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Dundas renaming stops at Mississauga border

Dundas renaming stops at Mississauga border

The vote by Mississauga Council was unanimous. On Wednesday, Mississauga’s city council voted to drop any thoughts of renaming the 15 kilometres of Dundas Street that run through that city.

The Mississauga move follows a controversial vote last July by Toronto City Council to rename their portion of Dundas Street.

The Toronto re-naming issue arose in response to a 14,000-signature petition, in the heat of the George Floyd aftermath, that accused Henry Dundas, for whom the street and the Hamilton town were named, of being responsible for the perpetuation of slavery. Toronto Mayor John Tory had a committee struck to research the issue and it while it may have been assumed that the committee would sift through the evidence in a dispassionate manner, that is apparently not what happened. What came back was a recommendation that critics say, ignored strong scholarly evidence that declared Dundas to be a staunch opponent of slavery. A man who as a lawyer had successfully argued a case that led to the freedom of a slave and the subsequent abolition of slavery in Scotland.

The Dundas story

Henry Dundas

The Dundas legacy centres around a bill that was introduced in the British Parliament in 1792 to abolish slavery. The same bill had been soundly defeated a year earlier and there was no reason to believe it would pass this time. As the bill was being debated, Dundas tabled a petition from Edinburgh residents who supported abolition. He then went on to affirm his agreement in principle with the motion: “My opinion has been always against the Slave Trade.” He argued, however, that a vote for immediate abolition would be ineffective, as it would drive the slave trade underground. He anticipated, in particular, that merchants from other countries would step in to fill the gap left by the British. So he inserted the word “gradual” into the motion and it passed. He later argued that it was better to have a law on the books that opposed slavery, even with the weakened language that to have the bill suffer another defeat, and delay abolition even further.

The Mississauga motion, moved by Councillor Carolyn Parrish, cited factors such as the interpretations of history through a modern lens, costs and the level of community support.

Historical revisionism

Councillor Ron Starr said the decision was based in people doing some homework and coming to an independent conclusion

“It’s a decision that I think has to resonate throughout the community, and certainly I think it led us to do a lot of research on our own,” he said. “Personally I read about, not only Dundas, but many, many other names and people that have been historical figures, and to take a look at what we should be doing with those in the future.”

The Dundas controversy mirrors the recent decision to remove Egerton Ryerson’s name from the University and a school and a park in Halton, for allegedly being the “father of the residential school system” despite scholarly evidence that Ryerson was a friend of Indigenous people, lived among them for a time and learned their language, and played an insignificant role in the residential schools.

Further reading:

Descendants of Henry Dundas allege Toronto historical research was manipulated
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  • maybe John Best see’s historical revisionism everywhere because he likes to indulge in revising history to suit his agenda. having a bill that “opposed slavery” on the books was a moral victory, even with the “weakened language”. wow. the bill introduced and supported by Dundas would have made every slave in the British Empire at the time of the bills passage a slave for the rest of their natural born lives. for a fifty year old slave it might have meant twenty or thirty or forty more years of slavery legal. for a ten year old slave they would have had another sixty or seventy years of slavery made legal by the bill supported by Dundas. and Publisher Best refers to this as “weakened language”. ok.

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