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Vaughan is named after a racist slaveowner and people are calling for a name change

As people across the country continue to demand that statues and city names honouring racist historical figures be changed and removed, many have been shocked to find out that the City of Vaughan is actually named after a notorious slave owner. 

Benjamin Vaughan was born to British parents in Jamaica and eventually became a political economist, merchant and medical doctor.

He was also a fierce defender of the slave trade and owned several hundred slaves throughout his lifetime. 

Various places have been named in Vaughan’s honour despite this appalling fact, including a few locations in Maine as well as a Toronto roadTDSB facility and an entire city in Ontario. 

In other words, at least three locations have been named after this one slave owner within the province.

Some residents have taken to social media in recent days to express their shock in discovering this fact, and a few have been even more surprised to find out that the City of Vaughan renamed a civic holiday after him back in 2013. 

The first Monday in August is a civic holiday in Ontario, and though its official name is Simcoe Day, Vaughan city council dedicated this holiday to its namesake in December of 2013. 

“Benjamin Vaughan was a highly regarded British diplomat. When Lt.-Gov. Simcoe arrived in 1792 to govern the new province of Upper Canada, he named Vaughan Township in honour of Benjamin Vaughan’s contributions to foreign affairs,” reads a news release from the city published ahead of the holiday in 2019.

Now, calls are beginning to surface demanding that the city change its name or, at the very least, stop dedicating the civic holiday to Vaughan.

Residents have even started a petition calling for these changes, and it asks the city to instead “honor the people who made a positive, meaningful impact on our community.”

And considering the public reaction to racist names in other Ontario regions, such as Dundas Street in Toronto and Russell Township in Eastern Ontario, it’s likely only a matter of time before these calls intensify. 

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