‘This is going to be massive’: Move to replace the Dundas name causes ripples across the province
July 2, 2021
While Dundas Street in Toronto may soon be renamed, it’s unclear whether the dozens of stores, schools and streets across the province also bearing the name of the 18th-century Scottish lawmaker will follow suit.
City of Toronto staff, including Mayor John Tory, recommended this week that Dundas Street and square be renamed to end the commemoration of Henry Dundas, a Scottish lawmaker with authority over Canada whose amendment to a 1792 bill before Parliament slowed the end of the slave trade.
City staff said the renaming process would cost Toronto an estimated $5.1 million to $6.3 million, of which $1.3 million to $2.2 million would be spent on updating signage.
Should the street be given a new name, it could result in a cascade of renaming across the city and province. Many Ontario municipalities and business owners, though, are still uncertain whether they’re willing to follow in Toronto’s footsteps.
Mississauga is undergoing a review of what would need to go into renaming its portion of Dundas Street.
“The city of Mississauga has been following the work being done by the city of Toronto, which has been comprehensive in scope,” said Mayor Bonnie Crombie in a statement to the Star Tuesday. “Before we make any decisions in the city of Mississauga, we would need to better understand the cost and other implications of the renaming of not only Dundas Street, but other streets that may be problematic.”
During a council meeting Wednesday, Crombie said the city would work on an interim report to understand the scope of the renaming project and resources it would take aimed for the fall.
“This is going to be massive,” she said. “But it’s something we have to look at. It’s something we have to come to terms with and have a discussion about.”
Hamilton is home to the former town -- now a community of more than 24,000 within the city limits -- still called Dundas. A spokesperson for Hamilton told the Star that a report reviewing the city landmarks, monuments and street names is expected to go to council in July.
“The report will not be recommending any actions for any particular statues, landmarks, street names, but rather, if passed by committee and council, it would start the process to review the issue,” said spokesperson Jen Recine.
Dundas is also the name of the main downtown street in London, Ont. That may change following a review the city is currently undertaking.
Rumina Morris, director of London’s anti-racism anti-oppression unit, said in a statement Tuesday that city staff will report to council later this year on any recommended changes that “would support and implement the city’s commitment to eradicate anti-Black, anti-Indigenous and people of colour oppression,” including renaming Dundas and other streets.
“Staff will also be preparing a list of potential new street names in consultation with the community that reflect the contribution of London’s historic Black families, Indigenous communities, and people of colour,” said Morris. “Dundas Street and other streets in London will be examined and potentially renamed within the scope of this review and in close consultation with the community.”
Toronto District School Board (TDSB) schools names such as Dundas Junior Public School near Dundas and Broadview, are currently under review, said board spokesperson Ryan Bird.
“In April, the TDSB approved a motion that will lead to a citywide review of all school names,” said Bird.
As part of this review, Bird said, a group of students, parents, educators, community members and “appropriate qualified experts and individuals involved in anti-racism work” is being formed to advise on school naming.
“This plan aims to improve the naming and renaming process for schools to ensure that school names better represent the diverse people, cultures and history of Toronto,” said Bird.
Keir Overton, spokesperson for Dundas Valley School of the Arts (DVSA), located in Hamilton’s Dundas area, said the school is “very aware” of its name’s association with Henry Dundas, and it has been a topic of discussion for sometime among staff, students and its board.
“DVSA is an inclusive community,” he said. “It’s very important to the school that it be considered a progressive cultural institution. Our board is investigating how to commemorate our art school’s place in the region, while embracing its values and principles.
“DVSA’s consideration of a name change is part of an overdue national and international reflection in our post-colonial era.”
For businesses, changing the name might erode decades of familiarity and trust with customers and the neighbourhood, said Miguel Cabral, who has co-owned Dundas Street Supermarket, located a few blocks west of Dundas and Bathurst, for 30 years.
“It would be a headache to change it,” said Cabral. “We’ve been in business for so long, everybody knows us by our name. We’ll have to discuss it, see what the best option is.”
The cost for Cabral and others with similar store names to change their signs would be significantly lower, but they would also have to update their stores’ internet presences, and possibly their business licences.