Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto to be renamed. Here’s what it will be called

Click to play video: 'Yonge-Dundas square to be renamed Sankofa Square but will Torontonians use the new name?'
Yonge-Dundas square to be renamed Sankofa Square but will Torontonians use the new name?
WATCH: Yonge-Dundas Square will be re-named Sankofa Square in 2024. The concept of Sankofa originated in Ghana and refers to the act of reflecting on past teachings, to allow people to move forward together. Global’s Melanie Zettler asked Torontonians for their reactions and thoughts – Dec 15, 2023

The City of Toronto is moving ahead with plans to rename some landmarks that currently bear the moniker of a man some historians believe delayed the end of the slave trade.

On Thursday, council voted to remove the name of Henry Dundas from its signature downtown square, two subway stations and a library.

A council resolution dictates that Yonge-Dundas Square will be renamed Sankofa Square. The name refers to a Ghanaian concept of reflecting on and reclaiming the past, the city said.

The name was recommended by the city’s recognition review community advisory committee.

Dundas West and Dundas subway stations will also get new names, as will the Jane/Dundas library.

Toronto Metropolitan University will take a leading role in renaming Dundas Subway Station, which sits beside its campus. The university recently changed its name to remove reference to Egerton Ryerson and his association with Canada’s residential school system.

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The library will be renamed by the Toronto Public Library Board.

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The total cost of renaming the assets is set to cost around $700,000.

Work to rename Dundas Street itself, however, has been paused until councillors explicitly tell city staff to begin work again.

The latest estimates for the cost of renaming the street sat at $12.7 million.

The move comes after years of debate on the future of Dundas Street and other landmarks sparked during the pandemic.

As the history and names of certain landmarks came under scrutiny at the beginning of the pandemic, Henry Dundas was singled out for his role in delaying the abolition of the British slave trade for 15 years.

Dundas, a key minister in the British government, amended a 1792 resolution to endorse gradual rather than immediate abolition of the slave trade.

A city report, informed by staff interviews with 20 experts and a review of academic research, concludes his actions contributed to the perpetuation of enslavement.

The report said historians have suggested Dundas’ endorsement for gradual abolition was motivated by a fear of radical change, while others have said his position preserved British economic interests and military capabilities in the West Indies.

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The move to rename Dundas Street was far from controversy-free, with critics shocked at the cost and others arguing Dundas was a “committed abolitionist.”

In August, three mayors — Art Eggleton, David Crombie and John Sewell — wrote to Olivia Chow arguing the city should reconsider its plan to rename the street.

In its move away from renaming the street itself, city council has decided to launch a public education campaign that will acknowledge “the impact of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery.”

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow said the new decision struck a balance between responsible spending and acknowledging the mistakes of the past.

“The City of Toronto is committed to acknowledging the impact of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery, while focusing on mitigating costs and impacts on residents and businesses,” Chow said.

“Adopting the name Sankofa Square, recognizes the need to reflect on and reclaim teachings from the past, and enables us to move forward together.”

— with files from The Canadian Press

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