I want to provide you with an update on a major development regarding Dundas Street Renaming. A journey that began in June 2020 when an online petition, signed by more than 14,000 of our fellow citizens, reached the City Council, calling for Dundas Street to be renamed.
A year later, in July 2021, City Council considered a comprehensive report from the City Manager that proposed a plan on how to respond to this call for change, including work plans, estimated costs, and potential implications of this rebranding.
Recognizing the historical significance of the namesake of Dundas Street, Henry Dundas, in delaying the abolition of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, City Council unanimously voted to move forward with renaming Dundas Street. This decision was not made lightly, but with the understanding that names hold power, symbols matter, and our city's identity must reflect our collective commitment to justice, inclusion, and recognition of our past.
The City then established a 20-person Recognition Review Community Advisory Committee (CAC) in the fall of 2021, composed of Black and Indigenous leaders, as well as other residents and business owners from the Dundas Street area. Co-chaired by Elder Catherine Tammaro and Dr. Melanie Newton, the committee was given the task of developing a shortlist of new names.
Following two years of consultation, discussion, and research, the CAC unanimously selected the name “Sankofa Square” for Yonge-Dundas Square (YDS) on December 12, 2023. The Indigenous leaders on the committee recognized the significance of this decision as it pertains to the legacy of the Transatlantic slave trade and supported the proposed name, as it resonates with the history and experiences of the Black community in Toronto.
Sankofa represents the idea of drawing strength and wisdom from the past to build a positive future. It is often symbolized by a mythical bird that flies forward while looking backward, with an egg (signifying the future) held in its mouth. This concept highlights the importance of understanding our history, learning from it, and using those lessons as a foundation for shaping our future. As such, the name Sankofa carries a deeply meaningful message of growth, learning, and progress.
On December 14, I tabled a motion, seconded by the Mayor, to officially adopt the new name “Sankofa Square” for Yonge-Dundas Square by the end of Q2 2024. The motion also covered the removal of the Dundas name from three additional city assets and the launch of a public education campaign that will extend into 2025, focusing on acknowledging the impact of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery.
This motion was tabled without notice because timelines shifted unexpectedly. The Recognition Review Community Advisory Committee was originally scheduled to meet on December 5, 2023, which would have allowed us to submit the motion onto the agenda with notice, but they had to reschedule their meeting to December 12, 2023. The motion was urgent, as it contained budget considerations for 2024.
Renaming these four city assets and launching a public education campaign is estimated to cost approximately $2.7 million over two years, with net costs to the City around $700,000.
The estimated cost to rename Yonge-Dundas Square is $300,000 to $340,000, which will be fully covered through community benefits from local developments (see below for more information). Dundas Station, in collaboration with the TTC, City, and the Toronto Metropolitan University, will be renamed at a cost of approximately $1.6 million, funded by Toronto Metropolitan University.
Similarly, Dundas West Subway Station and Jane/Dundas Public Library will also be renamed at costs of $600,000 and $60,000, respectively, funded through capital plans of the associated organizations.
As we move forward with these changes, we're also mindful of the costs associated with this process. Initial estimates for renaming Dundas Street and other City assets in 2022 were around $8.6 million. Recent estimates for 2023 suggest a range of approximately $11.3 – 12.7 million. Given the City’s budget pressures, we've chosen to pause renaming Dundas Street, focusing first on four city assets, minimizing the net cost to our city.
Taking steps to right wrongs, challenge systematic, institutionalized racism and build a more inclusive Toronto is more important than ever. Renaming Dundas Street and other city assets is more than a symbolic act; it's a commitment to building a City that is more inclusive, reflective of our values, and an important step in the ongoing journey toward reconciliation.
Stay tuned for more updates. Together, let's make Toronto Centre not just a place but a community that truly represents us all.
What Community Benefits are being used to rename Yonge-Dundas Square?
There are two developments from approximately 20 years ago that specifically directed section 37 to Yonge-Dundas Square.
311 Bay Street was a development application which was secured through an approval at the former Ontario Municipal Board in June, 2003. As part of the section 37 agreement, $300,000 was secured “for construction of Dundas Square.” With interest, that total is now roughly $345,266.04.
825, 855 and 863 Bay Street was secured through a development approval from April, 2004. Included in that section 37 agreement was $180,000 “for Dundas Square.” With interest, that total is now roughly $192,572.29.
Unlike more modern section 37 agreements there was no “sunset” clause built in so there is no ability for the City to direct these funds elsewhere. To move this money to a different site/project would require reopening these by-laws, a process that would be very time consuming and difficult. As such, it makes sense to use this money for capital works associated with the renaming to Sankofa Square, rather than spending tax dollars on such an endeavour.
Any use do these funds would necessarily need to confirm to the City’s Official Plan policies.