Toronto City Council votes to rename Dundas Street

Toronto City Council voted to rename Dundas Street to promote inclusion of marginalized communities.

After a lengthy debate on Wednesday, council voted 17-7 in favor of a motion by city staff to change the name of the street, a main thoroughfare that runs through the city from east to west.

The move follows a 2020 petition to remove the name due to Henry Dundas’ association with the transatlantic slave trade. He emerged amid global discussions and protests against racial injustice, inequality and anti-black racism.

“Our reputation is at stake”

Com. Michael Thompson, the only black person on council, said ahead of the vote that renaming the street was the right thing to do.

“History won’t remember so much what it cost us to change the name – it will remember whether or not we took the right steps. Our reputation is at stake,” he said.

The city manager is expected to report with recommendations for new names to the council’s executive committee in spring 2022.

Dundas, an influential Scottish politician, opposed the end of the British Empire’s participation in the transatlantic slave trade when the proposal was presented in the late 18th century.

His opposition served to delay its abolition, which kept hundreds of thousands of people, many of them black, in bondage and allowed many more to be enslaved.

The city will also remove the Dundas name from other public infrastructure, including the Dundas and Dundas West subway stations of the TTC and Yonge-Dundas Square, a central location in downtown Toronto. Other civic assets bearing Dundas’ name include three parks, a branch of the Toronto Public Library, and more than 730 road signs.

The City will hold a public consultation to find a new name for the street and plans to find room in its budget to support people and businesses affected by the change.

WATCH | Why Dundas Street is Renamed:

A brief overview of why Toronto is renaming a key east-west artery. 1:10

“You can never go wrong doing the right thing”

Mayor John Tory said Dundas had never visited Toronto and the city should not be celebrating him and his legacy.

“You can never go wrong doing the right thing,” Tory said.

“All we’re saying is we’re not going to continue to recognize and honor someone who took the actions they took when they did that are so inconsistent with the values. that we’re trying to build and celebrate today. That’s what we’re saying. “

According to the city, a community advisory committee will lead the name change process. This committee will be made up of Black and Indigenous leaders, representatives from various communities that live and work along Dundas Street, and Business Improvement Areas and Residents’ Associations.

The committee will develop potential new names and a “transition plan” to help residents and businesses through the process.

“The adoption of this report strengthens the City of Toronto’s commitment to fighting anti-black racism, advancing truth, reconciliation and justice, and building a more inclusive and equitable Toronto,” the city said in a statement.

According to the city, a community advisory committee will lead the name change process. This committee will be made up of Black and Indigenous leaders, representatives from various communities that live and work along Dundas Street, and Business Improvement Areas and Residents’ Associations. (Giordano Ciampini / The Canadian Press)

“The city is committed to taking action to right wrongs, tackle systematic institutionalized racism and build a more inclusive Toronto for all, in keeping with the city’s motto, ‘Diversity is our strength.’

Calls for more consultations

Councilors Stephen Holyday, James Pasternak and Denzil Minnan-Wong expressed concern over what they saw as a lack of public consultation on the name change.

Cheryl Blackman, the city’s acting executive director of economic development, said city staff consulted about 25 representatives of Toronto’s black and indigenous communities in a series of “discovery sessions.” Representatives of business improvement areas and residents who live on Dundas Street were also consulted, she said.

“We plan in our next steps to conduct a full and in-depth consultation with Torontonians on how we move forward in determining a new name,” said Blackman.

Holyday suggested that the process by city staff did not follow the city street renaming policy, which states: “The request to rename a street requires the documented support of 75% of the landowners adjoining the street. street.

Could cost $ 6.3 million

According to a June 18 report from the city manager to the council’s executive committee, Dundas Street is home to more than 97,000 residents and 4,500 businesses. The total cost of the name change effort is expected to be between $ 5.1 and $ 6.3 million over two years.

“This cost estimate reflects the significant number of changes and the complexity of the work involved in renaming Dundas Street as the main artery, with its direct links to provincial highways, and the impacts on the transportation system. in common and other civic assets, ”the report mentioned.

WATCH | Toronto Council votes to rename Dundas Street:

Toronto City Council voted to change the name of Dundas Street, a major thoroughfare, named after 18th-century politician Henry Dundas who worked to extend the transatlantic slave trade. 2:11

City staff reviewed academic research prepared by historians on Henry Dundas to understand his legacy. Staff members also consulted with more than 20 academic experts in public history, Black Canadian Studies, and public commemoration before making their recommendations.

The municipal staff working group that developed the recommendations included representatives from the Anti-Black Racism Unit and the city’s Office of Indigenous Affairs.

According to the city, the council’s decision requires a bylaw to be passed before the name change can begin.

Council also approved the development of a “commemorative framework” which will include principles on how the city marks public figures and events in monuments, street and place names, and a process for reviewing public figures. existing city assets. This fall, the City will consult the public to have its say on the framework.

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