Toronto's Dundas Street one step closer to being renamed after city staff report recommendation

Toronto Mayor John Tory and city staff are recommending renaming Dundas Street following a 2020 petition to scrap the name due to Henry Dundas's association with the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. 

Report follows petition to scrap name over Henry Dundas's association with Trans-Atlantic slave trade

A city report recommending the renaming of Dundas Street will go before the city's executive committee on July 6. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Toronto Mayor John Tory and city staff are recommending renaming Dundas Street following a 2020 petition to scrap the name due to Henry Dundas's association with the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. 

A city staff report recommending renaming of the street along with any other civic assets with the Dundas name will go before the city's executive committee on July 6, the city said in a news release Monday.

If approved, the report will then be reviewed by city council at its July meeting. 

The move comes after a petition was created in June 2020 for the renaming of Dundas Street amid global discussions and protests on racial injustice, inequality and anti-Black racism. 

Dundas was a Scottish politician who is accused of being instrumental in delaying the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, causing more than half a million more Black people to be enslaved in the British Empire.

City staff have also noted Dundas's role in the continued subjugation of Indigenous communities in Canada in his capacity as British Home Secretary.

The city report outlines a renaming process along with a community advisory committee of Black and Indigenous leaders and local Dundas Street residents and businesses.

Pending approval, the committee will gather naming suggestions from their communities and recommend new names for the street, which will be considered by council next year. 

"The continued commemoration of Henry Dundas ... is in direct conflict with the values of equity and inclusion that the City of Toronto upholds," the report reads. 

"Whether he is viewed cynically or as a pragmatist, his actions and those of the British government he served contributed to the perpetuation of the enslavement of human beings."

Urgency to act, says man behind petition

The report also outlines guiding principles for the city's naming policies. This follows a review examining how systemic racism may be embedded into city programs and policies.

Tory says the move is in line with the city's commitment to "equity, inclusion and reconciliation."

"This is a moment in time when it is important to make a statement to the entire community about including those who have been marginalized and recognizing the significant effect past history can have on present day lives," he said in a statement. 

The change also comes amid growing calls for advancing truth and reconciliation with Indigenous communities across Canada after hundreds of unmarked graves have been discovered at formal residential schools. 

The Dundas renaming petition is one of many global efforts that have cropped up since 2020 to confront anti-Black racism, as well as discrimation against Indigenous communities in Canada. (CBC)

Toronto resident Andrew Lochhead, who started the 2020 renaming petition, says the recent events "underscore the urgency with which we need to act on these monuments that celebrate colonial violence and anti-Black racism." 

In particular, Lochhead says Tory's endorsement of the proposal will be instrumental in it getting pushed through the committee and council. 

"I am very happy that city staff have reached a conclusion that I believe was the right conclusion," he told CBC News Monday. 

'This is not erasing history': Tory

Tory noted that it's important not to ignore Canada's darker chapters in history. 

"As the report notes, this is not erasing history — as some critics of such a change may charge — this is recognizing a larger history that we must not ignore," Tory said. 

The mayor added that the change must be made in a "sensible and practical manner" to minimize the impact on local residents and businesses. 

The city says it will receive a detailed framework in 2022 to assist with the making of those decisions going forward.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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