist with name changes and other paperwork should be “as simple as possible,” including automatic email forwarding, working with search engines to update results for businesses, and more.

Companies could face the cost of updating their own signage and potentially be eligible for funding for business improvement areas, the report said, adding that around 60 companies have Dundas in their legal or branded names.

AnaBela Taborda, Chair of Little Portugal on Dundas BIA, said costs like stationery and business cards can be managed by waiting for supplies to run out to reorder, but other costs like changing shop windows would be a challenge for some.

“I think companies will need help, ”she said. “I assume the city needs help.”

TTC spokesman Stuart Green said the transit service “fully understands and fully respects the city’s proposal to rename this street.”

“We have changed station names before (most recently from Downsview in Sheppard West) and while this requires a lot of advance notice and communication, it can be done with minimal inconvenience to customers.”

City councils whose districts spanned parts of Dundas largely supported the staff’s recommendations.

Count. Gord Perks (District 4, Parkdale – High Park) said he fully endorsed Dundas’ recommendations and said he was hoping the staff had already set up a framework for memorial policies.

“I was hoping to see more,” he said. “I am disappointed that it is not as well developed as we need it to be at the moment.”

Count. Joe Cressy (District 10, Spadina – Fort York) said building an inclusive city was a choice.

“And integration, to make people feel safe and welcome in their city, requires us to think about the monuments, plaques and street names we have,” he said. “So the choice is not: ‘Are we going to build an inclusive city or not?’ Indeed we have to. And the renaming of Dundas Street is one of them. “

He said those who shied away from the cost and would suggest putting up a plaque to explain Dundas’ legacy are wrong.

“The goal is not to recognize how discrimination can be anchored in our city, but to tackle and remedy it.”

Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter who covers city hall and local politics for the star. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags


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