Tory’s executive committee takes next step to renaming Dundas St.

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The renaming of Dundas St. — Toronto’s second-longest street — and other city assets such as schools, parks and buildings bearing that name, just got one step closer to happening.

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But if Tuesday’s marathon of speakers at Mayor John Tory’s executive committee to debate the issue is any indication — it took almost three hours to hear 17 people, some from as far away as Scotland — it’s going to take a while.

Of those speaking — the list included historians, professors, teachers, residents and a former Governor-General — only four residents were opposed to the name change and another to the process itself.

Those clearly in favour included former GG Adrienne Clarkson and her historian-writer husband John Ralston Saul, who spoke separately.

“The name of Dundas has no relevance to Canada … he has no connection to Toronto,” said Clarkson.

Added Saul: “We’re better than him. We must not let ourself be trapped into an ugly colonial mindset just because it’s been around for a while.”

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A 2020 petition of now 15,000 signatures to change Dundas Street — named after Scottish politician Henry Dundas who numerous historians said was opposed to ending the British Empire’s participation in the transatlantic slave trade with the 15-year-delay leading to 600,000 more people being enslaved and sold — is what got the ball rolling in the first place.

In fact, Dundas never set foot in Canada but British Army General and Upper Canada’s first Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe set about currying favour with his overseas boss by naming as many things as he could after him.

“He doesn’t deserve to be honoured by anything in Toronto or in Ontario,” said Clarkson.

The executive committee on Tuesday voted 6-0 in favour of the renaming, with Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong and Coun. James Pasternak absent.

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The report still has to go before city council on July 14 and if approved, the city manager needs to come up with recommendations for new names by spring 2022 with any name change not taking effect until at least early 2023 but don’t hold your breath.

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The name Dundas St. has existed in the city now known as Toronto since, at least, the early 1800s and it could cost as much as $6 million to make the name change but as Clarkson said: “No amount of money can expunge the sin of slavery. No amount of money can right that terrible wrong. We can do this very real thing and remove the name of Dundas from our collective memory and show that Black lives do matter.”

In his closing remarks, Tory agreed it was time to do something.

“When confronted or presented with an opportunity to do something that will create a sense of hope, create a sense of inclusion, create a sense of consistency with our values and with who we are, and what we want to be, that we took that step.”

jstevenson@postmedia.com

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