Lists Perspective

What should be the new name to replace Dundas street?

There is a long and popular street that reaches from the east end of Toronto and goes into neighbouring townships ending in Waterdown, Hamilton, Ontario according to Google Maps. The street of Dundas houses multiple popular destinations like the Eaton’s Centre, Yonge-Dundas Square, the Art Gallery of Ontario and Dragon City. There are businesses named after the street in pun form or with “on Dundas Street.” Furthermore, the two subways, a library and possibly a bridge near a river valley are also named Dundas.

Now what’s in the name, a little history and the reason why some people want to rename the street. The street was developed in different sections. First, the street was partially named after Dundas Valley then it was a street used to connect a township Coote’s Paradise in the late 1700s in Upper Canada. The road was named after the first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, John Simcoe, friend Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville. The road was constructed in 1796 in East York.

Photo of the contruction of street car tracks between Dundas street and McCaul street.
May 1922 – 1923 in Toronto. Public Domain.

A Brief Biography of Henry Dundas

Henry Dundas was a Scottish Lord who was an advocate for Scotland and independent Whig politician. He was known as the “uncrowned king of Scotland.” He was, at his time, the most powerful politician in Scotland in the 18th century and a trusted lieutenant of the  British Prime Minister, William Pitt (William the Younger). He encouraged Scottish enlightenment which was encouraging new books, scientific fields and technological advances.

He was delaying force of stopping the bill for the abolition of the slave trade in 1792. It was delayed for 15 years due to his support of the gradual abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade in the British Empire instead of an immediate end which was what the opposition wanted. He diluted the bill written by William Wilberforce. The delay caused more than 630,000 people to wait more than a decade for their relative’s freedom. For this, he was known as the “great tyrant.”

He did act as counsel to Joseph Knight, a person who was purchased as a slave in Jamaica then was later taken to Scotland. When Knight’s escape attempt failed he launched a legal battle for his freedom. The case was Knight v. Wedderburn. The case for Knight’s emancipation won marking a new milestone in Scotland that no person can be a slave on Scottish soil.

In 1795, Dundas supported the use of dogs to hunt down Jamaican Maroons, escaped slaves living in rural mountainous land of Jamaica living free from the British rule, of Trelawney Town by Governor Major General George Walpole. The township was a free black community with a signed treaty from the British in 1740. This event happened during the Second Maroon War between 1795-76.

In Grenada, the British military front was supported by Dundas has the Secretary of War by supporting the campaign after Brigadier-General Oliver Nicolls wrote him. He sent over around 4,000 British infantry men. It was to suppress an abolitionist uprising from 1795-96 fighting against British rule led by Julien Fédon. A son of a freed African slave and a French jeweler born in Martinique who once owned a plantation in Saint John Parish (also known as the Belvedere Estate) in Grenada. The event was called the Fédon’s rebellion in Grenada which was inspired by the Haitian rebellion.

He was also the last person impeached in the United Kingdom for mishandling funds as the Secretary of State for War. Afterwards, he didn’t return to public office. Henry Dundas was not a politician in Canada nor visited Canada. He was just friends with someone naming a street.


If Dundas Street was renamed today, what name would it have?

You can’t take off the name and leave it blank for months. It would be confusing to anyone reading a map. Also, the renaming would be costly at an estimated $5.1 million to $6.3 million just on signage from city-owned property. I am not sure what the cost would be for the residents along the street and the businesses affected. I have some suggestions of what name could be used to replace the current name. I am choosing names that have a strong connection to Toronto and were people who contributed to the area of the cities. (Except for one selection.) These names should have some meaning behind the name that is unique to Southern Ontario due to the long stretch of the street like a historical reference that brings people together. It really can not be made lightly.

Old Governor’s Street

Just extend the name of the current name of the road in a different part of the province. Governor’s road is in Hamilton near the end of Dundas. Dundas street is also called Highway 11 and the other name for Governor’s road is Highway 99. The renaming would just involve naming the whole street the same name.

Timothy Eaton Street

A Toronto-born retailer that had the largest department store in Canada from the late 1800s until the early 2000s. Timothy Eaton’s namesake has the popular shopping centre on Dundas. Renaming the street would just draw more attention to the shopping area. It would also be celebrating a Canadian businessman.

Wilberforce Street

William Wilberforce was a British parliament member and social reformer who fought for the abolition of the slave trade and slavery in the British empire. He had a long friendship with Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. And he was influenced by Thomas Clarkson, an abolitionist. Wilberforce and others campaigned to end the trade had British ships carrying black slaves from Africa to the West Indies to be bought and sold. He regularly introduced anti-slavery motions in parliament being a part of the British bill, the Slave Trade Act 1807 (An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade) which prohibited the slave trade in the British Empire. One of the bills that William Wilberforce wrote was delayed by Henry Dundas. Furthermore, there are places in Ontario already named after William Wilberforce like the Wilberforce Settlement northwest of London, Ontario. The small colony of free African American citizens created a place where they could live in political freedom between 1829-1850.

Teiaiagon Street

It was a small Iroquois village east of Humber River. One of the two villages that occupied the area before it became Toronto. The other village was called Ganatsekwyagon. The two villages belonged to the Iroquois Confederacy which consisted of the five nations of the Cayuga, the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Onondaga and the Seneca. It was a trading point known to trade with other nations to the North, the English in the South and the French to the East. The village of Teiaiagon was renamed in the early 20th century to Baby Point. The written history of Teiaiagon is scarce due to the stories being passed down through oral history. At the end of the day, it makes it hard to know the size and layout of the village.

Brûlé Street

Étienne Brûlé was the first European explorer to travel beyond the St. Lawrence River. He stayed with the Huron mastering the language and learning the culture. Then he became an interpreter and guide for Samuel de Champlain.

Ashén:nen Street

The name is from the Kanien’keha language. Kanien’keha was one of the Mohawk languages spoken by the Iroquois in Ontario and Quebec. This translates to “half in the middle” in English. This street cuts into the centre of the downtown area. Also, the name Toronto is a Mohawk word that translates to “where there are trees standing in the water.” The translation was done on kanienkeha.net which is a translation website from English to Kanien’kéha, an Iroquoian language of the Mohawks.



Banner Credit: Under The Moonlight

Resources:

Toronto: No Mean City, by Arthur and Otto, University of Toronto Press, 1986, pp. 4–9.

Historicist: The Village of Teiaiagon – Torontoist

Who was Henry Dundas and why do two cities no longer want to honour his memory? – National Post

Henry Dundas, the First Viscount Melville: why and how should Scotland remember him? – Malory Nye on Medium

Natives and Newcomers, 1600-1793 – Toronto.ca

William Wilberforce (1759 – 1833) – BBC History

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