Olivia Chow shares her thoughts and plans for renaming Dundas Street (Courtesy: THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin, Flickr/Vladislav Litvinov)
To rename, or not to rename, that is the question!
Toronto’s new mayor Olivia Chow says she supports renaming Dundas Street after city council voted on making the change two years ago.
On July 14, 2021, under then-mayor John Tory, Toronto City Council voted to rename Dundas Street. This came after an online petition calling for the street to be renamed received nearly 14,000 signatures during the previous summer.
The street was named after Henry Dundas, a man who has a “controversial legacy,” according to the city.
“Discussions on racial justice and equality are at the forefront around the world in light of ongoing activism by Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities. These conversations have led to many calls for change,” reads the City of Toronto’s website, adding that these discussions led to the creation of the online petition.
“Henry Dundas was a Scottish lawyer, politician, and one of British Prime Minister William Pitt’s most trusted and powerful ministers. Dundas also left behind a controversial legacy.”
The petition called for Dundas Street to be renamed due to Henry Dundas’ part in delaying the abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the 1790s. The Slave Trade Act was subsequently enacted in 1807, which put a stop to slavery throughout the British Empire. However, during this time period, over half a million additional Black people were enslaved throughout areas controlled by Britain.
Following community consultations, academic research and reviews of hundreds of global case studies, city council voted to rename Dundas Street and all other civic properties with the Dundas name.
According to the city, an advisory committee has been formed to address the issue, with plans for staff to report back to city council with new names this year.
Now, some people are waiting to see how Toronto’s new government will handle the issue.
After Chow was sworn in as the city’s 66th mayor yesterday morning, she was asked about plans to change the street name.
“Regarding Dundas Street, it is important for us to learn from history to learn about the injustice and the oppression of slavery. And it is important for us to recognize and be able to not just learn, but to reconcile that past,” Chow told reporters.
“The former City of Toronto has voted very clearly to change the name of Dundas.”
“I believe there is already a very complicated and very involved process in place to make that change, and I will follow through with it,” the mayor continued.
Chow’s first council meeting is set for Wednesday, July 19 at 9 a.m.