Open Letter to Toronto City Council on the Renaming of Dundas Street
Dear Toronto City Council,
We, the undersigned, represent a global contingent of community leaders, knowledge keepers, elders, scholars, and cultural workers. As persons who share a responsibility to create, disseminate, and preserve knowledge, we write to you to express our support for renaming Dundas Street.
The conclusions reached by City of Toronto staff that “[Henry Dundas’] actions and those of the British government he served contributed to the perpetuation of the enslavement of human beings” are clear and supported by substantial research and evidence. We commend the work done by City staff in engaging directly with a diverse range of knowledgeable sources to reach their conclusions.
All across the world, Black, Indigenous, other racialized and/or marginalized communities, and their allies have long been demanding meaningful action to confront the systemic racism, trauma, and violence embedded in public commemorative infrastructure. We stand in solidarity with these calls and believe that the City of Toronto has an obligation to listen to those voices and to act now to address these concerns. The decision City Council makes will have far-reaching impacts on similar proposals elsewhere. We implore you to demonstrate your leadership and commitment on this issue, and to your own civic motto of “Diversity Our Strength.”
The recent locating of mass or unmarked graves of nearly a thousand children at the sites of former Residential "Schools" in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, and Cowessess First Nations territory, and the horrific certainty that more such announcements are forthcoming, underscore the urgency with which we believe Toronto must act. Statues, street names, and commemorative infrastructure that celebrate the perpetrators of slavery, colonialism, and cultural genocide cannot stand whilst Black, Indigenous, and racialized and/or marginalized people continue to be discriminated against, assaulted, and killed as a result of white supremacy.
We support the proposed review, beyond the Dundas name, of all City assets, public monuments, commemorative initiatives, awards, and honours to better understand and respond to the systematic racism and discrimination embedded within them, as well as a revised public commemoration program.
It is imperative that these review frameworks are properly transparent and accessible, and include a meaningful community-led engagement process with key stakeholder groups that are deeply affected by systemic racism and discrimination, including (but not limited to) Black Lives Matter – Toronto, Indigenous Elders, cultural organizations, advocacy groups, and councils.
Black and Indigenous lives matter more than these outdated honourifics.