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Toronto renaming Yonge-Dundas Square. Here's what the new name could be


Toronto City Council has approved a motion to rename Yonge-Dundas Square and to ask the TTC to rename two subway stations, while at the same time pausing the renaming process for Dundas Street itself.

The motion was adopted with a majority of support following a debate at council Thursday evening.

It follows a process previously put in place by council to rename Dundas Street and other city property after a re-examination of the role Scottish politician Henry Dundas played in slavery.

“The City of Toronto remains committed to confronting anti-Black racism, advancing truth, reconciliation and justice, and building a more inclusive and equitable city," Mayor Olivia Chow said in a statement after the vote.

The motion placed before council by Coun. Chris Moise Thursday and seconded by the mayor asks that council direct the Yonge Dundas Square Board to rename the square with a name chosen by the Recognition Review Community Advisory Committee by the end of the second quarter next year.

"I'm going to use my Section 37 funds to cover the cost of the renaming of that and the name hopefully of Dundas Square will be the chosen name of the advisory committee that met yesterday," Moise said Wednesday.

Moise said that the committee narrowed the choices down to four names over the past few months and selected a name this week, which was "Sankofa Square."

According to the motion, Sankofa originates in Ghana and refers "to the act of reflecting on and reclaiming teachings from the past which enables us to move forward together."

"Adopting the name Sankofa Square, recognizes the need to reflect on and reclaim teachings from the past, and enables us to move forward together,” Chow said.

The motion also asks the TTC board to rename Dundas Station by the fourth quarter of 2024 and to rename Dundas West Station by 2025.

Speaking with reporters Wednesday, Moise said Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) has agreed to pick up the entire $1.7 million cost of renaming Dundas subway station if it is named after the university.

In an email, TMU said that it is "looking forward to working with the City and the TTC on this project" and figuring out next steps.

The university previously expressed interest in paying for a name change that would mention it back in 2011.

The motion also asks the Toronto Public Library Board to rename the Jane-Dundas library branch by the second or third quarter of 2024.

People wait for a subway train inside Dundas Station in downtown Toronto, Saturday, April 1, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

It also directs the city manager to pause work on the previous process to rename all of Dundas Street until city council provides further direction on the issue.

Moise's office said the move would allow the city to fast-track the renaming of four assets while pausing the rest of the process due to budget pressures. Conversations with the community and the advisory committee would continue, the councillor's office said.

The decision to rename Dundas Street and other city property has been controversial.

The most recent estimate pegs the cost at somewhere between $11.3 and 12.7 million. So far the city has already spent $250,000 on the project, money some say would be better spent on bolstering city services rather than a symbolic gesture.

Speaking at council Thursday, Coun. Stephen Holyday spoke out against fast-tracking the renaming via a member's motion instead of proceeding through a regular committee process which allows for community deputations.

On Wednesday Holyday unsuccessfully moved a motion to refer the matter to Executive Committee for further study over cost and scholarship favourable to Henry Dundas. It failed in a split 15-11 vote.

A Dundas Street West sign is pictured in Toronto, Wednesday, June 10, 2020. For some people, renaming Toronto's Dundas Street is a necessary step to confront the history of a city built in part by individuals connected to the British Empire's transatlantic slave trade. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giordano Ciampini

In August, three former mayors asked the city to reconsider the decision, citing the practicality of doing so, as well as the research which supports the decision.

Dundas amended a 1792 resolution to gradually abolish the slave trade rather than doing so immediately. Some historians argue that he was a committed abolitionist who was doing his best to make sure that some version of the law passed. Others argue that his reasons were irrelevant.

Council voted in 2021 to rename the street and associated assets following a renewed awareness around anti-Black racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Top Stories

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