WORLD NEWS Toronto's Yonge-Dundas square to be renamed. Here's what it...

Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas square to be renamed. Here’s what it will be called — and why | CBC News

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Toronto city council voted Thursday to rename Yonge-Dundas Square to Sankofa Square, and recommended a host of other landmarks be stripped of the Dundas name over connections to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The move comes over three years after council first received a petition raising concerns about the name at height of the Black Lives Matter protests catalyzed by the police killing of George Floyd in the U.S.

In a late council session Thursday night, councillors voted 19-2 to rename Yonge-Dundas Square. Coun. Jaye Robinson, who represents Ward 15, and Coun. Stephen Holyday, who represents Ward 2, voted against the move. 

Dundas Street and other similarly named landmarks are named after Henry Dundas, a Scottish politician active from the 1770s to the early 1800s, when the British parliament was debating slavery abolition motions.

Dundas introduced a motion to stall abolition, however there has been some debate about his intentions. While he has been criticized as attempting to prolong slavery, one descendent of Dundas, Bobby Dundas has argued against he was trying to be strategic with his “gradual abolition” motion.

On Thursday morning, Coun. Chris Moise tabled a motion recommending city council the square’s name be changed to Sankofa Square by the second quarter of 2024.

“The concept of Sankofa, originating in Ghana, refers to the act of reflecting on and reclaiming teachings from the past which enables us to move forward together,” the motion said.

The new name was decided upon unanimously by a renaming advisory committee that includes external experts, the it added.

Dundas Street won’t be renamed for now

The motion also requested that Jane/ Dundas Library be renamed by the second or third quarter of 2024. That was also passed by council Thursday. 

And it recommended that Dundas subway station be renamed in the fourth quarter of 2024 and Dundas West subway station by 2025.

Council agreed to rename the subway stations by a vote of 20-1, but changed the language to request the TTC board to remove the name Dundas, rather than direct it to do so.

Dundas Station is pictured here. The station is located at Yonge-Dundas Square. (CBC)

As for Dundas Street, council received a petition signed by 14,000 people calling for that to be renamed in June 2020.

City council voted in July 2021 to rename the street but decided not to move ahead with because of concerns over cost, instead opting to rename other landmarks. The city estimated the cost of renaming four civic assets and a public education campaign around the changes to be about $2.7 million over two years. 

In August, the city pegged the cost of the renaming Dundas Street at $8.6 million, out of a total $16.17-billion operating budget. By the fall, that estimate had ballooned to $12.7 million. 

Chow says new name ‘enables us to move forward’

Mayor Olivia Chow, who supported the motion, said in council on Thursday that Dundas’ actions were “horrific” and wanted to delay the end of the slave trade over concerns about who would work on plantations. 

“It’s heartbreaking, and of course there’s been extensive debate,” said Chow. “But ultimately we are charting a path forward, one that is addressing community concerns,” she said. The committee spent two years on the new name and it was not picked arbitrarily, she added.

“It enables us to move forward together, it’s just beautiful. I couldn’t think of a better name for a gathering place at the heart of our city,” she said. 

Coun. Robinson said she would not support the motion because the public did not get to weigh in on the name.

Coun. Holyday said he feels council is wrong abut the Dundas name and that the renaming could damage public trust in government. 

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