Canadian businesses named after Scottish politician Henry Dundas to benefit from fund to rebrand over slave trade furore

Canadian businesses named after a Scottish politician with links to the slave trade are to benefit from a $5.1 million (£3m) fund to rebrand themselves as the name of a main thoroughfare in Toronto is changed.

The renaming of main thoroughfare Dundas Street will extend to train stations, street and highway signs and parking facilities – while the council will also offer funding to local businesses which use the Dundas name.

The street is named after Henry Dundas, who played a key role in delaying the abolition of the British empire’s transatlantic slave trade.

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The name of the major thoroughfare in the Canadian city, which shares a moniker with one of Edinburgh' s best known streets, was described as "problematic" due to his connections to delaying the abolition of the slave trade by campaigners, who launched a petition to have the street renamed. Toronto city council voted to do so earlier this month.

The statue of Henry Dundas 1st Viscount Melville on top of a 150ft column, known as the Melville Monument, stands in St Andrews Square, Edinburgh.
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Antonio Blaic, owner of Dundas Street bar Dundas and Carlaw, said he would change the name of his business.

He told Canadian media: “We will change the moment the street's name changes. The whole point of the name is because it's located on the corner of Dundas and Carlaw and it's representing the neighbourhood."

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Canadian city considers renaming street named after Scots politician Henry Dunda...

However, Mr Blaic said the process would be complicated and potentially costly.

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He said: “Something like awnings [need] to be changed. I spoke to one company this morning and it will take up to 14 weeks just to order the material. So for me to change the awnings, even if I ordered them tomorrow, it would most likely take until next spring until they’re actually delivered and installed.”

Other businesses with Dundas in their name said they feared the added problems stemming from a name change could compound financial issues they were already suffering as a result of the pandemic.

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Even those Dundas Street businesses which do not use the name will have extra costs in updating materials printed with their address.

A recent poll of people living in Toronto by Maru Public Opinion found 61 per cent were opposed to the name change when considering how much it would cost the city and “personal and businesses administrative requirements” that would follow the change.

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Dundas Street is one of the oldest European-built roads in Ontario. Once known as the Governor’s Road, it was later part of the first highway in the province and was designed to link the proposed capital of London, Ontario to the historic city of York – now called Toronto.

Politician Dundas used his influence as the home secretary to frustrate efforts to abolish the trade, setting the move back 15 years.

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If not for his obstructions, the slave trade would have been abolished in Britain in 1792, rather than in 1807. The buying and selling of slaves was made illegal across the British Empire in 1807, while the slave trade was finally emancipated in 1833.

In Edinburgh, a plaque explaining his links to the slave trade was installed at the statue of Dundas at St Andrew Square earlier this year.

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