Renaming Dundas Street could cost the city more than $12 million

According to a new city report presented at a city council meeting on Dec. 13, the costs of the city initiative to rename Dundas Street have grown.

In July 2021, city council endorsed recommendations to initiate the renaming process for Dundas Street due to its association with Henry Dundas and his role in delaying the abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. A Community Advisory Committee (CAC) was subsequently formed in the fall of 2021, consisting of 20 members, including Black and Indigenous leaders, diverse residents, and business owners along Dundas Street.

The new report was circulated at the request of city councillor Stephen Holyday, who also asked for information about the current cost estimate as well as how the decision to rename was informed. Specifically, Holyday asked if it took into account recent “scholarly articles” by professor Angela McCarthy “published in the peer-reviewed journal Scottish Affairs in 2022 and 2023,” which are “regarding (a) the accuracy of accusations against Henry Dundas.”

Responding to Councillor Holyday’s specific questions, the city outlined that the estimated cost for renaming Dundas Street in 2023 ranges from $11.3 to $12.7 million. This includes preliminary estimates covering various aspects, with the main costs being associated with Transportation Services, Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto Parking Authority, signage, communication, and public engagement costs. According to city staff, the figures have increased since 2021, accounting for inflation, updated inventories, contract escalations, and additional resources needed for planning and administration. Provincial costs are excluded from these estimates, pending updated information.

The total expenditure on the Dundas Renaming project to date is approximately $250,000.

The city emphasizes its commitment to the renaming process, which involves community engagement and careful planning to address historical concerns associated with the Dundas Street name. The Community Advisory Committee continues to play a crucial role in shaping this initiative, contributing diverse perspectives to the renaming project.

Back in 2020, the campaign to rename Dundas was initiated by Toronto activist and artist Andrew Lochhead. 

The group Rename Dundas Street shared an open letter in 2021 addressed to city councillors for elders, community leaders, scholars and artists or “global knowledge keepers” to sign and share.

“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,” the letter reads. “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 request by Holyday to refer the item back to executive committee was defeated in a council vote 15 to 11 and no action will be taken by the city on the agenda item.