June 28, 2021

June 28, 2021

Recognition Review and Response to the Dundas Street Renaming Petition

In June 2020, City Council received a petition calling for Dundas Street to be renamed. The street is named after Scottish politician Henry Dundas, who scholars have concluded played an instrumental role in delaying the abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, causing more than half a million more Black people to be enslaved in the British Empire.

The City is reaffirming its commitment and taking action to implement the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism and Indigenous truth and reconciliation, as well as other equity-related policies and plans. A Recognition Review of commemoration and recognition was initiated to examine and respond to how systemic racism and discrimination may be embedded in City assets, commemorative programs, and naming policies. The naming of streets, parks and other civic properties, and representation in monuments and plaques reflect community values through how we choose to collectively honour the past and shape the future.

Responding to the Dundas Street petition is a foundational step in the Recognition Review; addressing the historical legacy of Dundas Street, is a key step in righting wrongs, challenging systemic institutionalized racism and building a more inclusive Toronto.

Historical Review

An extensive review of peer-reviewed academic, scholarly, and historical research was conducted. Key findings from this review are available on the Recognition Review web page.

More than 20 academic experts in the areas of public history, Black Canadian studies, and public commemoration were consulted. The consensus among historians remains that the actions of Henry Dundas, regardless of his intention, resulted in the delay of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, causing more than half a million more Black people to be enslaved in the British Empire.

As an educational resource for the public, staff have partnered with the Toronto Public Library to publish a reading list on Henry Dundas’ life and legacy, the history of Dundas Street, and the contemporary Black experience in Canada.

Discovery sessions

The City engaged QuakeLab, an independent consulting firm with extensive experience working with equity-deserving communities, to develop a public consultation plan for the project. As part of this initial engagement, the City and its consultant held discovery sessions with representatives of Black and Indigenous communities, Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) located along Dundas Street, and Black business owners and entrepreneurs to review and validate proposed options for responding to the petition ahead of broader public consultations.

Participants of the discovery sessions included 25 community leaders over four sessions, reflecting a range of perspectives and lived experiences. Small groups were formed to allow for honest and open conversations.

Key findings of the discovery sessions included:

  • Consensus that given the information that has surfaced about Henry Dundas, to not completely remove and rename the streets and all other civic assets now carrying the Dundas name would be compromising Toronto’s position against anti-Black racism.
  • Agreement about the importance of encouraging public education and dialogue about historic commemorations alongside a renaming process.
  • Stressed need to share educational resources about Henry Dundas’ legacy. Emphasis on the importance of the City supporting businesses through the period of transition if a decision is made to rename the street, as business owners will require time and guidance to prepare for a change.

Jurisdictional Review

The origins and meanings of monuments, street, park and building names are being scrutinized in jurisdictions around the world as part of an effort to identify figures who contributed to acts of violence, oppression and discrimination against Black, Indigenous, and racialized communities through colonialism and other processes. Staff are actively monitoring global developments to understand how other jurisdictions are responding to proposals to rename streets and facilities and requests to remove monuments.

By June 2021, 430 case studies primarily from 2017-21 were identified, drawn from Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and 11 other countries.

More information on the Jurisdictional Review, including details on the case studies and key findings, is available on the City’s Recognition Review web page.

Residents/Businesses affected

Dundas Street is a significant roadway in Toronto, home to:

  • 97,673 residents
  • Over 4,970 properties
  • 48,975 dwellings
  • Over 4,510 businesses
    • Of the 4,500 businesses, 60 have “Dundas” as part of their legal or branded name
    • 25,000 employees
  • Six BIAs along Dundas Street
    • One BIA includes Dundas in its name (Little Portugal on Dundas)
  • Two community councils
  • Nine City wards
  • 21 City-named neighborhoods
  • Four transit lines

If Council opts to change the name of Dundas Street, it is recommended that staff report back to Council with a transition and support plan for residents and businesses (including BIAs) in Q2 2022, at the same time that a proposed new name will be recommended. This transition plan would include resources, guidance and strategies to prepare for the name change.

Assets affected

“Dundas Street” refers to:

  • Dundas Street East
  • Dundas Street West
  • Old Dundas Street (a local road east and west of the Humber River, south of Dundas Street West)
  • Dundas Square (a local road south of Yonge-Dundas Square)

The recommendation to rename Dundas Street includes by extension the renaming of all civic and other assets bearing the Dundas name.

Other assets affected by this name change include:

  • Over 730 street signs
  • Signage on Highway 427
  • Two subway stations, two streetcar/bus routes and numerous transit shelters renamed and signage, etc.
  • Yonge-Dundas Square renamed and signage, etc.
  • Three parks renamed and 12 park and facility signs
  • One Toronto Public Library branch renamed and signage, etc.
  • 625 Bike Share station and Green P carpark signs, etc.
  • 129 signs and 35 info pillars for the TO360 wayfinding program
  • PATH signage
  • 1 Toronto Police Service division headquarters sign
  • 1 Corporate Real Estate Management operations centre sign

New street addresses would also be required for Toronto Community Housing Corporation properties, a fire station, a museum, a shelter, Employment & Social Services offices, and a major Toronto Public Health centre offering a variety of clinical services to the community.

Staff will also communicate with neighbouring municipalities throughout the process about the impact of the change. Dundas Street extends into Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington and Hamilton. Beyond the former town of Dundas in Hamilton, the street turns into various numbered highways, periodically picking up the Dundas name again into Brant, Oxford, and Middlesex Counties and London. Preliminary conversations with counterparts in some of these municipalities have indicated that they are awaiting the outcome of Toronto’s review prior to considering changes of their own. A change to the name of Dundas Street in Toronto does not mean that other municipalities need to adopt the same name. There are many examples of roads taking on different names as they cross municipal boundaries.

Budget breakdown

The total cost of the renaming is estimated as ranging from $5.1 million to $6.3 million over two years, 2022 through 2023:

  • Toronto Transit Commission costs (includes changes to Dundas and Dundas West Stations, train and streetcar technical systems, Dundas streetcar, signage, wayfinding, system-wide maps): $1.6 million
  • Transportation Services costs (includes changes to street and highway directional guide signs, TO360 Wayfinding signage, and costs for materials, fabrication and labour): $1.3-2.2 million
  • Toronto Parking Authority costs (includes changes to Bike Share stations, parking equipment, signage, and information technology): $525,000
  • Communications costs (includes costs related to city-wide multilingual marketing campaign to inform businesses and residents about the change): $500,000
  • Yonge-Dundas Square renaming costs (includes costs for rebranding and signage): $300,000
  • Parks, Forestry and Recreation costs (includes costs for changing park signage and community engagement costs for park renaming): $120,000 – $300,000
  • Other signage costs (includes costs for PATH signage and other civic buildings located on Dundas Street): $75,000
  • Contingency (15%): $660,000 – $820,000

Former streets that have been renamed in Toronto

There are many examples of Toronto buildings, landmarks and streets being renamed:

  • In March 2020, Toronto renamed a portion of Russell Street, named after one of early Toronto’s most infamous supporters of slavery. Russell Street was renamed to honour Ursula Franklin, a pioneering scientist and feminist, in March 2020.
  • In 2019, the Six Points Interchange project resulted in three new public street names being established in Etobicoke Centre.

Recognition Review

A review of how the City commemorates public figures and events in places and other civic assets has been conducted, and a commemorative framework with draft guiding principles for present and future naming/renaming and other forms of commemoration is included for consideration as part of this report.

Several other commemorative street names, place names and monuments have been criticized for honouring subjects that are no longer considered to be reflective of the city’s contemporary values. Staff are aware of at least 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. Examples include:

  • Baby Point neighbourhood named after James Baby, a Toronto resident and slave owner; Jarvis Street named after William Jarvis, who was a slave owner in Toronto; and,
  • Yonge Street named after George Yonge, a British politician who has been implicated in corruption and slave trafficking.

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