Henry Dundas: Calls to rename Dundas Street in Toronto inspired by Edinburgh Black Lives Matter movement

A street in Canada which shares its name with one in Edinburgh has seen calls to be renamed to reflect present day values amidst the Black Lives Matter protests.

By Caitlyn Dewar
Friday, 12th June 2020, 8:59 am
The road in Toronto connects the city with its western suburbs and several cities in southwestern Ontario.
The road in Toronto connects the city with its western suburbs and several cities in southwestern Ontario.

Like Edinburgh, Toronto’s Dundas Street is named after Henry Dundas, the 18th century Scottish politician who delayed Britain’s abolition of slavery by 15 years.

A local artist in the Canadian city, Andrew Lochend began a petition to rename Toronto’s Dundas Street on Wednesday which had since amassed thousands of supporters.

Across the pond, Dundas Street is a major historic arterial road in Ontario. The road connects the city of Toronto with its western suburbs and several cities in southwestern part of the province.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Mr Lochend had been inspired by the petition originating in Edinburgh which called to remove the Henry Dundas statue from St Andrew Square’s Melville Monument. Earlier this week, Edinburgh City Council leader Adam McVey stated he would feel ‘no sense of loss’ if the statue was removed.

Toronto Mayor John Tory will look into changing the name of the street and a task force will be assembled within 30 days to look into the matter.

During a press briefing this week, Mr Tory said: “We have been clear about that, at the same time acknowledging that it still exists in 21st century Toronto and that there has been plenty of anti-Black racism in Toronto's past.

"That has sparked a discussion about Dundas Street, and other streets and spaces and installations in our city."

"Renaming a major street or public space does create many practical challenges, but we should have a process that can examine our very important and relevant historical questions, along with all of the practical matters involved if such changes were to be made."

Mr Lochend, who began the petition, told Toronto’s National Post that keeping Dundas’ name on the street was ‘particularly galling’.

He added: “Henry Dundas has very little if any impact on British North America other than the fact he purposely obstructed the abolition of slavery and other than the fact he happened to one mates with John Graves Simcoe. Other than that the connection is pretty tenuous.”

Edinburgh’s Dundas Street has been hit with graffiti and posted signs which state ‘Son of slaver Dundas + Colonialist Profiteer’.

The Melville Monument has also been subject to graffiti but it has been agreed by the council the statue will be dedicated to slavery victims with a new plaque set to be added which will explain Dundas’ links to the slave trade.