While he spent the lion’s share of his life in his native South Africa, no one can dispute the impact Nelson Mandela had around the world.
Now, the City of Toronto is turning to the public to decide which street will be named after the late civil rights leader and South African president.
Council voted unanimously in favour of naming a street in Mandela’s honour in April.
The motion had been brought forward by councillor James Pasternak after he was approached by the Mandela Legacy Committee.
“They felt that because of Nelson Mandela’s ties to Toronto and the work he did (for civil rights) it would be fitting,” Pasternak said.
There are five potential locations that could soon bear Mandela’s name, with the former South African leader having ties to each.
The five options are Queen Street West between Yonge Street and University Avenue, Shuter Street between River and Parliament streets, Gerrard Street East between Jarvis and Yonge streets, Bathurst Street between College and Herrick streets and University Avenue between Front and College streets.
Mandela paid his first visit to Toronto in 1990, and his then-wife Winnie led a march along Queen Street and University Avenue from City Hall to Queen’s Park, which led to those streets being selected for the potential street naming honour.
Following the march, Mandela gave a speech in front of thousands at Queen’s Park.
Also in 1990, Mandela spoke to students at Central Technical School about the mistreatment of black students in South Africa, making Bathurst one of the city’s options.
Nelson Mandela Park Public School, which was named after Mandela when he visited again in 2001, is located on Shuter Street. The former South African President received an honourary doctorate from Ryerson University in 2001, which led to the portion of Gerrard Street near the university being chosen as an option.
Lloyd McKell, of the Mandela Legacy Committee, said his organization has already decided on a preferred road for the renaming.
“The committee met last week and considered all the choices, and it was unanimous that we chose University Avenue over the others,” he said. “It’s one of the most popular and well-known roadways in Toronto and perhaps Ontario for residents and visitors and there are a lot of public transit options.”
“We believe it matches the stature of Nelson Mandela.”
McKell added University Avenue already features a commemorative monument honouring Canadians who served in the South African War between 1899 and 1902.
There is an online survey which allows the public to give their feedback on the matter, and Pasternak said he is looking forward to seeing what the public decides.
“They are all very, very good choices and when it comes to (the street renaming) I’m really looking forward to seeing it in place,” he said.
The survey will be online until July 4 at www.toronto.ca/mandela