In the summer of 2020, a petition was launched calling on the City of Toronto to begin a public, transparent, and inclusive process to rename Dundas Street over the role of its namesake (Henry Dundas, First Viscount Melville) in obstructing the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.*
The petition was created in solidarity with longstanding demands by Black and Indigenous communities and their allies for governments and institutions to address systemic racism, colonial violence, and white supremacy embedded within statues, monuments, and street and place names. These demands took on a greater urgency following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, and in the context of the global protests that followed this horrific crime.
In Bristol, UK, people toppled a statue of enslaver Edward Colston. In Montreal, a statue of Canadian Prime Minister John A. MacDonald was decapitated. In Toronto, monuments to King Edward VII, MacDonald, and Egerton Ryerson were covered in pink paint.
These actions, and others like them, called attention to the immediate need for Torontonians to address how racism is reflected and celebrated in our city. More recently, the discovery of 215 children buried in an unmarked grave at Kamloops Indian Residential School in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation territory has furthered the urgency of this undertaking.
To date, the petition to rename Dundas Street has garnered over 14,500 signatures and has resulted in the City of Toronto beginning a process that seeks not only to reconsider the Dundas name, but includes a broader review of the names of all municipal assets, awards, and honourifics. Additionally, and most importantly, the City has begun developing a new community-informed framework for future commemoration.
The latest report from the City of Toronto has reached the unambiguous conclusion that Henry Dundas delayed and obstructed the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Toronto should not have a street named for him.
But to get Dundas Street renamed, City Council and the Executive Committee must vote for the findings and recommendations of City staff to be accepted.
This is where YOU come in! Check out the options on this page and decide which one is best for you. You can also choose to do more than one, or all of them! Every action helps!
Get the Facts
Who was Henry Dundas?
Why does Toronto have a street named for him?
Learn about the City of Toronto's review process, and why renaming is important.
Committee is the ONLY place where citizens can directly address their elected officials in either spoken or written form.
Find out how you can be a part of the public record by speaking or writing to the Executive Committee.
Write to Your Councillor
Make sure your City Councillor knows that you support renaming Dundas Street!
Write in your own words, or use the handy template we've created for you.
Need help finding your City Councillor? Click the button and we'll do it for you!
Who was Dundas? Why Rename?
Portrait of Viscount Melville, Sir Henry Raeburn. Oil on Canvas. 1802. Collection of the Tate Britain
Statue of Egerton Ryerson, one of the architects of Canada's residential school system, at X University in Toronto hours before it was torn down.
Artistic Intervention at the Equestrian Statue of King Edward VII, Queens Park, Toronto
Who was Henry Dundas?
Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742–1811), was a prominent Scottish lawyer and member of the UK Parliament. He held several high-profile cabinet positions, including Home Secretary and Secretary of War. In the former capacity he worked in concert with West Indian interests to obstruct the abolition of trafficking in enslaved persons.
Why does Toronto have a Dundas Street?
Dundas Street was named by Lt. Governor John Graves Simcoe, who made a policy of replacing Indigenous place names with what he felt were more appropriate British names. This is why Toronto was once called York. Like many colonial administrators, Simcoe chose these names from the powerful people and places of his home country.
What does the City of Toronto's staff recommend?
The City of Toronto recommends renaming Dundas Street.
As part of the review process in response to the Dundas Street petition, City Staff have undertaken substantial consultation with leading scholarly voices to reach their most recent conclusions regarding Dundas and his role in obstructing abolition.
We invite you to read the conclusions of City staff, and to visit the official City of Toronto Recognition Review website. You can also find an extensive reading list compiled by City staff and the Toronto Public Library. Highlights of this reading list include Dr. Melanie Newton's Henry Dundas: Empire and Genocide and Dr. Stephen Mullen's forthcoming Henry Dundas: a 'great delayer' of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The University of Edinburgh has also archived a fascinating discussion, Historians on Dundas and Slavery, which you can watch too.
Why is renaming important?
"The horrific discovery of 215 children buried in an unmarked grave at Kamloops Indian Residential School in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation territory, has renewed nationwide debate about statues and place names honouring historic figures who contributed to colonialism." –City of Toronto email, June 7, 2021
These issues have been raised by Black, Indigenous, and other racialized peoples multiple times, over many decades. Recent examples of this activism include the efforts of the Wreckonciliation student group at X University and artistic inventions by Black Lives Matter in Toronto last summer.
These events have clearly illustrated that statues, street names, and commemorative infrastructure that celebrate the perpetrators of slavery, colonialism, and cultural genocide have a real and tangible impact on the lived experiences of communities of colour and Black and Indigenous communities who are forced to interact with them on a daily basis. We, as a city, have a duty to listen to the voices calling for their removal and act accordingly.
Renaming Dundas Street is an important step in addressing the many ways that systemic racism and colonial violence are embedded in the fabric of the City of Toronto.
Addressing the Executive Committee
Whether you are a “deputation debutant” or an “experienced expositor,” you should familiarize yourself with the purpose, members, and procedures of the City Council Executive Committee and expectations toward speakers. Speaking on behalf of an organization or yourself is known as "making a deputation." Deputations are part of the public record.
IF YOU DO NOT FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION BEING A PART OF THE OFFICIAL RECORD, THIS IS NOT A GOOD OPTION FOR YOU. Instead, write to your City Councillor!
What is the Executive Committee?
The Executive Committee makes recommendations on Council's strategic policy and priorities, governance policy and structure, financial planning and budgeting, fiscal policy including revenue and tax policies, intergovernmental and international relations, Council and its operations, and human resources and labour relations. –City of Toronto Website
Who is the Executive Committee?
The current Toronto City Council Executive Committee is:
How to Make a Deputation
For information on how to submit your comments or to sign up to speak (virtually) to the Executive Committee, please follow the procedures outlined at: https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/tmmis/have-your-say.htm
For advice on what to include in your written comments or oral deputation, Toronto Youth Food Policy has assembled this handy guide here:
Additionally, we'd suggest including statements on how "Option 4: Renaming all civic assets bearing the Dundas name," would impact you personally, and how you feel it would benefit the city.
Write Your City Councillor
One of the easiest ways to participate in local affairs is to write to your City Councillor and tell them how you feel about an issue.
We encourage you to write your City Councillor to share your support for renaming Dundas Street.
Don't know who your City Councillor is?
Need some tips for your letter? Check out this handy site from the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council
You can also use this email template we've created. Look to the right, it's under the headline "Email Template".
Fill out the form, and the smart template created by our friends at Progressive Nation will automatically identify your city councillor when you enter your address! It'll also send a bonus copy of the letter to Mayor Tory. Technology is amazing!
Letter Writing Tips
If you are writing your own letter to your councillor, follow these helpful tips from the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council to make sure your letter is effective!
Include your contact information. This indicates to your City Councillor that you are a constituent in their ward.
Be concise. Written communication should be no longer than one page.
For more info visit: https://tyfpc.ca/whatwedo/advocacytoolkit/cityofficials/
Sign Our Open Letter
Are you a Community Leader, Indigenous Elder, Knowledge Keeper, Academic, Scholar, Artist, or PhD or Graduate Student?
If so, you likely understand the impact and recognize the importance of the decision Toronto is set to undertake.
How City Council responds to the findings of City staff regarding Dundas Street will have significant impact on other jurisdictions considering similar requests. This is why it is important that Toronto's Mayor and City Councillors understand that the world is looking to them to show leadership on addressing the ways that white supremacy, racism, and colonial violence are present in the urban landscape.
In order to demonstrate this, we've created an open letter that you can sign and easily share with your friends, colleagues and networks. Please consider doing so today! The shareable link is here: https://forms.gle/AQqyHAfVC9nZ86HC6
Please note that a valid email address is required for verification purposes. Email addresses will not be published or sold to third parties, and signatories will not be contacted except to update them on the outcome and impact of their contributions.
List of Signatories
Andrew Lochhead, PhD Student, X University
Audra Williams, Toronto
Diana Chan McNally, Toronto Drop In Network
James MacFarlane, Toronto
Amanda Merpaw, OISE, University of Toronto
Rad Popovic, Toronto
Dr. Lorraine York, McMaster University
Laura Scrimshaw, Toronto
Melanie Noble, Toronto
Sahana Gunaratnam, Toronto
Paige Wilson, MSc Student, University of Northern BC
Simone Honkanen Otis, Toronto
David Plowman, Artist/Producer, Toronto
William Taylor, Toronto
Thomas Aman, Artist, Toronto
Darren Reinhart, Cultural Worker/Dundas St. Resident
Dr. Ross Arnold, UCLA
Sibat Anam, McGill University
Brent Alexander, Coordinator, Glen Rhodes Food Bank
Stacy Gardner, Writer, Local Immigration Partnership
Prof. Stephanie Bunclark, Okanagan College
An G, Hospital Worker
Crystal Hawk M.Ed., Toronto
Thomas L. Colford, Actor, Toronto
Prof. Charles C. Dyer, University of Toronto
Christian Beermann, Sociologist, Univ. of Toronto
Molly Johnson, Artist, Toronto
Judy Land, Bloordale
tamara lee, Baby Point
Nathan Barnett, Toronto
Kiri Chan, Engineer, Toronto
Dr. Vanessa Godden, Artist/Curator Univ. of Toronto
Sarah Cullen, Artist, Mnissing
Samuel La France, Arts Admin, Toronto
keiko Hart, Artist, Toronto
Kevin Edmonds Ph.D, Caribbean Studies, U. of Toronto
denisha black, Toronto
Tereza Coutinho, West End, Toronto
Benjamin Dickerson, Guest
Robert Lukacs MSc., University of Toronto
Dr. Thembi Soddell, Artist/Academic, Australia
Arthi Vivekanandan HBSc, University of Toronto
Jessica Pinney, RMIT School of Art
Brigita Gedgaudas, Lithuania
Patti Kastanias, NP, Toronto
Mani Mazinani, Artist
Christopher Tsang, Student, Wilfred Laurier University
Elizabeth Page-Gould, Assoc. Prof, U of Toronto
Brett Story, Artist, X University
Mohit Kumar Mehta
Eliza Brandy, Archaeologist, Toronto
Kaeden O'Donnell, Church-Wellesley
Rachel DiSaia, Toronto
Laurie Stewart, Toronto
Kamini Murthy-Korteweg, Creative Destruction Lab
Karen Scora, Artist, Toronto
Gerry Smith, Artist, Toronto
Emily McCutcheon, Author
Tabitha Baumander, Toronto
Dr. Jeremiah Garsha, UK
Kathleen Grzybowski, Toronto
Prof. Blake Fitzpatrick, X University
Ms. Linda Sawka, Scarborough-Agincourt
Carly Friesen, Toronto
Noor Alé, Curator, Visual Arts Centre, Clarington
Jen Castro, Toronto
Carmelle Mohr, PhD Student, Pres. Scholar, UCBerkely
Elmer Bagares, Dundas Street Resident
Peter Morris, Artist, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
Christopher Douglas, Toronto
Jonathan Hutchinson, Afro Caribbean Community
Zoe Orion, Toronto
Kristin Basmadjian, Toronto Downtown
Dr. Sarah May, Dept. History, Swansea University, Wales
Tasman Richardson, Artist, Toronto
Anna Synenko, Writer
Serena Stucke, Artist, New York City
Anne Bourne, Artist, Toronto
Sidi Chen, Artist, Chinatown, Vancouver
Christopher Willes, Artist & Cultural Worker, Public Recordings
Alexander Angus McKay, Artist, Windsor, Ontario
Holly Timpener, Artist, Montreal
Miranda Black MASc, Artist, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte
Bill Burns, Artist, Toronto
Natalya Androsova Ph.D, Author, X University
Dr. Chris Glover, Canada
Nicole Nigro, Artist
Florencia Berinstein, Toronto
Sheri Nault, Artist, Metis
Layne Hinton, Artist/Curator, ArtSpin
Heather-Dawn Messias, Parent/Writer, Black Citizen
Dr. Rebekah Farrugia, Oakland University, Michigan
Fan Wu, Artist, Art Metropole
Rebecca Taylor, Artist, Dundas, Ontario
Virginia Green, Artist, Tsalagi Seminole
Dr. Luis-Manuel Garcia Mispireta, University of Birmingham, UK
Grandmother Ingrid Mayrhofer, Artist
Sean Meades, Director NORDIK Institute, Lecturer, Algoma U.
Rowena Katigbak, Artist, Filipina/o/x Community
June Pak, Artist & Educator, University of Toronto
Dr. Clelia Rodriguez, University of Toronto
Alisa Wing, Leslieville
Niloo Inalouei, Artist, Iranian-Canadian Community
Julie E René de Cotret, Artist/Curator, Franco-Ontarien
Dr. Stephanie Yorke, Canada
Brian Postalian, Theatre Artist
Jackie Timpener, Artist, Toronto
Brian McLachlan, Toronto
Milena Zasadzien, Senior City Planner, City of Los Angeles
Alana Bartol, Artist/Faculty, Alberta University of the Arts
Earl Miller, Writer/Editor, Toronto
Hannah Cheesman, Toronto
Signe Emdal, Artist, Denmark
Rev. Carrie Gates, Treaty 6 Territory
Assoc. Prof. Erika Supria Honisch, Stonybrook University
Assoc. Prof. Nerissa S. Balce, SUNY Stonybrook
Heather Jane, Parkdale
Tobaron Waxman, Intergenerational LGBT Artist Residency
Miggy Esteban, Ph.D Student, Social Justice Ed. U of T.
Eva Kolcze, Artist, Toronto
Rui Pires, Toronto
Elaine Cagulada, Social Justice Ed, U of T
JP King, Educator
Shannon Rae Stratton
Steven Richman, Teacher, Artist, Community Organizer
Kelly Dyment, Teacher
Jesselyn Dungo, TDSB
Jacqueline St.Pierre, Metis of Upper Detroit River/ Apprentice and Helper to Elder Isabelle Meawasige Serpent River FN
Judy Major-Girardin, Artist, McMaster University
nic cooper, Artist
Rachel Prideaux, Canada
Lanrick Benett Jr. Toronto Danforth
Andrea Slavik, Artist/Educator, Windsor
Dr. Su Yang, University of Melbourne, Australia
Dr. Kimberly Baltzer-Jaray, Kings University College, London, ON
Carla Dew, Kings University College, London, ON
Merel Zwarts, Artist, The Netherlands, (Friend of Toronto)
Timothy Long, Artist/Musician, Muscogee, Thlopthlocco, Choctaw
Stacey Van Riek, Social Work Student, London, ON
Elinor Whidden, Artist, Toronto
Artist Eugenio Salas, Latinx
Dr. Rob Luzecky, Purdue University
Myung-Sun Kim, Artist
Rui Pimenta, Arts Worker
Leena Raudvee, Artist, Pillory
Professor Corinne Fowler, University of Leicester, UK
Sameer Farooq, Artist
Lynne TevenSky, Citizen-at-Large, P.A.R.C.
The campaign to rename Dundas Street has received substantial media coverage both in Canada and around the world.
It has even been featured in a BBC Scotland documentary film. Click on the news outlet logos to view select articles, videos, and audio files.