Black Influence in Urban Planning

In this session, we talked about Black influence in urban planning and heard from community leaders working across Canada to make our cities more just and equitable for all.

5 Key

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. We need more voices at the table

Cynthia Dorrington, an EDI advisor based in Halifax Nova Scotia, notes that mainstream society has no inroads to understanding Black Communities. Urbanization in the 1960’s led to the displacement of Africville without any input from the community. In order to ensure that needs are understood and met, we need to have more Black voices involved in decision making both provincial and municipal levels. Having the right groups at the table allows the right resources to go to the right places and hastens legislation that can improve employment for marginalized opportunities.


2. Recovery efforts need to refocus around accessibility and homelessness

Stephanie Allen, a founding board member if the Hogan’s Alley Society in Vancouver. She stated that challenges around accessibility and homelessness were exacerbated during the pandemic and many of the recovery efforts left people living with disabilities or experiencing homelessness behind. For instance, in order to help the restaurant industry survive, many patios were expanding to increase outdoor dining. Often these patios blocked access to sidewalks decreasing space for people with mobility issues. Making efforts to collect disaggregated data around the racial composition of the homeless population is also critical. If we don’t count, we don’t know and don’t address challenges in racially appropriate ways. People of African descent are absolutely over represented in the homeless population.

3. Youth need a balance to thrive

When challenged with the question of to how to keep Black youth engaged Jamilla Muhamud talked about  a balance between frank, honest truth telling and fostering dreams and imagination. Especially in urban cores where poverty and wealth live in such close proximity to one another, there needs to be public infrastructure that allows everyone to access the same amenities, like tennis courts, swimming pools and book. We should try to deal with the challenges of reality head on while also making sure that children understand that they contribute to the world and matter. They can adjust the barriers.


4. Little Jamaica is still here

When asked why we are pushing so hard to save Little Jamaica, Anyka Mark, with Black Urbanism TO pointed out that Little Jamaica still exists. While gentrification is happening and ongoing Crosstown construction has taken it’s toll, the midtown neighbourhood is still incredibly culturally rich and holds great significance as the heart of the Black community in Toronto. She noted that Friends of Chinatown are facing similar development challenges that to erase Chinatown as well.

5. All of these conversations are about displacement. Could land trusts be a solution?

Land trust were born out of the civil rights movement. They were specifically to help Black farmers and Black people find place and hold place because the conversations you’re hearing today from Africville, to Little Burgundy, Little Jamaica, Heron Gate in Ottawa and Hogan’s Alley in Vancouver, all of these conversations are about displacement. The system is designed to, first of all, push certain people into poverty, and then they’re relegated to parts of urban areas that are for poor people that are low income. Then these sites become targets for redevelopment to unlock the value of the land. Land trusts remove the land from speculation and offer security of tenure. Larger parcels of land in trust protect the community from unsustainable gentrification.



Black experiences with planning in Canada – Redesigned courses in the School of Urban and Regional Planning explore Black-led city-building efforts as well as historical and contemporary harm

Urban planning and anti-Black racism in Canada: Reflections on the past as a way to promote a better future

Black History Month 2022 – February Forever

Programme of Activities for the Implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent

Black Planners and Urbanists Association

BLK: An Origin Story

Full Panel

Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to with “transcription” in the subject line.

Mary Rowe: [00:01:06] Hi, everybody, it’s Mary Rowe from the Canadian Urban Institute. I’m really, really pleased to be, well, welcoming us here to such an important conversation about the black influence in an on urban planning. I happen to be in Toronto today, which is the traditional territory of the Annishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Haudenasaunee and the Wendat peoples, and we’re covered by treaties here. The Williams Treaty and Treaty 13. I would say that this conversation is a profound one because urbanism has been an instrument of exclusion in pre-colonial times and that has affected Indigenous communities and First Nations and Metis, obviously. But it’s also affected communities of color and particularly black communities and black people. So this conversation, we’re just at the end of Black History Month, but I know a lot of us feel that every month needs to be Black History Month, and we need to continue to have a conversation about the roots of this and how we engaged in city building need to come to terms with not only the legacy of exclusion, but also how do we actually move forward in allyship and in making equity the priority and dismantling the structures that have continued to divide and remove people from communities and prevent them from having access to actually truly just equitable communities that are made of by everyone for everyone? So what better topic than this for today? And and also as we look around the world and see in front of us in every day on the television exam, an extraordinary example in Europe and in other parts of the world to where again, differences are being expressed in hostile, violent ways, having to do with land and having to do with identity and having to do with race. So I appreciate the profoundness of this conversation, but I also want to say that we just have a remarkable group of folks that have come on the call and who are engaged in really positive, honest frank discussions with their communities about how to do things differently and do things better. So I just want to thank Anyka and Jamilla and Stephanie and Cynthia for joining us. And also to just pass to my colleague from 8 80 cities Lanrick Bennett, who is going to be the chief ringleader here to have a really interesting conversation. That only last thing I’m going to say is that the producer of City Talk for the last year and a half has been remarkable. Jamie Bastian and today is her last day at CUI as she moves on to another great adventure with the Downiw Wenjack Foundation. And I just want to say at the outset, while I have the mic, how appreciative all of us, all city talk, people like me who have been on it, and all of you and all the people listening through Jamie’s professionalism and her leadership. So, Jamie, this is your last one. Thanks so much. Everybody loves you, and we wish you all the best as you move on to that, to that next adventure for you. Lanrick, over to you. I look forward to listening to what I know will be a really, really fabulous conversation. Thanks, everybody for joining us. [00:04:10][184.4]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:04:12] Mary, thank you so much. Welcome everyone. We’re coast to coast for our guests and also for many of you watching. My name is Lanrick Bennett Jr. I am the managing director for a not for profit called 8 80cities, where we take a lens of our cities, our streets, our public spaces through the eyes of an eight year old, up to an 80 year old and everything in between. We see the world. If it can work for an eight year old, an 80 year old, it is a great place for all of us to to be able to explore and live and play in. So this is not even morning. It’s afternoon now in Toronto, I am joined by some amazing women on the panel this morning, this afternoon. Sorry, everyone, we’re talking about Black influence in urban planning. I don’t want to throw bios out to all of you. I really want to get into who these women are. And Stephanie, I think I’m just going to start with you. Just just to let us know. Just tell us a bit about who you are, and I’ll let you pass that on afterwards to another one of our panelists. [00:05:37][85.7]

Stephanie Allen: [00:05:39] Yeah, thank you so much. Really a pleasure to be in conversation today with everyone. I’m Stephanie Allen. I am a founding board member of the Hogan’s Alley Society here on the unceded and ancestral and unsurrendered lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh the First Nations, really want to recognize and recommit my efforts to working in good relations with Indigenous peoples who are also suffering under many of the things we’re going to talk about today. And yeah, my work is really in a I’m a real estate developer, not a planner. But somehow I’ve been into this forced into this world with all of you and really happy to be talking with you today. My background is in affordable housing, primarily and also focusing on redressing the displacement of a black community in Vancouver. [00:06:27][47.6]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:06:30] And why don’t we pass it on to Cynthia? [00:06:31][1.3]

Cynthia Dorrington: [00:06:35] Good afternoon, everyone, or good morning, wherever you may be across Canada. As noted, my name is Cynthia Dorrington. I live in a Halifax, Nova Scotia, so on the East Coast and of course, urbanization has been important here. I do EDI work with organizations and I really lend to the emphasis of having inclusion in the discussions. Having recently worked with a not for profit organization actually that oversaw Africville or Africvillians, actually, they were displaced in the sixties due to urbanization as a result of urbanization and a city that made decisions without input or voices from the community. So I think that to me, making sure that our cities are inclusive of those voices, the voices that live in the city is going to be critical for the success of our cities and our economies across Canada. So I come with the fact that from Mi’kma’ki, the territory of the Mi’kmaq people, that we set here with peace and friendship treaties and understand that land is precious to all but making sure that when we’re building, we’re hearing from all is going to be critical. I’m going to pass it over to Jamilla. [00:07:58][82.6]

Jamilla Muhamud: [00:08:01] And that would be me. That’s Jamilla. Thank you Cynthia. Hi, everyone, thanks for hosting today. So I’m coming to this work in an interesting way. I’m an urban planner. I work as a private consultant with Urban Strategies, a wonderful firm in Toronto, Tkaronto. And I’m also coming to this work as a person who really does a lot of volunteer work trying to address issues of anti-Black racism in communities, particularly in Toronto. But in Canada, broadly. I volunteer with a group called the Black Planners and Urbanists Association, a national nonprofit organization that really focuses on mentorship, advocacy and addressing issues of anti-Black racism, but also drawing on the great strengths and knowledge that black people have in city building practices over the centuries. And I also do a bit of work with OPPI as a volunteer on their anti-Black Racism Task Force, helping put together some recommendations on how to strengthen the profession and also get us to kind of think differently about what it means to be a planet. Anyaka, It’s all yours. [00:09:01][60.5]

Anyka Mark: [00:09:04] Thank you so much, Jamilla. Hi, my name is Anyka Mark. I am representing Black Urbanism TO today. We are a nonprofit organization founded in 2018, looking to re-envision Black neighborhoods to support our social, economic and cultural advancement. Our co-founders, Dane Williams and Romain Baker went to Eglinton West, which was which is our one of our first communities that we’re focusing on. And we had all we had all lived in the neighborhood and then specifically had had a really strong cultural ties to the neighborhood. They went back looking to kind of capture what was once little Jamaica and realize that there was still so much culture so, so much vibrant economic potential. And so they decided, instead of doing a documentary to revitalize and to be determined to revitalize and support business owners in advancing themselves and getting to a place where little Jamaica is the cultural, prosperous place that it once was in our city, the first one of the first and largest black neighborhoods in Canada. And now we’re seeing those strands of culture kind of fly away with, you know, gentrification and development and things of that nature. So I’m really honored and happy to be here to represent little Jamaica, first of all, to bring our valued neighborhood in these types of conversations of displacement, gentrification because it’s live and it’s happening right now. And I’m hoping that, you know, being a part of these conversations, we’ve kind of put our foot in the door and be a part of the change that we want to see. [00:10:36][92.3]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:10:38] Thank you. Thank you, all of you. Just so the audience in general, we have a chat going on right now. If there are specific questions that you would like to hopefully get answered, plot them in there. We’re going to go right until one o’clock. But Anyka, I’m going to start with you on this question and it opens up to everyone else afterwards. But how has Covid deepened the conversation on race and equity in urban planning? [00:11:06][28.2]

Anyka Mark: [00:11:09] That’s such a great conversation. I think that Covid has exacerbated our how stretched our communities are for resources and is also really exposed, how fast developments happening, how close it is that, you know, it’s not just Eglinton West and the LRT construction, it’s not just Regent Park anymore, it’s probably right up your neighborhood. Somebody is, you know, creating a condo, some by somewhere, not some somewhere nearby or something is being, you know, re modernized or quote unquote revitalized is, you know, the term that gets used a lot. And so I think that Covid has really kind of put and I think that something really interesting actually is the province expanded the times for construction orders. So if you were in a neighborhood that, let’s say, for instance, had an LRT construction project going through, you know, you were probably subjected to seven a.m. in a COVID 19 pandemic. When we’re in a lockdown, you’re now being subjected to be in your home at seven a.m. with construction noise right outside. And I used to work for Joe Andrew, Toronto St Paul, representative for NDP MPP, and we had a lot of calls like that where, you know, residents were like, you know, there’s construction happening, you know, working from home, what’s going on? And so I think that COVID has really put development at the development conversation on the table for a lot more people than just, you know, our black and racialized communities specifically. And, you know, more marginalized ones. I think it’s now a Toronto wide conversation, and I think there’s good and bad to that. But I think that the way that we’re handling it is, you know, kind of really focusing this conversation on Little Jamaica and trying to figure out how can we kind of alleviate the pressures of displacement? [00:12:46][97.1]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:12:48] Cynthia, can I can I ask what what’s it like in in your part of the Halifax and such? [00:12:54][5.9]

Cynthia Dorrington: [00:12:55] Well, having an understanding that blacks have lived here for well over 400 years in Nova Scotia and we have 52 historic black communities that date back to the seventeen hundreds. So those communities and having main streets or small towns or neighborhoods were critical for success. I think what Covid has brought forth is that the main society, the larger group has no inroads to our communities. They don’t understand our communities, they have no understanding of the needs. Because again, when you’re a marginalized community, you can speak. Your voice may not be heard. So you have to have voices at the table. You have to have voices in the political offices in order to actually be heard. What we have found with Covid is that the resources were really stretched. I totally agree with that and very thin and then trying to build those resources. But what we did is we built those resources using people that look like us making sure that we were going into our communities. We were helping our communities and we were building the strength and character of people that look like us, but at the same time, making sure that the communities were building themselves up as well. So it’s not about always going in and doing hand off. We were asking the community to start building. What are your needs? What do you need as we migrate going out of COVID? What do you need now? So we were actually allowing them to start having voices. And here in Nova Scotia, our government, both provincial as well as municipal governments, started to listen and understand what we need to actually hear from these people because they are part of our our province as as well as part of our cities. But most importantly, from a city perspective, they help the with the economy to help grow the city, and we have to understand what their needs are in order to help grow that city and economy. [00:14:49][114.2]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:14:52] Stephanie, the West Coast and Vancouver, how what’s how has COVID deepened that conversation for yourself? [00:15:00][7.6]

Stephanie Allen: [00:15:01] Yeah, I find out here that the conversation deepens the way that it always has, and that is by impacted communities calling for accountability, calling for calling for responsibility by governing authorities. We knew early days that Black communities, because of the ways that we live and the jobs we have, the socioeconomic realities of being marginalized wass going to impact our communities in disproportionate ways. However, British Columbia, we didn’t collect disaggregated data. We didn’t have knowledge of how black communities were being impacted. And so that conversation really had to be taken up by lack health care professionals, black doctors, black researchers, black organizations in order to really push the conversation. Now there’s been some responses and there’s been some reactions. But we recognize, I think, like everyone saying that COVID exacerbated what the preexisting conditions were, and then we didn’t see the responses that we wanted to see for our community. So we had to take action ourselves. And that action is starting to push the policy conversation like it always does. We always are the ones that plant those seeds and water them. And so we continue to do that here out West and in British Columbia, we did the very first Hogan’s Alley Society did the very first publicly funded black health care research that’s ever been done in British Columbia’s history. Now that’s just because we’re rabble rousers and we push and partnered right with really great black people that work in this area. And now we have data that we can start to to work with and expand and build on. But really, I think that all praises it goes to the people you see on your screen and the people in your neighborhoods for actually having done this work. [00:16:54][112.8]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:16:57] Jamilla, I just thank you, Stephanie. Jamilla, I know we’re coming back to to Toronto, but what’s your perspective on this? [00:17:06][9.1]

Jamilla Muhamud: [00:17:08] And I think that, you know, everyone’s kind of touched on the main point, which is really that. You know, this idea of going back to this new normal or establishment or going back to be normal right when we leave the pandemic, what’s life like? post-COVID is actually kind of maybe what I can touch on a bit. And the point that Anyka made and Stephanie and Cynthia that the situation before COVID wasn’t really great for black people in terms of access to housing, access to transit and cycling infrastructure in our communities, access to green spaces. So we’ve seen these studies that have been done that just identify there’s a disparity in access to all these amenities and what we kind of saw in the beginning of COVID was this movement to open streets and a movement towards finding housing for all and cities coming up with innovative ways to try to address these broader social issues because we know they’re related to public health issues. And unfortunately, we haven’t seen a systemic change to implement these as ongoing efforts. So what I think we are looking for, will we’ve also seen is that a lot of young and existing black planners people of all ages have been pushing for systemic change. We’re looking for policy regulation change and we’re looking to address zoning. We’re looking to address official plans, planning acts. We think it’s wonderful to have all these symbolic things where people express their solidarity with black people. But we want to see systemic change. We want to see how you can ensure that our communities are better served by the policy tools that we’re using. And I think that groups, like all of our groups are doing these kind of things. We’re pushing for these systemic changes. And I really have to say, as Stephanie said, it is the grassroots efforts. It’s the folks on the ground like BLM and other organizations who really spearheaded a lot of the conversation around the importance of addressing anti-Black racism outside of planning, but also related to planning. And I think that it’s not only COVID. I think 2020 was a very pivotal point for the planning industry and I think a lot of other sectors as well in light of the death of George Floyd and the ongoing anti-Black racism related to policing. So there’s all these other broader social issues that we’re dealing with, and when COVID ends, they will be there and they will probably be worse off because of all of the the challenges we all expressed. So how do we move forward for systemic change? [00:19:28][140.0]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:19:30] Fair enough. And I mean, you’ve touched on a on a bit of what you still want to see, what you still what we still need to see. I’m wondering, Cynthia, is there, is there a piece there that that you’re still looking to see government officials, the broader public hit on for what happens next? [00:19:54][24.0]

Cynthia Dorrington: [00:19:56] I think here in Nova Scotia is a little bit different. The decade of people of African descent, the United Nations decade, basically Nova Scotia is the only province that has signed on to effect change not only provincially within employment, but how do they help with communities and grow communities and listen to communities. So making sure that we’re more represented. Because of that striking of the pen on paper, we have seen changes within employment, which helps with the economic fabric of our communities, for sure. We have also seen the opportunities from a justice perspective. We just prior to COVID happening, there was a release. It was just the month before really when we went into lockdown, the release of the Street Check report here in Halifax and the discrepancy in dealing with marginalized people, blacks, indigenous people of color very evident. The police have been brought up to task and as a result, the city and the policing system are looking at effective changes. But those changes aren’t in isolation of having the voices at the table. So there has been a committee that’s been struck really assessing this and looking at the justice side of it. Initially policing, but of course, we know that there’s this whole component of the court system that has to be addressed as well, and it’s not going to stop there. So of course, we do have systemic barriers to success. But how do we actually migrate and have those discussions? So we because of some of the things that we have undertaken as a province, we’re now seeing the cities in the towns starting to implement some of these components and really focused on making sure that they are more inclusive. It’s not just a policy written on paper, it’s actioning some of these policies now, and they’re being more accountable to the people. Their constituents are being more accountable to them. And we the constituents, people of African ancestry for sure are making them and holding them accountable because there are public officials. And at the same time, this is our city, these are our towns, and we have to make sure that we have voices to ensure that the generations to come, people that look like us, that we don’t start off or we still don’t have colonial vestiges that separate us and basically have marginalized us in the past. Let’s not be marginalized now. We have a voice and let’s use that voice. And I think George Floyd and Black Lives Matters has actually brought to light the systemic barriers and systemic racism that has been entrenched or just under the cover of our beautiful country, but in particular each of our provinces. And I think we have to now step up and make sure that we are accounted for and what the province, the policy, the strategy. They actually do know that the strategy is count us in. So I think that we now have a voice and we have to take advantage of that voice and use that voice and say we want to be counted in and we want our voices to be heard because we want to help build this province in this area of Canada. [00:23:08][192.6]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:23:10] Stephanie, Anyka, I am going to ask you the same question about what you still would like to see, but Cynthia, I’m just going to probe a little bit. If you don’t mind if you could just talk briefly about the decade of African descent, if you can just give us a bit of context to what that is and why the rest maybe of of Canada is not up to speed on on that significant timeframe. [00:23:36][26.4]

Cynthia Dorrington: [00:23:38] What we ended up doing is when the United Nations declared the decade of people of African descent. What we in Nova Scotia did is we started looking at the inequities of black people we have in Nova Scotia, blacks have been here since the 1600s. So over 400 years of presence here in Nova Scotia, I wrote my ancestors back to 1783. So we have been here for a long time. And marginalization, discrimination and racism has been a part of our society. So with that decade, a group of people got together and they said, Where are injustices? Where are the social? How do we build that social fabric? How do we become part of instead of marginalization or left out? So what are the conversations that we’ve been left out of? They have health people on this. They build a committee. We have what we call the decade of people of African descent. There is an organization that has people that talk to health, people that talk to justice, people that talk to education our higher ed institutions. We have representatives from government, municipal government, we have representatives from different communities. We have represent representation from businesses across our province, all sitting there talking about, OK, these are our barriers. How do we overcome them? Who do we have to target? Who do we have to talk to? Who do we have to address? What business case do we have to build? How do we be inclusive in the strategies going forward? So even around planning and urban planning, we actually have discussions because of this. Halifax, because of Africville, Halifax actually has an office that deals with folks from the African diaspora. So any time there’s a policy change and or new policies going in for Halifax, any changes to roads and there’s consultation done with our marginalized communities. So they have started the building because they realized what they did in the sixties was just wrong and they had to apologize for it and they had to actually have reparations to it that that community as well. So again, it comes with the price tag, but it also comes with the fact that we are people. We live here and we should be respected. Our voices should be heard. You should hear from us when you’re making changes. It’s most important. So this group actually has been working very diligently, making sure that they’re involved in all aspects on how we collectively have a voice, how we have not only the voice, but actions integrate it into our strategies, integrated into the next phase of what that may be. If that’s the justice system, if that’s urbanization, if that is dealing with the health care, if that is dealing with the education, we have a voice setting at the table making sure that we’re not left out as we move forward in Nova Scotia. [00:26:29][171.2]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:26:31] Count us in. Count us in. Anyka, what what would you still like to see, what what, what are we missing? After Covid. [00:26:40][9.5]

Anyka Mark: [00:26:42] Yeah, I think that what we’re still missing is, I would say, authentic community consultation. I think that, you know, we’re definitely doing better at consultations and making it a point to target specific people for consultations. But beyond consultations, right after we’re done the talking, after the two hours of us convening and communities pouring out their hearts and their souls and telling you about their families and my businesses and moms and pops are important to them. What happens after, right, after the reports get released and disseminated to community, after everybody has, you know, you know, Twitter fingers all over the place? What happens to our communities and how do we actually implement and actionize what we’re talking about. I think that’s what’s missing from me, and I see that a lot in our conversations that we have, you know, with stakeholders, government officials in Little Jamaica. But I think that it’s a conversation that needs to be had about the bureaucracy of the way that we do things. That that needs to also change. And we need to be willing to step out of the box and willing to do what’s right and what’s necessary for people today. Instead of thinking about how we used to do things and how things, you know, how the traditional and conventional ways are important. No, they’re not working. They haven’t worked. They’re not working for people right now. And I think especially when we go through a pandemic and an international health crisis, I think if we get some grace on changing the ways that we do things, maybe so that we can actually start to include and make our spaces more inclusive in general. So yeah. [00:28:12][89.8]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:28:12] We’re allowed we’re allowed to be bold. [00:28:14][2.5]

Anyka Mark: [00:28:18] Seriously. Happy Black History Month and every and you know what I’m saying just marginalized month in general. That’s my vibe [00:28:22][4.4]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:28:23] Fair. Stephanie, again, what what? What would you like to still see? [00:28:29][6.0]

Stephanie Allen: [00:28:31] You know, one of the things I think we haven’t centered enough is accessibility for people with disabilities and the ways that the pandemic has really pushed a lot of vulnerable people deep, deeply isolated alone. We think about elders that have been alone for a long time. I’ve got a mother with Alzheimer’s. The home support has been cut by over 50 percent. She gets eight hours a week of home support. It’s just completely threadbare, the way that vulnerable people, people with disabilities are experiencing things. You know, it was great when patios opened up. That was awesome. We really wanted to make sure restaurants stayed healthy. But if we weren’t thinking about accessibility and keeping sidewalks clear and making sure that people and elders can move around despite that disruption, which was a positive disruption, then I think we’re exacerbating the same inequities we don’t want to see in our cities. And the other thing I really think we’ve got to think about are the ways that poverty and homelessness are impacting black and Idigenous people, particularly in this country. You know, we made moves to get disaggregated data adopted in British Columbia when we do our point in time homeless count, which of course, is flawed. But we had to take the case to the federal homeless secretariat to make sure that they made that race question mandatory because it’s never been made mandatory in the point in time count. So what we don’t measure, we don’t fix, and we know that people of African descent are absolutely overrepresented in the homeless population. So we’ve got a ways to go with that. I think we need more housing, dignified housing, housing for people who are struggling in poverty, for elders, for youth aging out of care. I really want to lift up a colleague of mine that’s on the phone today. On the line today, Donnie Rosa, who’s the general manager of Parks here in Vancouver. Parks, is one of the and I hate to use this word, but the lowest levels of government in in British Columbia. You’ve got such provincial, you’ve got regional, you’ve got civic and then you’ve got this is a unique structure here in Vancouver, where it’s got its own elected council and governance. And of course, homelessness has become a urban issue now in parks where people are finding places to, you know, have a reprieve to find community, to have interdependence, a modicum of safety instead of sleeping in doorways. And twice throughout this last two years, we’ve responded to over 300 person encampments, working with very closely with the park board. B.C. housing did and we’ve taken approaches that absolutely center the needs of people there. Indigenous people overrepresented. We use culturally appropriate services. We use trauma informed practice that has not caught on in this country. It needs to, call us. We can tell you how we did it because enforcement traumatizes people, forcing people out of out of encampments who have nowhere to go, who don’t have housing is not the way. And we’ve learned that lesson, and it’s still not, you don’t see that proliferating across this country when people are just desperately in need of housing and shouldn’t be punished for that. So I think we’ve got a long way to go on those two areas. I would say accessibility and homelessness because those are really the least advantaged people in our communities and really have not always been centered in this pandemic. [00:32:11][220.1]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:32:12] If you. Thank you very much, Stephanie. Spending time here in the city over the summer last year and seeing how our police forces and our elected officials removed people out of our parks. Horrrible, horrible situation. One of those key moments in living in a city where you’re you’re desperately trying to find ways, find projects, find pieces that our officials can look at as a beacon, as as a way of doing it, maybe better. Jamilla, and that will lead into my next question. Are there projects? Are there cities? Are there people who are doing it right who are making you excited that they are thinking outside of that box and not looking to just, you know, just do what has already been done? Is there anyone exciting you in that way? [00:33:22][69.5]

Jamilla Muhamud: [00:33:24] I think like there are a lot of people, especially the folks on this call today. Huge fans of everyone. And I think one point I just also want to say is that I think the reason we talk about these topics is not just from like our professional perspectives or because this is the job we have. It’s also, for me, very much tied to my own lived experiences and and hearing these amazing points that Stephanie is raising about encampments and knowing the folks that I have supported to get housing and the difference it makes when they’re living in a park compared to when they’re living in the house and seeing the challenges that my relatives face with policing and enforcement. The challenges I experienced through immigration. So I think while this conversation is also couched in this broader conversation, how to improve planning as a profession, as a field or whatever it is, it’s also about really just fundamentally also helping ourselves and our communities and our everyday. And all the hats that we wear. In terms of the folks that I’m really excited about, I really do have to plug my own group because I’m wouldn’t be part of it it I wasn’t excited about the work we’re doing with the Black Planners and Urbanists Association and particularly the folks that are making up that group. Abigail Moriah has been doing phenomenal work, bringing together a range of Black partners across the country. She’s really been like a mentor figure to me. She just understands how to convene people. And I think that’s really key for someone who’s in this profession. I’m also very excited about the work that Keisha St-Luis McBurnie is doing. She works at Urban Strategies with me, young, talented planner, intellect. Her work really touches on these important points that I’ve still trying to wrap my head around it. How do you address? How do you how do you deal with redress and reparations and justice for communities? If we have identified the issues, then how do you move towards restorative justice through planning? Is it possible? I’m also very excited about the work that Eli does. Eli Bawa. He’s now at the city of Toronto, and he does a lot of work around queer spaces, Black queer spaces. How do you think about the places that have been lost and how do you how do you make space for Black people, Black queer people to take back those spaces, but also for us to also broaden our understanding of what queer spaces are? So those are a few people that I’ll just start. [00:35:34][130.8]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:35:35] No, that’s fantastic. Anyka, I’m going to go to you next. What do you feel? What projects or cities or people are exciting you right now? [00:35:46][10.6]

Anyka Mark: [00:35:47] Oh, my gosh, I love this. One of my favorite questions, really, because we’re such a group inspired by community that we really are energy is really fueled off of that. Off of people around us and work that they’re doing. So I think the first person I really want to big up is Black Cultural Zone. I don’t know if folks have heard of them. They’re in Oakland, California, and we had done a lot of we had we had come across them online when we were, well Romain, specifically Romain and Dane had come across them online and they were basically doing exactly what we wanted to do in Little Jamaica. But you know, on on this large scale level in California and I bring that up, you know, obviously not to shift the focus from Canada, but, you know, just kind of bring up that these conversations are happening everywhere. And to take an international approach is to be successful with, you know, kind of pushing this message forward. And so the Black Cultural Zone and they do a lot of really incredible work at organizing communities, creating subcommittees to get things done in terms of architectural design, in terms of advocacy, in terms of policy development. And they’ve really been able to galvanize their entire community to really push forward incredible conversations on development for Black communities and Black residents and Black businesses in California. So I want to big them up because that work really inspired us and we really took a lot of notes. We got to meet with Carolyn Johnson, who is one of the major organizers. We’ve got to meet with her a couple of times, and she’s absolutely incredible. So I really want to bring them up because they were a major inspiration for us. And then I’m honored to bring it to a local level and say, Friends of Chinatown. Some really incredible organizers who are doing again, same work as us. But in our Chinatown, you know, that is again being displaced because of development, because of developer greed. I’m going to just say that. I think that especially when you look at an international, like Chinatowns are international, and the fact that we’re about to lose ours in Toronto over development and our city not being able to safeguard culture in that way. I just want to big up the people in Friends of Chinatown because they’re really taking on a major, major, major task with that and they get our support a hundred percent. We’ve had them in a couple of our events and they’re just incredible, incredible organizers over there. And then I just want to say really quickly Reclaim, Rebuild Eglinton, Eg West doing really incredible and really revitalizing energy in Little Jamaica. Youthful energy. And we just love the work that they do as well. So those are really three incredible organizations and just, you know, people that are doing the work that we know is necessary for not just like us in Little Jamaca, but just, you know, across the city and across the world. [00:38:29][162.0]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:38:30] Anika, I know you can’t you’re not going to be able to put this all into like a 30 second sound bite for me. But can you give some context to what Little Jamaica is? Why are we fighting so damn hard to keep that piece of what is this three four blocks like? Why are we fighting so, so intensely to keep that going? [00:38:54][24.3]

Anyka Mark: [00:38:57] We’re fighting so intensely because it’s not gone. I would say. Again I think that’s really, really critical is that is that when you go to Little Jamaica, it’s still there. You know, like we just lost Randy’s recently. That means that throughout that 10 years of long construction, our business owners have been doing every single thing right. They’ve been resilient. They’ve been tough. They’ve been soldiering through the Metrolinx construction and also just inactivity to the to their concerns and their issues with the construction. They’ve been tough and they’ve been there for us because they know how important our culture is to us. And I would say also that it is the staple. It is the heart of Toronto and Canada’s culture. And so it’s just and you can’t just it’s not that easy to just kind of let that go and just leave it to the wayside. It is a part of you. And that’s what people really realize when they see Little Jamaica go away is “Wait a second. That was me. Something about my life is a part of that community. Let’s let’s take another. Let’s take a step back and think about, do I want this to be gone? Why do I want this to not be able to pass on to my children?” These are conversations that we have to have a culture in our city, you know, which I just think is for a multi and for one of the most multicultural places in the world. I just I wonder, you know, I truly wonder, but yes. Thirty seconds. [00:40:12][75.4]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:40:14] No, that’s all good. Cynthia, what’s exciting you? What are you looking at that is peaking your interest? [00:40:21][7.4]

Cynthia Dorrington: [00:40:23] I think I’m going to sort of stay close to home, I think there’s a lot of activities going across and being done in cities across Canada. And I think each city has to actually focus on their city in order to grow in order to change. It has to be a clear focus. I think we can come together if there’s that intersectionality. But here in Nova Scotia, I would say right now, I talked about DPAD with that Decade of Persons of African descent, and because they’re so broad in what they’re looking at, I think that is incredible. It really helps to have more broader conversations and not just micro conversations. I think a HAAC, which is Health Association of African Canadians here in Nova Scotia, that’s an association that has doctors and nurses, and we’re talking about health care and advocating to make sure that as we’re changing our health care system here in Nova Scotia, that we have a voice. What what has been missing in the health care for people of color Blacks, Indigenous? Let’s make sure that that change is incorporated when we start to rebuild what our health care authority looks like, Nova Scotia Health Authority looks like. And then, of course, I would say the Nova Scotia Association of Black Social Workers. This is an association made up of black social workers that are across our province. They are integral and have been integral in regards to Covid and helping with reaching those communities, getting information out to those communities, making sure those communities were connected by actually getting a grant to make sure that they got tablets and stuff like that. So our seniors in particular had access so they know what was happening, that there weren’t isolated. So removing that isolation, which helps eliminate some of the mental health issues, I think all of these folks really are astounding here in Nova Scotia because those those organizations are focused on making sure that we better where we’re at today. And they’re also at the same time advocating for because all of these organizations have to do aspects of advocating and they’re advocating with not only the provincial government, but the municipal governments to make sure that the voices are there. Just yesterday, here in Nova Scotia, our provincial government gave over a million dollars in a grant to a church that has been expanding here. It is really, but we classify as the Mother Church as the first church within the African United Baptist Association, which is in downtown Halifax, which is an area where Blacks live. And they gave them that because they are doing work in programs that really are grassroot programs, making sure that there’s food security for kids going to school. So school programs making sure they have are fed, making sure that parents who need help with any aspects in that. They have various various programs that are really working with that community to make sure that they’re helping the community to thrive. They have to, first of all, learn because there are some things that they’re missing, but they’re making sure that they’re building that so that we’re actually having that conversation and they’re able to partake in the conversation and not let somebody else have their voice. The one thing that we’re have been doing is we have to incorporate youth because we’re not going to be here forever. We need to make sure the youth are following behind. We need to make sure that they have a voice, that we need to make sure that the history, the information that is being shared is shared. Because here in Nova Scotia, there we, we classify ourselves as Blacks. But there are two distinct groups. There are Blacks that have been here for hundreds of years. Like myself, my ancestors that we classify ourselves as African Nova Scotian because we see ourselves as Indigenous to Nova Scotia. Since we’ve been here since the beginning and the founding of Nova Scotia by settlers. We arrived on the first ship that came here. But at the same time, we have African Canadians, the newcomers, the ones that have migrated here since 1900 onward. Listen at the end of the day, that the injustices that were had were different for each group of people, and I think that we have to have some of those discussions because some of that talk to the broken trust, the broken promises, because we here in Nova Scotia after the American Revolution, when Black loyalists arrived here were all promised land. The Blacks did not get the land. And there are people here in Nova Scotia who have been paying taxes but still do not own their land. It is not being given over from the Crown to them. When the Crown gave over land to the White loyalists that arrived here on the same ships in 1783. So there are lots of things that have to happen. But I think Michaelle Jean is in her foundation, she’s having and hosting with DPAD, a youth conference this summer to really start to get them involved. And what they need to be involved in. Is that politics, is that health care, is that social justice? So that they start to have an enlightening a young age as to what’s going on and how they can be a part of what the strategy is going to look like in the outcome as we move forward in the future. [00:45:39][316.9]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:45:41] Thank you. Thank you, Cynthia. Stephanie, I mean, we’re hearing a lot. You’ve touched on a few pieces. Is there anything else that really excites you, any other cities or projects that that we we need to know about? [00:45:57][16.1]

Stephanie Allen: [00:45:58] Yeah, I better stay excited or I’m going to just have to lay in my bed all day. It’s true. You know, we need to stay excited about things. One of the things I’m really excited about in the housing realm, of course, for me is this table that was set up and established by the City of Vancouver. BC Housing is now co-hosting for trans and gender diverse Two-Spirit Housing round table so that we can actually start to talk about the needs of people who are trans gender diverse Two-Spirit in housing. It’s a first. It’s run by and hosted by racialized transgender, gender diverse Two-Spirit folks. And it is a really important conversation set for our sector to talk about the needs of people who have been excluded, pushed to the margins and are at increasing risk in a lot of settings in our cities and struggle with poverty. So that’s a work that is illuminating for us, B.C. housing as an institution and has real, real impacts, I think, and long term implications for our sector in a positive way. You know, I’m really interested in systems change because I think without getting to roots, the branches and the fruit will continue to be problematic. And so community land trusts, you know, are something that is excited me for now. Several years, I had the good fortune to go to the CLT conference that’s held in America. It is a lot of Black folks at this conference, one of the most lit conferences ever been to. There is a great time happening at this conference. They had a street party, they closed the streets, they had a deejay. I mean, what’s interesting about land trust is that they were born out of the civil rights movement. They were specifically to help Black farmers and Black people find place and hold place because the conversations you’re hearing today are all about displacement. The system is designed to, first of all, push us into poverty, and then we’re relegated to parts of our urban areas that are for poor people that are low income. Then these sites become targets for redevelopment to unlock the value of the land. This is what happened in Nova Scotia. This is what happened in Little Burgundy. This is what happened is happening in Toronto, Heron Gate in Ottawa. This is what’s happening and has happened in Vancouver under urban renewal and the displacement of Hogan’s Alley. So if we don’t tinker with this system and get to this roots, we’re going to have this conversation in 20 years. Our grandchildren are going to be having this conversation in 50 years. So it’s critical that we address these roots and to me community land trusts, they remove the land from speculation. It’s no private ownership anymore. It’s held in a not for profit model. The members have similar kinds of governance models like you do in a co-op housing model. So there’s more participation, there’s more security of tenure. And then you prevent the gentrification pressures that come with new development. Because the minute that we put up a new building, the values go up everywhere else. And that’s where the targets start to hit our small Black businesses and people struggling to stay in place. So land trust for me shift the needle. It’s what we’ve proposed here in Vancouver. We’ve four years ago. I laugh a little bit because it’s absurd. Four years ago, a policy was adopted by the city of Vancouver, committing to the land trust proposal we made four years later. We don’t have our memorandum of understanding signed yet. We have a commitment to do it. We’ve had several. Hopefully, this is the time because, you know, Black folks were patient and we we work with you. So we’re going to continue to do that. But our land trust proposal will take the entire city block. That was really the kind of the high street of Hogan’s Alley in the Black neighborhood and put that entire thing into a community land trust for preservation, for, you know, for the for the 99 year lease that we’re going to sign and hopefully in perpetuity with affordable homes, small business space, nonprofit space, social enterprise space, child care and a cultural center at the. The heart of it, it’s inclusive housing. But it’s really meant to center Black people in city building, which we have not been, we have been relegated and all that incredible human potential. You’re hearing great ideas here, but imagine the thousands and thousands of Black people that have great ideas to contribute to making our cities better and have no chance to do that. So these are the things that you know, I’m really excited about, and these are the ways I think we start to shift the needle on things like intergenerational homelessness and poverty, intergenerational exclusion from, you know, business making and commerce in our city so that, you know, you can tell I’m excited. [00:51:00][302.1]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:51:03] We have we’ve got nine minutes left and and I’m seeing there’s so many questions in the chat. I’m not going to get to them, but but please keep piling them in because we’ll have a transcript of all of this that people will be able to touch on. I’m going to throw this in, and it’s not a question that I’ve asked any of you before, and it is a bit personal on the fact that I’ve got a 10 year old and 13 year old downstairs and their darndest to keep as quiet as possible during this event. How do how do I get them engaged and wanting to be a part of this conversation? How do I how do I make sure that they understand that their voices actually matter in this entire onslaught? I know I haven’t thrown this to you ladies beforehand, but I just I really wanted to not put you on the spot, but just get your honest, just feedback on how we get young people to be as passionate as as wanting to to see the change that we all know needs to happen. But I don’t know if they know. [00:52:19][76.2]

Stephanie Allen: [00:52:23] I think play is an important aspect of building cities. You know, and as a kid, I used to be able to get outside and be in spaces that were safe for me to play in that were, you know, had the kinds of amenities there where it’s access to tennis courts, basketball courts, swimming pools like things that were accessible. I grew up in Hamilton and at a time when there was probably more investment in public infrastructure, and we can see that eroding in the urban growth machine. So I think for kids, they’ve got the imaginations, they know the kinds of spaces they need to play, to be healthy, to engage with each other. You know, as adults, we want that. You know, eye on the street, we want to make sure that the old porch and kind of ways that we can observe kids sometimes, you know, the aunties would give you a knock if you were out of line, like those things matter. When you think about, you know, the ways that kids need that kind of structure, that kind of care, that love, that comes with discipline as well. But, you know, having spaces that kids can think about and grow their imagination and see themselves in, especially when it comes to play and learning is so critical. I think when we consider how we’re building cities because there are some neighborhoods that have nowhere to play. Nowhere safe to play, nowhere green, nowhere with outdoor activities or amenities and and they’re being eroded as we develop cities. So that would be one. I think play is the hook. At least it was for me. [00:53:57][93.8]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:53:58] Jamilla, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Jamilla, go. [00:54:01][2.6]

Jamilla Muhamud: [00:54:02] Yes. Sorry, go ahead. Did you want to go, Cynthia, [00:54:05][3.2]

Cynthia Dorrington: [00:54:06] yeah, thank you very much. If I may, it’s also around discussion. You, as the parent have to have the discussion zone on what potentially they can do. So there’s some education, some discussion, some in when I say, education, historical education. That’s true and not they’re not hearing from somebody else. What’s going on? Its fact from you. But what you’ve been able to do at their age, and what you see happening and how they can contribute. So it’s almost that engagement as well. So that education engagement, that discussion and then helping them to, as you noted, Stephanie, play. Learn to think about how they can take that and move to the next level. But I think it’s the engagement that’s going to be critical there, not just the child, they’re only a child for a short period of time. They’re going to be an adult for a heck of a lot longer period of time. So how do we make sure that when they’re coming into adulthood, they’re more realistic and also they’re dreamer with a realism around it because you have to build the dream. And that starts with we as parents helping them to dream, to play, to think big, because guess what? That’s how inventions start. [00:55:17][71.0]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:55:19] Fair enough, thank you for that, Cynthia. Jamilla. [00:55:21][2.3]

Jamilla Muhamud: [00:55:23] I have a four year old and six year old, and I don’t know how they’ve been staying quiet. But you know, it’s a difficult thing and I think it’s right what Cynthia is saying and Stephanie as well, it’s finding that balance between frank and honest truth telling. And then also letting them dream and imagining a world of possibilities. One of the things I do with my kids is I just we live downtown Toronto, so you see a mix of everything, the super expensive condos and then the encampments as well. So when we’re on our routes and we’re going places, they’ll ask me questions and I try my best to answer and I let them know. You know, as in child friendly language like, you know, the reality of the world we live in. And if they face challenges, we try to deal with it head on. My mom was very, very, very frank with us about things. And I guess she just had to in terms of her own thinking of survival and toughening us up. And so I buy a lot of books for them. There’s a lot of great resources and but it’s also just coming from you and building them up, really, just building up their spirit, letting them know that’s possible, that they’re valuable, that they contribute to this world, they can make a difference and that there might be barriers, but there are potential to get over it because. We all wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for people before us who did this amazing stuff to get us here, right? It’s amazing, Cynthia is talking about this history of Black presence in Canada, and we’re here with all these diverse representations of Blackness in these different spaces. So there’s lessons to also learn from history. [00:56:48][85.3]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:56:49] Fair enough. Anika, you’re last. [00:56:50][0.9]

Anyka Mark: [00:56:55] Love it. I’m not going to say too much. I’m going to send a link in the chat. This was a workshop that I got to cultivate with an urban planning firm, CP Planning, a Black urban planning firm in Toronto. We got to do a program called Black Futures on Eglinton, where we actually went out into community and sought out the insights of young people for these development conversations, for these larger reports that we’re writing about Little Jamaica. So we went to the Toronto Public Library and we talked to folks in the youth hub and we asked them to write stories and to kind of get into, we did have an Afro futuristic writing. It was a creative writing workshop, but to write what they wanted to see or how they felt they saw themselves in 10 years on Eglinton. What did they want to see in their community in the next 10 years and making sure that we gave them the agency to let us know that, you know, first of all, that we’re not the end all, be all of the neighborhood, right? Like, there are younger people than us that deserve to have their insights reported on and to be actually to be sought out specifically. So giving those young people the agency to build their own communities and to dream their own dreams for our communities. And just if you’re an organizer incorporating those young people because they do want to have those conversations and yeah, it might be, you know, a couple of mix and mingle conversations, but our young people want to have a voice. They have a voice, look at Tiktok even, our young people are talking. So it’s all about listening and making sure that they’re incorporated in these conversations, too. [00:58:19][83.7]

Lanrick Bennet Jr: [00:58:20] Fair enough. We’re literally at a time. I need to just send a huge thank you to our panelists, to Cynthia and Stephanie, Anyka, Jamilla, thank you so very much for your time this morning and afternoon. To CUI, thank you for this space. This is a conversation that needs to continue. We are beyond Black History Month. This is a good thing that this is happening in March. I want it to happen in June. I want it to happen in November. We want it to continue throughout the year. Thank you, everyone. Have a wonderful day. This is again, this conversation just needs to continue. So let’s continue it again to the panelists. Thank you so very much. This was awesome. Now my kids want to play. You have yourselves a yes. Have yourself a great afternoon [00:59:19][58.4]

Stephanie Allen: [00:59:19] Thank you everyone for joining. [00:59:20][1.3]

Cynthia Dorrington: [00:59:20] Thanks, everyone. [00:59:21][0.3]

Jamilla Muhamud: [00:59:21] Thanks for hosting Lanrick. Bye all [00:59:23][1.9]

Anyka Mark: [00:59:23] Thank you so much, guys. [00:59:23][0.2]

Stephanie Allen: [00:59:24] Bye bye, everyone. [00:59:24][0.0]


Full Audience
Chatroom Transcript

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From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at

12:02:03 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Welcome! Folks, please change your chat settings to “everyone” so everyone can see your comments. Attendees: where are you tuning in from today?
12:02:36 From Kristin Lillyman to Everyone:
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12:02:53 From Natasha Douglas to Everyone:
Toronto 🙂
12:02:53 From Catalina Parada to Everyone:
12:02:57 From Zara Brown to Everyone:
12:03:01 From Susan Lightfoot to Everyone:
Unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations (Vancouver)
12:03:09 From Mary Gelinas to Everyone:
Parkdale, Toronto!
12:03:10 From Jeanny Gonzalez to Everyone:
12:03:15 From Tim Ross to Everyone:
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12:03:29 From Henry Muriithi to Everyone:
12:03:31 From Steven Gammon to Everyone:
12:03:37 From Jhannell Edwards to Hosts and panelists:
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Tiohti:áke, or Montréal
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Joining from unceded unsurrendered Algonquin and Anashnaabeg territory a.k.a. Ottawa.
12:03:42 From Gabrielle Hurst to Everyone:
Richmond Hill
12:03:45 From Ellen Woodsworth to Everyone:
Ellen Woodsworth Women Transforming Cities International based in Vancouver
I live on the unceded ancestral territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations
12:03:47 From Reuben Briggs to Everyone:
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Victoria, BC. Homelands of the Songhees and Esquimalt people.
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Hello, from Toronto
12:04:06 From Waeza Afzal to Everyone:
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12:04:45 From Elizabeth Jassem to Everyone:
Great and very needed topic to discuss and to oush for better world in Toronto and everywhere. Thanks MAry.
12:05:37 From Gay Stephenson to Everyone:
Congratulations on your new adventure Jamie! You will be missed. Really interested in this session. Thank you!
12:06:40 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
HOUSEKEEPING: • A friendly zoom reminder, you can see and hear us but we can’t see or hear you • We have closed captioning enabled for today’s session. If you would like to turn it off, please click on the button at the bottom of your screen and disable • We are recording today’s session and will share it online at • We hope this session is as interactive as possible, so please feel free to share comments, references, links or questions in the chat
12:07:03 From Mitchell Reardon to Hosts and panelists:
Hello from the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
12:07:10 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Stephanie Allen, Associate Vice President, Strategic Business and Operations and Performance, BC Housing: Stephanie Allen is a housing development specialist focused on building affordable, equitable communities. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in urban studies. Stephanie’s masters research focused on the settlement and displacement of Black communities and documented the work done in Vancouver to seek redress for the displacement of Hogan’s Alley. She was awarded the 2020-2021 Western Association of Graduate Schools (WAGS) and ProQuest Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award in humanities, social sciences, education, and business disciplines for her research.
12:07:21 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Most recently, she was the recipient of the 2021 BC Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Awards, in the Breaking Barriers category, for tackling systemic racism and reducing barriers for communities that experience marginalization. Stephanie has worked in the private, non-profit, and public sectors of real estate development since 2002 and is a founding board member of Hogan’s Alley Society and she is currently the Vice President of Strategic Business Operations & Performance for BC Housing.
12:07:53 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Cynthia Dorrington, Owner, Vale & Associates Human Resources Management and Consulting Inc.: Vale & Associates is a boutique consulting firm specializing in providing strategic management, business consulting and contractual HR services to organizations. Working in areas such as organizational strategy, people strategy, diversity and inclusion, change management, governance, organizational assessments, supplier diversity, performance management, project management, HR advisory services, training and development as well as team building and effectiveness, Vale & Associates has been able to provide consulting services to a number of clients in the private, para-public, public and not-for-profit sectors, locally, nationally and internationally.
12:08:02 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
In 2013, Cynthia became a Principal partner in Global Professional Services International (GPSI), a consulting firm based in Australia specializing in capacity building and institutional strengthening for organizations. Vale has strategically partnered with American companies to collaborate in growing businesses for inclusion into the globally supply chain.
12:09:03 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Jamilla Mohamud, Urban Planner, Urban Strategies: Jamilla is an Urban Planner and researcher with experience working on a range of issues including urban health equity, post-secondary student housing affordability and gendered rights to the city. She has developed public health policy recommendations to enable healthier outcomes for communities, supported city-wide public consultations on proposed Inclusionary Zoning policy and contributed to the design and implementation of post-secondary student consultation strategies. Her professional work strives to leverage land use policies to benefit communities by raising awareness of intersecting issues that impact historically disadvantaged populations. At Urban Strategies, Jamilla is contributing to new master plan and campus master plans in Canada and the US.
12:10:29 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Anyika Mark, Director of Communications, Black Urbanism TO: Anyika Mark studied Political Science & Caribbean Studies at the University of Toronto-St. George campus and was involved in a variety of student associations and community grassroots organizations throughout her years as an undergraduate. On campus this would include: Black Students’ Association, the Caribbean Studies Student Union, UofT’s Black Graduation ceremony. Off campus collectives include the Caribbean Solidarity Network, BlackUrbanismTO, Mount Dennis Community Association, and the York South-Weston NDP Riding Association.
12:10:40 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Being a lover of theatre, Anyika was the Stage Manager for DreamGirl and has acted in a number of student-led productions. Anyika recently had the honour of hosting a live read of her own play, Making Moves, with Nightwood Theatre through their playwrighting program, Write From The Hip in September of 2019. Making Moves was also performed at Weston Artscape in February 2020 by Piece of Mine Arts for their Black Women In Theatre event.
12:11:51 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Lanrick Bennett Jr, Managing Director of 880 Cities: Lanrick joined 8 80 Cities in March of 2020. He held previous positions as the Hub Manager at Artscape Wychwood Barns, Regional Advisor in the Ontario Provincial Government and Education Officer at the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. As an advocate for social programs, Lanrick was one half of #JacksLibraryTour, where he and his 5-year-old son visited all 100 Toronto Public Libraries using public transit. He is a year-round urban cyclist who champions protected cycling infrastructure in multiple forms. Taking a page out of his improv training with the Second City, he celebrates the concept of “Yes, And,” which will enable him to keep moving the concepts of 8 80 Cities forward.
12:18:46 From Mary Gelinas to Everyone:
Thrilled about the knowledge and experience of this panel, thank you everyone! Question regarding the potential of a Cultural District in Little Jamaica in Toronto. Does the panel think this will be an effective way to preserve the “intangible” cultural heritage that doesn’t seem to be respected using Heritage Conservation Districts in Ontario/Toronto? Interested in how a cultural (heritage) district would be able to deter displacement of racialized and low income people/businesses/cultures in other neighbourhoods in Toronto (Parkdale specifically). Thank you!
12:19:29 From Anyika Mark to Everyone:
Such a great question Mary, can’t wait to get into that!
12:19:43 From Donnie Rosa to Everyone:
Thank you for the work you are doing in BC Stephanie, you push me/all of us to be better humans. Jamilla, systemic change indeed!
12:22:57 From Stephanie Allen to Everyone:
Hi Donnie! You are also doing great work as the GM of Parks thrust into responding to the homeless crisis in Vancouver. It’s been an honour to work with you.
12:22:59 From Kathleen Elgie to Everyone:
Bit of a followup or maybe clarification of Mary’s question. Do the policies about Heritage Conservation Districts HCDs need to change? Right now, HCD plans are pretty effective in safeguarding identified aspects of neighbourhoods. The recommendations of the Housing Affordability Task Force, if implemented, would totally destroy that protection. Any comments?
12:24:14 From Stephanie Allen to Everyone:
Still not adopted in BC
12:24:18 From Gloriela Iguina-Colon to Everyone:
Could you please walk us through an example of the work you have done in the past two years that employed strategies for inclusive resident engagement?
12:24:58 From Kathleen Elgie to Everyone:
Great question Gloriela!
12:25:52 From Gloriela Iguina-Colon to Everyone:
How do you engage diverse stakeholders? What are best practices you employ for doing so?
12:26:29 From Jamilla Mohamud to Everyone:
Programme of Activities for the Implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent:
12:28:08 From Scott Carnall to Everyone:
Thanks for the conversation, as more municipalities begin to remove single family only zoning are we seeing more diverse neighbourhoods or is there still obstructions in changes in mature neighbourhoods?
12:32:51 From Verlyn Francis to Everyone:
I continue to admire the work being done in Nova Scotia. We would go a long way in large cities like Toronto if we, as Black communities, boldly come together to demand the services and respect we deserve in Canada. Only the Indigenous peoples have been here before us and everyone is coming and pushing us aside.
12:33:19 From Michelle Abunaja to Everyone:
Stephanie, where can we find resources about how you approached assisting the unhoused population in your city? I would love to learn more
12:34:27 From Stephanie Allen to Everyone:
Hi Michelle, please reach out to the BC Housing Research centre. We have some limited published material and more to come
12:35:05 From Michelle Abunaja to Everyone:
Thank you! Loving this conversation and everything this group is sharing.
12:36:39 From Ellen Woodsworth to Everyone:
Please share these incredible resources here.
12:37:14 From Kathleen Elgie to Everyone:
Or send these resources to us as a followup. They are great.
12:37:46 From Ellen Woodsworth to Everyone:
World Urban Forum 11 deadline for proposals is March 21.
12:38:27 From Natasha Douglas to Everyone:
Yes, the individuals and resources mentioned have been great
12:39:09 From Zara Brown to Everyone:
12:39:25 From Nathan Baya to Everyone:
12:40:18 From Nicole Hanson to Everyone:
12:40:46 From Nemoy Lewis to Hosts and panelists:
12:41:00 From Nicole Hanson to Everyone:
We’re national 👍🏾
12:41:27 From Ellen Woodsworth to Everyone:
This whole panel would be so powerful at the World Urban Forum which I think is going to be part in person and part online.
12:42:30 From Jamilla Mohamud to Everyone:
Folks at MIIPOC are also phenomenal:
12:48:07 From Julie Chamberlain to Everyone:
So grateful for this excellent conversation and the many strategies and people highlighted! Will this recording be shared? I’d like to share it with my planning students!
12:48:58 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Hi Julie! Yes, the transcript and recording from today’s session will be available at
12:49:30 From Julie Chamberlain to Everyone:
Wonderful, thank you!
12:50:22 From Kathleen Elgie to Hosts and panelists:
Jamie, by transcript, do you mean the chat?
12:51:01 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Kathleen Elgie and all panelists:
Hey Kathleen. We share both the chat and panel transcript for each session.
12:51:32 From Kathleen Elgie to Hosts and panelists:
12:52:04 From Verlyn Francis to Everyone:
Thank you to all the panelists for your wisdom and ideas. So good to hear the sharing of strategies. Please tell us how we can contribute to the work.
12:55:42 From Ingrid Barrett to Everyone:
Play is critical in early child development
12:56:19 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Everyone:
Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our sessions at
12:57:29 From Anyika Mark to Everyone:
12:57:53 From Stephanie Allen to Everyone:
Encourage everyone to tune in to Global TV Friday at 9 pm for BLK: An Origin Story about Black history in BC
12:58:41 From Beth Wilson to Everyone:
Thank you for a great session! I’m off to a meeting.
12:58:43 From Eleni Taye to Everyone:
Thank you to all the panelists! Very engaging
12:58:56 From Stephanie Allen to Everyone:
12:58:59 From Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute to Lanrick Bennett Jr.(Direct Message):
You’ve been wonderful!! Thank you so much
12:59:02 From Meaghan Palynchuk to Everyone:
Thank you for such a great session and panelists !! This hour went by too fast !!
12:59:03 From Zara Brown to Everyone:
Thank you all
12:59:12 From Nemoy Lewis to Hosts and panelists:
Great Panel!!!
12:59:14 From Mitchell Reardon to Hosts and panelists:
Thank you for this excellent discussion
12:59:16 From Sarah Gelbard to Everyone:
Thank you all!
12:59:16 From Mary Gelinas to Everyone:
The fastest hour! Thank you!
12:59:23 From Nemoy Lewis to Hosts and panelists:
Thank you!!
12:59:24 From Natasha Douglas to Everyone:
Fantastic!!! Thank you!
12:59:26 From Jill Wigle to Everyone:
Thank you for a fantastic session!
12:59:29 From Claire Lee to Everyone:
Thank you for sharing with us!
12:59:32 From Lindsay Telfer to Everyone:
Fantastic conversation…thank you.
12:59:34 From Jamilla Mohamud to Everyone:
Appreciate everyone who joined and so great to share space with everyone on the panel today 🙂 peace and love!
12:59:37 From Gillian Walczak to Everyone:
excellent discussion!! THANK YOU ALL!!!
12:59:37 From Michelle (she/they) to Everyone:
🖤🖤 Thanks for all the information! essential information to bring to our city councillors.
12:59:39 From Catalina Parada to Everyone:
Thank you very much!
12:59:40 From Jennifer Green to Hosts and panelists:
Thanks for this excellent session!
12:59:41 From Agi Kapllani to Everyone:
I learned a lot! Thank-you!
12:59:42 From Sarah Burrell to Everyone:
Such an inspiring session – thank you to everyone on the panel today!
12:59:43 From Mia Bailey to Everyone:
Thank you
12:59:46 From Carla Mays to Hosts and panelists:
Thank you 🙏🏾
12:59:46 From Elizabeth Jassem to Everyone:
thank you.
12:59:46 From Nemoy Lewis to Hosts and panelists:
12:59:48 From Michelle (she/they) to Everyone:
Good lck in all your work!
12:59:50 From Ellen Woodsworth to Everyone:
Thank you !
12:59:50 From Jenna Dutton to Everyone:
Thanks to all panelists!
12:59:50 From Rutendo Madzima to Everyone:
Thank you
12:59:52 From Alicia Persaud to Everyone:
Thank you!
12:59:52 From Fredrica Walters to Everyone:
Thank you everyone for an amazing hour
12:59:52 From Magdalena Ugarte to Everyone:
Thank you! What a great conversation
12:59:53 From Patrick Henry to Everyone:
Thank you all!
12:59:57 From Reuben Briggs to Everyone:
thank you!
12:59:57 From Sherene Nichol to Everyone:
thank you
12:59:57 From Cassandra Dorrington to Hosts and panelists:
Great conversation, I love the range of perspectives.
12:59:59 From HOWARD WAX to Hosts and panelists:
13:00:00 From Michelle Abunaja to Everyone:
Thank you!