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Public support ‘strikingly bad’ for renaming of Yonge-Dundas Square to Sankofa Square: poll

A new survey finds that an overwhelming majority of Toronto residents disapprove of city council’s decision to rename Yonge-Dundas Square to Sankofa Square.

According to the new survey, conducted by Liaison Strategies for the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, 72 per cent of respondents disapprove of the move, while 16 per cent say they approve and 12 per cent aren’t sure.

“We’ve polled a lot of different issues and been here to talk about them. I don’t think we’ve seen numbers quite this strikingly bad for something before,” Liaison Strategies Principal David Valentin told CP24. “No category supports this. No part of the city supports this, no gender, no age demographic supports this. And I think it may be one of those things where if people sat down and explained it to you, then maybe you might be be in favour of it, but I think the name came as a surprise to many people and I don’t know how much public consultation there was before council voted on it.”

He said rather than having buy-in from the community, council is now left trying to “sell it” to confused residents.

Toronto City Council voted back in 2021 to rename Dundas Street and the associated city assets following a renewed examination of anti-Black racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Henry Dundas was a Scottish politician who altered a bill in the British parliament to gradually phase out the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade instead of immediately phasing it out. Critics calling for the street to be renamed said his role in delaying an end to the slave trade means he should no longer be commemorated in Toronto. Critics of the move maintained that he altered the bill in order to make sure that it passed in some form instead of being defeated altogether.

A committee was struck to select a new name.

At a meeting of city council last month, Coun. Chris Moise announced that after two years of consideration, the committee had selected a name for Yonge-Dundas Square, “Sankofa Square.”

According to the city’s website, the term Sankofa originates in Ghana and refers to the act of reflecting on and reclaiming teachings from the past, which enables people to move forward together.

Moise moved a motion to rename the square, as well as two subway stations and a library, while pausing the work to rename the entire street – a project whose latest price tag was estimated at $13 million.

Meanwhile, the poll found that Mayor Olivia Chow continues to enjoy strong support across the city, with 71 per cent of respondents supporting the job she’s doing, though that was down from 75 per cent support in mid-October. Some 22 per cent disapprove of the mayor, while seven per cent were not sure.

The pollster surveyed a random sample of 831 Torontonians through Interactive Voice Recording (IVR) from January 2 to 3. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.39 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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