Tory supports renaming Toronto street over namesake's ties to slavery
TORONTO -- Mayor John Tory showed his support for the renaming of Dundas Street, following growing calls to remove its namesake, who had an “instrumental role” in delaying the abolition of the slave trade, from the city’s map.
"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,” Tory said in a press release.
City manager Chris Murray recommended the renaming of Dundas Street, following an extensive study of academic research on Dundas' role in abolition, which “is in direct conflict” with Toronto’s values of equity and inclusion. The review worked to confront anti-Black racism and advance truth and reconciliation with Indigenous communities, Tory said.
In June 2020, city council received a petition signed by nearly 14,000 individuals calling for the street to be renamed, which led to a review, with the key objective of examining how systemic racism and discrimination is embedded in city names. The petition led to a broader discussion of how public figures are commemorated across Toronto.
The review acknowledged that most commemorations in Toronto represent the stories of white male settlers in positions of power, which has led to a “historic imbalance,” neglecting Indigenous Peoples, Black communities, racialized communities, women, 2SLGBTQ+ persons, and other groups, from the public realm.
At Toronto’s COVID-19 update Monday morning, Tory warned that other petitions won’t “automatically” lead to name changes. About 60 other street names across the city require further examination, including at least 12 streets commemorating slave owners, according to the city’s review.
Mayor Tory said the change must be made in a “sensible” and “practical” manner to minimize the impact on local residents and businesses.
Next week, the review on the renaming of Dundas Street will be considered by the city’s Executive Committee to begin implementing a plan moving forward and create a broader framework to examine how public figures are commemorated in place names across the city.
Murray told CP24 in an interview Monday night that the process could result in Dundas Street being renamed by 2023 if council decides to move forward.
“We're looking at 2022 to 2023 to first, select the new name, and then secondly to actually physically go and start to take down the name of Dundas on the street and the other symbols where it is used right now,” Murray said.
He said if council gives a nod, the city will have a new name for Dundas by the second quarter of 2022 through consultation with Black and Indigenous representatives.
“And then equally important will be the process for how we look at monuments and public assets, generally speaking, moving forward and how we rethink some of the naming of those important places, and as pointed out, this is very much a community driven approach,” Murray said.
He said there are about 4,000 businesses along Dundas Street and around 60 of them actually have “Dundas” in their names.
“We do contemplate potentially providing some assistance,” Murray said of helping small businesses weather the change financially.
Andrew Lochhead, who started the petition to rename Dundas Street, told CP24 Monday that while he would have liked to see action unfold sooner, he’s pleased with the plan city staff have laid out.
“I think one of the best things about the format that's been laid out by city staff for this, and it's been one of the key calls of the petition this whole time, is the centering of Black and Indigenous voices in this process,” Lochhead said. “So this plan that's been laid out by the city does that very well, and puts that very much at the forefront.”