Commemoration is an intentional act of acknowledging the memory of people, places, events and ideas. It can include positive and honorific celebrations of the past and present, as well as the tragic, controversial and shameful dimensions of history and culture. Public commemorations – including the naming of streets, parks and other civic properties, and representation in monuments and plaques – reflect community values by how we choose to collectively honour the past and shape the future.

The City of Toronto communicates a core value through its motto, “Diversity Our Strength.” In keeping with this motto, it’s important that we strive to create public spaces that are welcoming and inclusive for all. To help achieve this vision, City Council has directed staff to develop a new framework to guide how the City commemorates public figures and events in place names and other civic assets. The new commemorative framework will include updated guidelines for naming and renaming streets and city properties, and commissioning new and reviewing existing historic monuments.

The framework will also include a recommended process for reviewing street names in the future. The petition to rename Dundas Street has been the most prominent example of public calls for change about how we commemorate historic figures and events in Toronto. However, other commemorative street and place names have also been critiqued for honouring subjects that are linked to systemic racism and colonialism. Staff are aware of approximately 60 other street names, primarily small local roads, which could require further examination in the future, including at least 12 streets named after slave owners. City Council has directed that no new applications to name or rename streets or other civic properties or requests to remove City monuments received on or after October 1, 2020 be considered until the new framework has been completed.

What’s Next?

City staff have developed draft guiding principles for the new commemorative framework, with the objective of creating a more equitable, community-centered approach to naming and commemoration.

In May 2022, the City will invite the public to provide input on this new framework. In addition, the City is collecting feedback from Indigenous, Black and equity-deserving communities, including 2SLGBTQ+ persons and diverse youth. Learn more about how to get involved.