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Toronto to Rename Popular Yonge-Dundas Square after Ghana’s Sankofa Symbol

Sankofa, a Ghanaian concept that loosely translates as “go back and get it” and encourages reflecting on and reclaiming the past, was recommended by the city’s recognition review community advisory committee.

In December 2023, the Toronto City Council voted to rename one of the city’s most popular landmarks, Yonge-Dundas Square, to Sankofa Square.

The City’s move came nearly three years after they had received petitions that the name of the square had connections to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The Petition came at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement which spread across the globe as a result of the killing of George Floyd in the United States.

Sankofa, a Ghanaian concept that loosely translates as “go back and get it” and encourages reflecting on and reclaiming the past, was recommended by the city’s recognition review community advisory committee.

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Yonge-Dundas Square to be renamed Sankofa Square

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According to academic experts consulted by the City Council, Henry Dundas, the Scottish politician from the 1770s after whom the square and other landmarks are named, introduced a motion to stall slavery abolition when the British Parliament was debating the issue.


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Other sources have suggested that Dundas’ intentions were misinterpreted as he was trying to be strategic with his “gradual abolition” motion, according to one of his descendants.

Although initial polls in 2023 found that 54 percent of residents supported the renaming, the disapproval rating has increased to 71 percent as of January 2024.

Local media reports suggest that the disapproval rating increased when the cost involved was announced. The cost to rename the thoroughfare and all other landmarks bearing Dundas’ name is estimated to be as high as $12.7 million, according to a report presented by the city manager.

The National Post in Canada reports that a counter-petition to keep the Dundas name “unless the city can afford a robust public vote about the necessity of a new name” has gathered more than 28,000 votes since being launched in December last year.

“The new name, “Sankofa” is a Ghanaian word originating with the Akan people. It has no historical or cultural significance to Toronto,” part of the petition stated.

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