By TOM GODFREY
City Council is being asked to name a downtown section of University Ave. “Nelson Mandela Boulevard” in honour of the iconic South African leader.
Three councillors have written to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee recommending that University Ave., from Front St. W., to College St., in the north, be named in honor of the beloved statesman, who died last year.
Committee members are expected to make a decision on what street will honour the late leader at a meeting on August 13 at City Hall.
Council is also being asked to have the required signage in place by December 5, in time for the first anniversary of Mandela’s death, according to a letter from Councillors Pam McConnell, Kristyn Wong-Tam and Ceta Ramkhalawansingh.
The street will “honour the life of a transformational leader that the world has rarely seen and in recognition of this deep connection to Toronto”.
The choice of University Ave., is consistent with the results of public consultation and supported by the Mandela Legacy Committee, the councillors said.
Council last April adopted a motion for the ceremonial naming of a street in honour of Mandela and asked for a report and recommendation from the Committee.
The former President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 visited Toronto in 1990, 1998 and 2001.
Mandela was made an honorary citizen of Toronto and granted an honorary doctorate from Ryerson University. He was also made an honorary Companion of the Order of Canada in 1998, and was the first living person to be awarded honorary Canadian citizenship in 2001.
He had a few loyal friends here and ties to University Ave., the councillors said.
In 1986, about four years before his release from prison, fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu led a “Rally Against Apartheid” up University Ave. to Queen’s Park.
Following his release from prison, Mandela and his then-wife Winnie, visited Toronto. During the visit, Winnie spoke to a crowd at Nathan Phillips Square and led a march up University Ave. from City Hall, located on Queen St. W., with prominent Canadian politicians. The march ended at Queen’s Park, where Nelson Mandela gave a speech to a crowd of up to 30,000.
“We would all agree that the linking of the Mandela name to any of our public initiatives is a source of great pride for the people of Toronto and indeed of Canada,” Lloyd McKell, co-chair of the Legacy Committee wrote in a letter to council.
His committee plans to make a deputation to council in regards to the city honorary naming policies.
More than 53 per cent of residents in public consultations chose University Ave. over four other streets vying to honour a man who was respected worldwide for his work in human rights.
Also being considered were: Queen St. W., bounded by Yonge St., to the east and University Ave. to the west; since it had a direct connection to Mandela.
Shuter Street was also suggested because it is the location of the Nelson Mandela Park Public School. Mandela attended the re-naming celebration of the school in his honour during his final trip to Toronto.
Gerrard St. E., bounded by Jarvis St., and Yonge St. to the west, since it was where Mandela and his second wife, Graça Machel, received honorary doctorate degrees from Ryerson University in 2001.
Also suggested was Bathurst St., bounded by College St. to Herrick St., to the north.
During Mandela’s first visit to Toronto, he spoke to 1,000 students at Central Technical Institute about the poor treatment of Black students in South Africa.
The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate was jailed for his protests against South Africa’s apartheid policies and spent 27 years in prison. After being released, he became the country’s first Black president, whose government dismantled apartheid by tackling institutionalized racism and fostering racial reconciliation.