Toronto

Thousands sign petition to rename Dundas Street, named for politician who delayed abolition of slavery

An online petition calling for a Toronto-area street to be renamed has garnered more than 3,000 signatures. Dundas Street is named after Henry Dundas, an 18th-century politician who delayed Britain's abolition of slavery by 15 years.

Mayor John Tory says a working group will be formed to look at issue

The petition calls for the use of street names that 'reflect our values and priorities.' (Michael Wilson/CBC)

An online petition calling for a Toronto-area street to be renamed has garnered more than 3,000 signatures.

Dundas Street, which runs through Toronto and several other southern Ontario cities, was named after Henry Dundas, an 18th-century politician who delayed Britain's abolition of slavery by 15 years.

A renewed focus on systemic anti-Black racism following the death of George Floyd has put the issue of monuments to historical figures back in the spotlight.

Protesters in Bristol, England, on Sunday tore down a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th century slave trader, and plunged it into the harbour of the port city.

The petition to rename Dundas Street argues that street names and monuments should "reflect our values and priorities."

At a city hall briefing on Wednesday, Mayor John Tory said he has asked the city manager, Chris Murray, to form a working group of staff from relevant departments, including the Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit and the Indigenous Affairs office, to examine the issue of renaming streets in a broader sense.

"Renaming a major street or public space does create many practical challenges, but we should have a process that can examine what are very important and relevant historical questions, along with all of the practical matters involved, if such changes were to be made," Tory told reporters.

"We do have a street-naming policy and a process to rename streets, but I think, in light of the context within which this particular street has arisen, a broader and more in-depth examination and discussion is warranted."

Tory said he wants some kind of report back from the working group in 30 days and he acknowledged that a decision and public consultation would take longer.

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, Scotland, there are calls to tear down a statue of Dundas — and the leader of city council there said he would have "absolutely no sense of loss" if the Dundas statue was removed and replaced with something else.

With files from CBC News

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