This week at City Council I voted in support of the staff report to rename Dundas Street and all associated Parks and public assets (ie Yonge-Dundas Square).
This report and recommendation is in direct response to a petition City Council received last year, signed by close to 14,000 individuals calling for Dundas Street to be renamed, citing its namesake Henry Dundas' role in delaying the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Last year, I joined my colleagues Councillors Perks, Cressy, Layton and Fletcher in supporting this endeavour. You can read our joint letter here.
This is an important historic moment in Canada, and the City of Toronto must be shown to be a leader in challenging and correcting our collective institutionalized racism. As part of the work in reconciling Canada’s complex history, we must recognize the contributions of historical figures we have immortalized. The renaming of Dundas Street is an important and symbolic commitment to righting the wrongs against Indigenous and Black people in Toronto.
This is just one action that the residents of the City of Toronto can take to reaffirm our commitment to the implementation of the recommendations in Canada’s Truth & Reconciliation Call to Action and the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism. At each level of government, and as part of our individual work, we must acknowledge our inherent biases and the ideologies we continue to uplift and why. It is only when we acknowledge the truth of these systems can we begin to unpack their lasting damage on our friends and neighbours.
Approval of this change does not mean that the street name will change overnight. There is still significant consultation to take place. Renaming Dundas Street will cost an estimated $5.1M-$6.3M as all street signs, parks, libraries, subway stations, highway signage, and others would need to be renamed. It will impact about 97,000 residents but Canada Post has advised staff that they will proactively redirect mail and make address changes on behalf of customers, as well changing addresses for residences with the city and other orders of government is a fairly easy and low-cost undertaking.
There are also about 4,500 businesses that would be affected and of that, about 60 have the term Dundas in them. There are existing economic development grants available to assist businesses within Business Improvement Areas (BIA) to cover 50% of the costs of new signage and branding (for example).
I do understand that there are concerns for the businesses along Dundas, and I am committed to ensuring that no business incurs costs associated with the name change. I successfully moved an amendment at City Council, directing the City Manager to develop a full (100%) cost recovery program for businesses related to changing the name of Dundas street for any business, regardless of their participation in a BIA. This should include hard costs like signage and branding materials, but also include a review of intangible costs like opportunity loss and tourism costs.
In addition to renaming Dundas, staff have also recommended launching public consultations for a new framework of renaming streets and public spaces. Approval of this report will initiate a robust and careful public engagement process to seek input on the draft City of Toronto Principles for Commemoration in the Public Realm. As part of this work, Staff have proactively identified about 60 other streets across the City that would also need to be potentially reviewed given their connection to historical figures. I want to stress that this is just the beginning of a long process where residents across the City will have plenty of opportunities to provide feedback.
I am committed to working with staff, residents and businesses as we all navigate the work before us. It will be challenging work and necessary in rebuilding Toronto and Canada to uplift our cultural diversity and a truly inclusive city.