EN - News

Vaughan Wants To Change The Name Of A Holiday That Celebrates A Slave Owner

All of Ontario celebrates the Civic Holiday on August 3.

One Ontario city is looking at changing a popular holiday due to its history with racism. The City of Vaughan's heritage committee is asking officials to rethink the celebration of Benjamin Vaughan Day. The civic holiday is celebrated every August across the province under different names. 

Since 2013, the civic holiday has been named Benjamin Vaughan Day in the city to honour the historical figure. 

However, the city is now under pressure to change both the name of their city as well as the civic holiday due to the history of racism that the title carries. 

The popular figure was a British diplomat who fought against the ending of slavery. 

On the city website, it says that Vaughan was also "a co-negotiator of the Peace of Paris, the treaty ending the American Revolutionary War." 

The city's mayor, Bevilacqua confirmed to Narcity that they were currently looking at changing the name of the holiday to honour a different historical figure. 

In an email, the mayor stated that a Member's Resolution was submitted calling for the day "to be renamed in honour of John Graves Simcoe – the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada and a leading proponent of the Act Against Slavery." 

"I know that the ongoing solidarity against racial injustice continues to be a fundamental priority for our city," the mayor wrote.

Committee member Giovanni Senisi spoke to the Toronto Star about why he put the motion forward. 

"I don’t believe our values are represented by having a special day where we celebrate the man who, in 1792, stood up in the British Parliament and argued that freeing slaves in Jamaica would bring about the end of civilization," Senisi said.

“He not only owned hundreds of slaves on his plantations in the West Indies, but he used his political influence to vigorously fight against efforts to end slavery.”

There is currently a human rights complaint against the York Region School Board from the Vaughan African Canada Association (VACA). The complaint details the racist experiences that the families of four Black children testified about which happened at the hands of school staff. 

The complaint was launched in 2018 and also includes examples of anti-Muslim discrimination that kids have faced at the school board.

The mayor affirms that Vaughan is "working closely with residents, community organizations, and other government levels to address the issue of anti-Black racism." 

"The City places a great deal of importance on diversity, inclusion and the condemnation of racism in all its forms," he wrote in an email.

Toronto has also been asked to rethink the name of Dundas Street, considering it commemorates a politician who worked to keep slavery intact. 

In fact, multiple Ontario cities are calling on name changes for similar reasons.