LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Why we must remove the name Dundas from our county

Seaway News Staff
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Why we must remove the name Dundas from our county
Picture from Change.org petition.

SD&G has a wonderful history and a very dedicated group of people who work hard to preserve the historic documents and photographs of its rich beginnings and Scottish heritage. Nothing about he history of SD&G can be
changed. History is factual and should be truthful.
As we know, the D in SD&G is for Dundas, named for Henry Dundas. There are many things we cannot take away from Henry Dundas. He has an extensive resume of public service. He was treasurer to the Navy, Chancellor of St. Andrews, governor of the Bank of Scotland and the list goes on. Henry Dundas was a man for the times. The times and the climate in western culture in 1790 to 1833, was a push toward the colonization of indigenous people and
the creation of a wealthy white society. These were Henry Dundas’s ultimate goals. …..”commercial exploitation and monopoly, with the corollary of depriving competitors of their footholds”. (History of Parliament). This was his
modus operandi. Several (most) references describe Henry Dundas as “contentious”. It is true that in 1744, he represented Joseph Knight, a runaway slave, and successfully had slavery declared prohibited in the UK in an extraordinary ruling. Had he maintained that heading, we might all be remembering him as a very different person.

But slavery prevailed and the wealth he gained off the backs of slaves in Scotland and on trade routes far outweighed any thoughts he might have had about supporting abolition, of those he had none. He worked with the West Indian pro-slavery lobby to try to maintain slavery as long as possible. The historic vote that was taken in 1792 called for the immediate abolition of slavery in the United Kingdom. Dundas successfully championed that the abolition be made gradual rather than immediate, allowing for another 15 years of men, women and children being enslaved. Dundas and his cronies continued to build their wealth. Eventually, Henry Dundas was impeached for misappropriation of public funds. He never returned to public life.

Oh yes, Henry Dundas’s ancestors might argue that he was an abolitionist. He was not. History tells us clearly that all of his affiliations were with pro-slave lobby groups and others who made enormous amounts of wealth as a direct result of the slave trade. Flash forward to 2020 and let’s ask ourselves, is this someone we feel is worthy of a name given to one of Ontario’s most beautiful counties? Is changing the name a county really such a drastic, extreme move? Does this name truly represent the Ontario of today? Henry Dundas had little to nothing to do with either Ontario or Canada. I find no evidence that ever visited Canada. He was a corrupt, racist politician who was eventually impeached ( sound familiar? ) and bought his way into his signage. Why on earth would we be so attached to his name?

It’s time to find another more worthy candidate to complete the triumvirate of counties of S_& G. If this change does not happen now, as it should, it is highly likely that our children and grandchildren will change it and wonder why
we did not. Shame on us.

We cannot decolonize our past, but we can decolonize our thinking, our perspective and we can counter-colonize our actions. We have an obligation that we remove this and all references to Henry Dundas and others who supported and fought for the cause of slavery. Moving forward, all of Ontario is worthy of namesakes that speak to inclusivity, void of racism of any kind. https://www.change.org/ChangeDundasCounty

Virginia Dipierro – Cornwall Ontario

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