It’s been over 20 years since Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square was first opened to the public — an occasion that was rung in with a spectacular display of water and lights — and it’s had that name ever since. But in a move for the history books, Toronto City Council has approved a motion to rename the landmark to “Sankofa Square,” shedding it of its association to 18th-century Scottish politician Henry Dundas and the Transatlantic slave trade.
The motion, tabled by Councillor Chris Moise (Ward 13, Toronto Centre), was adopted with majority support on Thursday evening, along with recommendations to rename three other City of Toronto assets, including Dundas and Dundas West subway stations and the Jane/Dundas Public Library.
According to a news release, the City and TTC will work in consultation with Toronto Metropolitan University to rename Dundas Station by Q4 2024 — Councillor Moise told reporters on Wednesday that his recommendation for the name is "TMU Station" — and will heed advice from the Recognition Review Community Advisory Committee to rename Dundas West Station “preferably by 2025.” The Jane/Dundas Public Library is set to be renamed by the Toronto Public Library Board in collaboration with the City by Q3 2024.
The name “Sankofa Square" is the product of two years of consultation, research, and discussion, the release also explains. On Tuesday, the City’s Recognition Review Community Advisory Committee unanimously selected the name, which originates in Ghana and “refers to the act of reflecting on and reclaiming teachings from the past, which enables people to move forward together.”
“It’s just beautiful,” Mayor Olivia Chow said to Councillors on Thursday, after reading the definition of Sankofa aloud. “And I couldn’t think of a more fitting name for a gathering place at the heart of our city. A place where different cultures meet, celebrate, and make real on the promise of our city as a global beacon of hope. A place where everyone feels they belong.”
The net cost of renaming all identified offsets is estimated to be $700,000.
City Council also voted on Thursday to approve a public education campaign — which will launch in 2024 and extend into 2025 — that will focus on the impact of the Transatlantic slave trade and slavery.