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Reconsider Dundas Street renaming, three former Toronto mayors tell Chow, council

TORONTO — Three former Toronto mayors are asking the city to reconsider its decision to rename Dundas Street, questioning the practicality of the move and the research supporting it. 

In a letter to the current mayor and council, Art Eggleton, David Crombie and John Sewell say they don’t see a valid reason to remove the name of the powerful 18th century Scottish politician Henry Dundas from the street and argue there are more “appropriate ways” to spend the estimated $8.6 million the renaming will cost. 

City council voted in 2021 to rename the street after thousands of people signed a petition noting Dundas’ actions to delay the abolition of slavery. 

Dundas amended a 1792 resolution to endorse gradual rather than immediate abolition, then later as Secretary of War was considered a key architect of a policy to purchase thousands of slaves to bolster British ranks.

In the letter circulated to Mayor Olivia Chow and city council earlier this month, the former mayors argue Dundas was an abolitionist “doing the best he could” under challenging circumstances, suggesting his 1792 amendment was an interim measure to salvage the quest for abolition from defeat.

A city report based on interviews with 20 academic experts and a review of peer-reviewed literature says whether Dundas was viewed “cynically or as a pragmatist,” his actions “contributed to the perpetuation of the enslavement of human beings.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 21, 2023. 

The Canadian Press

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