CityTalk: Civic Institutions – Maximizing Possibilities

5 Key

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

1. Reimagining new ways to address longstanding issues

Bill Moore, Executive Director of Community Safety at Halifax Regional Municipality, spoke to his experience as the executive director of a newly formed business unit which amalgamated Housing and Homelessness, Emergency Management, Compliance and Public Safety, the Street Navigator Program and Food Security. He states that this approach has forced the municipality to reimagine the ways these services are delivered, by fostering a more comprehensive approach that breaks down siloes and moves away from a police-first response. “I will applaud the city, the fact that they’ve realized that trying to deal with these new emerging issues with a framework and structure from the past was not the appropriate approach. So I applaud them for taking the bold step of changing the structure.”

2. Communication, communication, communication

Sue Uteck, Executive Director of the Spring Garden Area Business Association, spoke to what businesses are seeing and experiencing on the ground. She stated that their shared empathy for people in crisis in addition to the lack of municipal help, has led them to find solutions to directly address the issues, such as the navigator outreach program. While this approach has led to improvements in the area, there still needs to be greater coordination and communication between groups working on the ground and levels of government rather than passing the problem down from the province to the municipality, to the business improvement district.

3. Libraries provide essential services and the potential for generational change

The pandemic response deployed by public libraries demonstrated their ability to pivot by providing services to their communities that expanded well beyond their typical programming. Åsa Kachan, Chief Librarian and CEO of Halifax Public Libraries, however stressed that libraries could play an even more impactful role by creating generational change: “We know, for example, literacy has an enormous impact on health outcomes and employability and school outcomes. And so it’s an interesting challenge because we’re both providing that immediate reaction and immediate response. And then we’re also trying to create that generational change […] so our libraries are genuinely at their best when they provide that service to all and that dignity to all.” This sentiment was echoed by Sarah Meilleur, CEO, Calgary Public Library “I think it’s important this piece of us responding to community needs, but remembering that one of the things that libraries do really well is look upstream and create better conditions for the future.”

4. Libraries cannot do it alone

Whether it be newcomer settlement services, onsite social workers or helping people file their taxes, libraries are uniquely positioned to identify community needs and provide the essential infrastructure that orders of government and other agencies need for delivering services. Sarah Meilleur added that regardless of how great their programming is, or how successful libraires might be at navigating challenging situations and responding to community needs, it ultimately comes down to partnerships. “I always say that, you know, public libraries are a bit of a bellwether. We see everything that’s happening in community and we can reflect it back to other organizations and levels of government because we’re unique in how many people we see daily in all different circumstances who feel welcome and that they belong at the library.”

5. Finding shared solutions and acknowledging lived experiences

All panellists recognized the complexity of social issues such as homelessness, mental health and addiction and the need to find empathetic and equity-based approaches to helping individuals rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all model. Bill Moore states that getting people around the table is the first step towards finding solutions and understanding the different lenses of experience that need to be applied to diverse situations. Åsa Kachan echoed this sentiment by highlighting the humanizing effect of shared public spaces and their ability to bring people from various backgrounds together to connect and exchange. Everyone agreed that this proximity to others and the problems they face needs to be coordinated with government interventions in order to find on the ground solutions.

Full Panel

Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software.  Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to with “transcription” in the subject line.

Mary W. Rowe [00:00:44] Hi everybody, it’s Mary Rowe for CityTalk and the Canadian Urban Institute. Welcome, welcome, welcome to this CityTalk, which we’re broadcasting live from the Art of City Building Conference, which is taking place as we speak about 50 meters over to my right in a theater here in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, across the river from Halifax, all part of the Halifax Regional Municipality. Really pleased to be having so many people join us. And also because we did the time change, because we’re on Atlantic time here, so thanks for those of you in the West who got up a bit earlier than you’re used to. We’re really looking forward to having a really constructive conversation this morning, or in your case, early this morning. I’m going to ask my panel to put their cameras on and we had to quickly pivot, as they say, using the common vernacular from COVID, we had to pivot to going online solely, because we had hoped to be able to be physically in the theater together. But we’ve had to … You know, this is one of the good things about COVID, I guess, right? Is that we know how to go electronically when we can. And so that’s what we’ve done. And so we’re now all joining virtually, even though we actually are in physical proximity, with the exception of Sarah, who is coming in from Calgary.  And the HRM as Halifax is affectionately called, is located here in the ancestral territory of the Mi’kma’ki and the traditional lands of the Mi’kmaq people. And we’ve just had a whole morning of orientation and serious conversation about what reconciliation really needs to look like. What does that look like in practice? How do we come to terms with all the varying understandings that people have and the various agreements that exist – unceded, ceded … In this case all totally unceded. And HRM acknowledges the peace and friendship treaties that have been signed in the territory. But I think what I would take from the last 3 hours of discussion here is that we’ve still got a ways to go, and those of us in the placemaking world can throw terms off quickly. We’re all treaty people and that that’s not always received as being sensitive or respectful or acknowledging the deep, deep history that we have here and the unacknowledged effects of that, that continue to live on. And we’re not … kids aren’t educated about this, and we’re all slowly coming to terms with this. The other important piece about the history here is the deep, deep attachment of the African Nova Scotian community to various neighborhoods that are – some of which are encompassed in HRM and some of which aren’t, and all of that process of reconciliation, what that looks like. So these are all topics that are being talked about in and out of these sessions here at the City Building. So if you weren’t tuned in this morning to any of the Art of City Building sessions, by all means, tune in this afternoon. I think it’s on Facebook Live in the Inspiring Communities page or just google “Artist City Building 2023” and I think it will direct you to where you can go to at least watch the remaining sessions that will take place after this. And also, I’m sure it’s all being recorded and captured and so it’ll be posted subsequently. So we were very happy to be able to do a CityTalk in conjunction with this convening and we’ll be doing the same kind of thing a month from now in Toronto, when Evergreen hosts, and Future Cities host their conference on city building as well. So we’ll look forward to doing a live CityTalk from there as well. Anyway, joining me here in HRM is also Åsa Kachan, who tells me she’s just across the road here. She said to me 5 minutes ago, “you could just run across the street and I can have you in an office here”. Sue Uteck … (Åsa is the head of the library system here in HRM), Sue, who is the CEO of the Spring Garden Business Improvement Area. And she, I think is … It looks like you’re in a bathroom Sue or shower, I can’t tell where you are, [I think I’m dressing room]  … yeah, you’re in a dressing room, you’re just down the corridor from me here at Aubrey Landing. Bill Moore is director of public safety here at HRM

Mary W. Rowe [00:05:21]  Bill over to you … Bill works for the HRM. He also was to be here, but he’s, I think, safely ensconced in his office. Am I right? Are you at City Hall?

Bill Moore [00:05:33] City Hall … Halifax Grand Parade.

Mary W. Rowe [00:05:36] Yeah. Great. Nice to see you there. And, Sarah, you’re coming into us from Calgary. How are things in Calgary?

Sarah Meilleur [00:05:41] They’re good. It’s a beautiful fall morning here. Lovely to be with you.

Mary W. Rowe [00:06:01] So the way we normally start CityTalks is we ask people to give us at the top what they’re seeing, what’s working, what’s not and what’s next. And we’re all here talking about social infrastructure, civic infrastructure and what that looks like. And how does it particularly affect the social determinants of health and economic inclusion. So I might start, because we’ve got so many going on here, I’m going to start probably with you, Bill, because you are literally at ground zero. I walked across the greenspace in front of City Hall this morning, so I saw some of the reality of what you’re dealing with. So can you just … remember you’ve got a national audience here. Can you just give people a sense of what you’re seeing on the ground and your purview about that, about what’s working and what’s not right this minute in terms of civic social infrastructure? Over to you.

Bill Moore [00:06:49] Thank you very much, Mary, and thanks for the opportunity. So the windows behind me here, you’re correct, if  I was open in those screens you would look outside and see about18 tents, maybe a few less after we just had a hurricane blow through here over the last 24/36 hours. A number of those tents were badly damaged. And there are people out there in various stages of trying to rebuild the lives that they’re living in those tents. If you were to go about three or four blocks from here, there’s another small civic park located in a very … I would call it a beautiful and somewhat affluent part of the city that is basically a tent city. Upwards of 35 tents in that space. We are not unlike a lot of places across North America and Canada that are experiencing increased levels of homelessness. Some say we’re at a slight disadvantage in the fact that Halifax is booming. It is one of the best places to live and people are flocking here. The unfortunate part of it, it has driven our vacancy rate down to below 1% and has caused the cost of living in homes to increase and as a result of that has put some in the rental industry in the position of either rent evicting going to short term leases to allow for increases in costing. And the net effect is the increase in those that are experiencing homelessness. There are over 1000 people on the by name list here in Halifax. Those are looking for for housing. And I was told that there’s approximately 30,000 people that are at risk of potentially becoming homeless due to the economic situation and the housing situation. So just to kind of lay the framework … I’m the executive Director of Community Safety. It’s a new business unit. It was struck in March of this year after our new chief administrative officer came on board. In my business unit they pulled Housing and Homelessness, the Emergency Management Office, the … I should know these, it is my business unit … Compliance, Public Safety Office, the Street Navigator program and Food Security, all into one business unit. And what we’re beginning to do as a result of a number of reports that have gone to City Council over the last number of years, starting to re-imagine services provided by the municipality and reimagining the way those services are delivered and by whom. There’s been a push to move some of those services historically being delivered by police to a non-police response. So we’re in the beginning of starting to work through those new modalities, if you will. We have a very strong homelessness outreach team that was added to in the recent budget. We’re starting to mobilize more community based groups and we’re starting to see some synergies between those portions of our business and city that were not … They were working, but I would characterize it to a degree working in siloed approach. And we’re looking at a much more broadened comprehensive approach, working with the libraries, working with community groups to try to look at some of the issues. And I think the kind of the big four that keep coming back to me that have an intersection with what we’re discussing here are issues around crime, homelessness, mental health and addictions and how all those four are playing together to form what we’re seeing today, day in, day out in Nova Scotia. Health and homelessness is a provincial responsibility. We’re not passing the buck, but that does bring another level of coordination required to bring our provincial partners to the table. And I will say that they have been very, very active in the discussion around those pieces. So that’s really  what we’re seeing here now, we had a very intense and the most emotional city council meeting I’ve ever attended, quite frankly, last Tuesday night, talking about our response to those that are experiencing homelessness and trying to find some empathetic and equity based approaches to dealing with these individuals. And I think it’s fair to say and then we do address it that I think there is a stigma associated with those who are experiencing homelessness that somehow that’s their responsibility, that they’re there and the like. And I can tell you that and from the people that that I talked to … The face of homelessness is varied. There are a lot of different people that are experiencing homelessness for a lot of different reasons. And not to say that that any one of them is better than the other, but it is not a singularly driven or singular type of person that is experienced in a sense. And as a result of that, we’ve had to have some discussions around … our solutions need to be responsive to those individuals, and a one size fits all approach does not work. And I would even suggest that a one-size could actually put some of our most vulnerable populations in a more precarious position if we don’t understand the requirements and the needs that they have to have. So all that to say is, do we have all the answers? No. But with the city, I will applaud the city, the fact that they’ve realized that trying to deal with these new emerging issues with a framework and structure from the past was not the appropriate approach. So I applaud them for taking the bold step of changing the structure. And now it’s up to us to really mobilize those pieces, to try to bring the level of supports and services to bear. And hopefully we’re doing that, we’re going to have a multifold … our Impact will be broad … Number one for those that are in need, hopefully they’re having a better outcome. But I think number two, that actually has a broader community benefit and then a business benefit for our downtowns and our main streets. And because I think that they’re taking the brunt, I think of a lot of what we’re seeing here. And so with that, I’ll stop my comments here, but I’m certainly able to speak more of it as we go along. Thank you, Mary.

Mary W. Rowe [00:13:36] Thanks Bill, you know, as you say, this is about people, you know, everyone that that we’re experiencing, we have an American colleague who’s speaking here and he was in Toronto for the day before. He’s from New York. His name is … He was in Toronto for a day trying to get into the Atlantic region because of the storm. And he said to me last night he was just shocked by the numbers of people that need support, that were visible on the street in Toronto and that he experiences in New York and that we’re seeing in other cities. And we just forget, it’s about people. And as you suggest, no one situation is the same. And how do we have an empathic response to the circumstances? As you say, there’s tons of stigma and and at the same time, it’s also having an impact on other people. People who enjoy public space want to be able to take their children there, or people are putting businesses on Main Street. So I’m going to ask Sue to join and talk a bit about that, because it has so many ripple effects. And I was thinking that … Thank you, everybody that’s coming in on the chat. We appreciate people identifying where they’re coming in from. And as you know, this chat is … CityTalk chats are typically very active. So feel free to volley questions out there and answer each others questions. We always publish the chat transcript because people put in really important resources. So I hope you’ll all continue to do that. And we also have people coming in, I can see, from across the country in varying, different circumstances. And what’s always so striking to me about these challenges is how shared they are and that cities are all having them in different ways. But some common threads and I think last week I was in Ottawa, Bill and I actually were in Ottawa together a few weeks ago talking with a bunch of deputy ministers and city managers across the country, staff people, trying to explain to senior federal bureaucrats what the challenge looks like on the street, on the ground. And I was last week at the super public administration conference and struck by how well-intentioned so many, I’m assuming all the public service is, but also being aware the distance between people writing federal policy or even provincial policy, the distance from them to what someone like you, Sue, is seeing on the ground. So let’s hear from you a little bit about what your perspective is and how your BIA has been trying to address this. And I’m sure a lot of it will mirror what Bill has just said. So happy to have you. And knock three times on the wall. And that’s me on the other side of the wall.

Sue Uteck [00:16:07] Oh, thanks, Mary, and thanks, everyone, for sitting in today. I’m Sue Uteck, , I’m the Executive Director for the Spring Garden Area Business Association. So we consider ourselves the heart of Halifax. We’re four city blocks, we’re encompassed … to the end of the four city blocks is my counterpart Paul MacKinnon of the downtown and to the north where Bill Moore talked about, we have this beautiful Victoria Park and it’s across the road from the Halifax Public Gardens, which is the oldest public gardens in North America. So for us right now, you know, this is tourist season. We have an encampment that has grown steadily, alarmingly over the last two years. So, you know, we’re business associations, we’re in the in a position of advocacy, but we’re also in beautification events, etc.. So for us, you know, the real life lived experience on the ground is we’ve had to cancel events because we can’t use Victoria Park. So events simply got canceled this year. You know, from a shopkeeper’s point of view, theft, vandalism, the mental health issue is on the street. Fentanyl is here, it’s in Halifax, it’s alive and well. So it could be everything from just a mental health crisis. Fentanyl on the street, you know, the stark reality of … we don’t have enough washrooms here, so people are just going where they need to go. And a lot of shopkeepers now, at this point, you know, everyone has empathy and nobody wants anyone living in this situation. But businesses right now, you know, with the city belongs to … All of that stuff. They are just maxed. They’re exhausted. You know, the lack of help, etc., to deal with this issue. So we deal with it directly on the ground. And one of the ways we do, we have, as Bill alluded to, a navigator outreach program that’s been in existence since 2007. So basically your navigator is a social worker that visits people on the streets and looks to see what services that they need. The navigator can do anything from, you know, trying to help to stop eviction, whether it’s like you’re in arrears with payment, try and find job, get boots, tents on the ground, all of this stuff, you know, and the irony of it is, as Bill had said, you know, this is a municipal government that’s not in the in the trade of housing, which is now in the business of homelessness. So we have this real disconnect. I’m starting to see improvement. And I think one of the positives is … Having Bill Moore in the Office of Public Safety very keen to listen to us as business improvement districts. But overall, you know, it’s a reputation that suffers when you can’t publicly come out constantly and say, “we have a crisis here” … We have a crisis because people will no longer come to the downtown and they won’t want to live here. And we’re you know, we’ve had an unprecedented building boom in the Spring Garden area where we now have residents that are like, what can we do? It’s not about the NIMBY. Yes, this is a wealthy area. They don’t want to see this situation. So, you know, we’re finding on the ground here in Halifax the cooperation between the levels of government is not where it was supposed to be. And I think, you know, Bill again, alluded to this very emotional council meeting because this problem has been thrust upon the municipality, which has now been thrust upon the business improvement district. So the reputational hit to the area, you know, it’s not a good look to have these tents. It’s not a good look to have 14 people panhandling on one city block or sleeping on a bench, you know, and Fentanyl is here. What do we do with the issue of Fentanyl? And I know that … Via the Halifax Public Library, you know, this is a day to day crisis because the libraries she’ll speak to is like the post of last resort. You know, we don’t have enough shelters, we don’t have enough beds. We’ve had too much of a concentration of services to my colleague Tracy in the North End. So this has all been combined for the perfect storm. And if you’d had to be out on Saturday, which I wanted to check on the encampment, it broke your heart to see tents blowing across the street. People just standing there going, “where do I go? And what do I do now?” Because businesses had shut down, right? We’re closed for the day. I can’t even get a cup of tea somewhere. So, you know, it’s the day to day. The daily issues on the streets, the business fatigue and is just at the perfect storm right now.

Mary W. Rowe [00:20:39] Literally the perfect storm. I mean, literally and figuratively. It’s, you know, I always remind people that that none of us can only do one thing anymore. You know, you can’t just say, “oh, I’m this, I’m a shopkeeper or I’m a that” we’re all in this somehow. We all have to … And during the pandemic I feel like we lost some of that, certainly in government, we lost some of that jurisdictional nonsense … “Oh, this isn’t my jurisdiction”. It’s, you know, now during the pandemic, everybody had to help. We all had to figure this out. And that’s, I think part of the adjustment we’re facing is that now the urgency of the pandemic has passed. But as you suggest, we’re dealing with a whole bunch of other perfect storms coming together. And we have to get back to that kind of mutual solution finding. I’ve been interested to see what the discourse is around housing, for instance, as you suggest, in Nova Scotia, housing is a provincial responsibility, But HRM has had to assume all sorts of aspects of it because nobody else was doing it. And then you start to see people retrenching. The Prime Minister even said, “it’s not our responsibility”. And, you know, a lot of people responded very negatively to that and said, “Are you kidding?” So I think this notion of how do we always be pushing up metaphorically, to the province and the federal government, a better awareness of what’s actually occurring. And as you suggest, too, you’re dealing with shopkeepers, business owners, who don’t normally have access to our policymakers at the provincial or federal level. Right. They’re busy, you know, making a living, doing whatever they’re doing. So this is all part of our ongoing effort here to kind of connect these dots so that people understand what matters. And I appreciate the efforts of your navigators and how do we get the feedback from navigators sped back up. So you’re reinforcing what Bill’s saying it’s about people and individuals. And I remember saying to me a couple of weeks ago was that those tents I don’t know if it’s true, but the ones in the parks, the Victoria Park that you’re reflecting. But a lot of these people get up in the morning and go to work. So you can’t make any assumptions about who’s in a tent. Right. And what their life circumstance are.

Sue Uteck [00:22:51] You don’t know. Nobody says that when they’re in grade seven. My life goal is to be homeless … like wake up and look at that every day and, you know, have some compassion.

Mary W. Rowe [00:23:01] Well, and also people rotate. You know, your life circumstances change. And it’s not that you’re … You may be homeless for a period of time … And then there are people that are chronically homeless and really need those kinds of supports. Okay. Well, you just mentioned the library, so that’s a cue. Let’s hear from you Åsa first, in terms of the local on the scene, what the HRM library system is coping with, and then we’re going to go all the way to Calgary and hear from Sarah what her experience is. I should just say that CUI has been working closely with something called the Canadian Urban Libraries Council that Åsa chairs, which is all the big libraries across the country, and in a couple of weeks you’re going to see a large report coming out from us talking about what we’ve observed in libraries and what that means for the sustainability of the library systems across the country. And that’s just a little teaser to tell you that’s coming because October is Libraries month and we’ll be on it, but we’re really happy to have Åsa and Sarah here too. I was going to call you guys elder statesman of the library sector because you’re kind of reflective of what I just described, that during the pandemic, we all had to do everything. And nothing is … There’s no more where true than in libraries. So Åsa over to you in terms of what you’re observing. And then, Sarah, we’ll go to Calgary for you.

Åsa Kachan [00:24:13] So certainly not to repeat Bill and Sue’s concerns … We see every day, the vulnerability that exists in our community. And it is different than it was five years ago or ten years ago or 20 years ago. But what I would do is extend that vulnerability beyond those who are facing homelessness and who are most acutely vulnerable, because we have you know, we have this financial strain that’s happening. So are those who lose housing and then there are those who cannot afford housing or where a great proportion of their income goes to house themselves. And we’re also noticing an intergenerational impact from COVID. So our challenge is both in responding to the immediate, working closely with those community navigators, triaging members of our community who need tremendous support, and then also creating this institution that is going to have that effect on the next generation. So concurrent with that immediate response is also the care of families with young children to really think about what is their … where are their literacy rates. We know, for example, literacy has an enormous impact on health outcomes and employability and school outcomes. And so it’s an interesting … It’s an interesting challenge because we’re both providing that immediate reaction and immediate response. And then we’re also trying to create that generational change through sort of sound practice. So thinking very much about belonging and social inclusion and, you know, how do we address some of the polarization and that sort of dehumanizing of one another that we see in community? And really we think about youth whose development was disrupted. So we have teenagers who might be 16 or 17 years old and the size of 16 and 17 your olds who missed a few years of socialization. And so their behavior might be more like a 12 or 13 year old, and yet they’re larger. So this sense of ….

Åsa Kachan [00:26:11] Only extend that to say there are many people experiencing challenge. We’ve had a remarkable in-migration of people to Nova Scotia from other parts of Canada and other parts of the world. Those Nova Scotians who are on this call will remember likely the Ivany report, which came out about 12 years ago, where Nova Scotia was going to wither up. We weren’t going to have a tax base. We weren’t going to be able to afford all the … The population growing older and we desperately wanted people to come and stay. And they have come and they have stayed. And it’s created different problems. But I think it’s important to respond to the issue, but also say, okay, now how do we not just focus on responding but acknowledge the shifts and look for longer term solutions rather than …” It has to happen … Both, right? Both have to sit side by side. And certainly libraries are really well-positioned to do that. I am so grateful that we have our beautiful central library on Spring Garden Road, Sue talked about folks finding their way to us and our ability to serve and serve with dignity and care, as is in part due to the amazing staff team that we have. Like, I just, I can’t speak highly enough about the care that I see library staff providing every day, but it’s also easier to do that in a building that’s well-designed with good sightlines, comfortable furnishing, enough space for folks to spread out so that we can have a senior who might live alone come and participate in a program alongside one of the most, you know, one of our community’s most vulnerable folks and a mom with a couple of toddlers arriving for a storytime. So our libraries are genuinely at their best when they provide that  service to all and that dignity to all understanding that that takes lots of effort and lots of finesse on the part of libraries.

Mary W. Rowe [00:27:54] And it’s put enormous pressure on your staff. So we understand, we really can see that … And I want everyone to just, you know, in your spare time, I suspect that we’ve got people here are very familiar. But if you haven’t had a chance to Google images of Canada’s libraries, public libraries, you will see remarkably, fabulously, beautifully designed spaces. So somewhere in there, we got that right. Sarah, put your camera on because I’m going to call on you next. And both you and Åsa are in stunningly beautiful buildings. And I’m pleased about that. That’s a win. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves there’s some we’ve done some good things. And one of the good things we did, I think, is come to recognize that these shared civic institutions deserve to be beautiful and to fund and that there’s a relationship between a really beautiful space and it’s capacity to be a function or, as you just said Åsa, to feel like a home, to make people feel special. I feel so much at the moment as we’re trying to navigate with people, to encourage them to return to the city, to reestablish their attachment to the place of the city, downtowns and main streets, and not to stay at your kitchen table. Part of it is that you’re going to come into a physical space that’s not like your home, that gives you something else, and both of you work in that kind of an environment. So hurrah to you that, that somehow we persuaded the powers that be to do that. Sarah, you did it, though, really imaginatively because you have to cobble together the resources and convince people that, “oh yeah, let’s put transit right underneath the library and let’s invest in a beautiful building”. But you’ve also had also had all sorts of challenges. So give us a sense from your side, as the steward of a significant civic institution in Calgary, what do you see as your role in terms of contributing the social determinants of health and economic inclusion? What’s that look like for you?

Sarah Meilleur [00:29:51] For sure. Thanks, Mary, and lovely to see all of you. I’m Sarah Mueller, the CEO of Calgary Public Library, which is over in the West, in Alberta. And we’re a city of 1.3 million and we’re growing. 31,000 people moved from other provinces to Alberta in the first three months of 2023, and a large proportion of them came to Calgary. And we’re seeing more and more folks come into the city, which is having an impact. There are, as you said, this amazing central library downtown. Many of you will know us for our central library. We’ve seen over 5 million visitors and that is between 3000 and 4000 a day these days, which is a significant civic amenity that’s providing all these services in a public space. And as we’ve talked about, there are great benefits to beautiful, amazing, welcoming public spaces, but there are also challenges along with it. So I’m coming to you from Treaty 7, the ancestral home of the Siksika, the Piikani, the Stoney Nakota Nations of Chiniki, Bearspaw and the Stoney Bands. The people of the Tsuu T’ina Nation and Métis people of Region 3 who call Treaty 7 their home. So we have a rich Indigenous history too and excited to talk a little bit about what that looks like as we continue our conversation. But as I think about sort of what we’re seeing in Calgary, there are really three things that I want to highlight. The first is a big conversation and challenge around affordability. Similar to in Halifax, we just came out of last week, three full days of conversation about affordable housing at city committee and council. Again, very emotional pleas and stories from over 162 Calgarians who were talking about their challenges of living in this city. We had … That was the result of this big housing strategy that was proposed by administration, where we learned that over 100,000 Calgarians are at high risk of losing their housing. And this is partly because of that success of so many people coming to this city and the impacts and the pressures that places. So there really is a national conversation, I think, to be had around housing. And it is a housing crisis. And the reason it’s important to talk about that … because it has an impact on libraries and public spaces. We’re also seeing that sort of exacerbation of inflation, affordability, mental health and addiction. These challenges have continued post-pandemic, and we’re seeing things particularly at our central library, but increasingly out in communities around Calgary, where it comes to more social disorder, open drug use, erratic and sometimes violent behavior. And we’re also starting to see the impact of encampments here. And I have to say that although the library continues to coordinate and collaborate with other agencies, levels of government, community organizations, we know that lots more needs to be done. And I saw Mark Garner shout out a hello on the chat. He is the head of our Calgary Downtown Association and  collaboration and partnership is something that we think about all the time that is going to be a part of the solution and a critical part of the solution. And, and some of what we’re seeing has a direct impact on the library. We have our highest use of the library that we ever have in our 110 year history. So over 750,000 people in Calgary are active library members, which is over 57% of Calgarians. We saw over 1.1 million visitors to our locations in July and August alone, and we see an average of 20,000 visitors a day to our locations. And I mentioned that 3000 to 4000 at our central library. So I mean, what I see is encouraging is that the library is stepping up and being that resource and our community is utilizing us. It’s for information, it’s for job support, upskilling and micro credentialing, free tutoring for their kids and support for youth … we’re becoming … Ten years ago we were trying to get teenagers into libraries and now they’re coming in droves. And we’re working in partnership to do that. Sometimes libraries are a place just for folks to stay warm or cold, depending on the WIFI, the weather, whether it’s hot in the summer or cold in the winter. We are a resource and an emergency place for people to come. And then when I think about digital literacy, you know, when you think about affordability and you think about poverty, you think about access to things that are necessities. But really challenging when you’re trying to make a decision between paying for housing and rent or paying for food. You know, that Internet bill might not be something you can afford. So coming to the library for access to WIFI, computers, free printing, even those things to help you … those resources to help you find the next place to rent. Libraries are here to help, but we can’t do it alone. And so that’s why collaboration becomes that sort of rallying cry for us in Calgary, in working with other organizations, institutions and levels of government to respond to what we’re seeing on the ground. Because I always say that, you know, public libraries are a bit of a bellwether. We see everything that’s happening in community and we can reflect it back to other organizations and levels of government because we’re unique in how many people we see daily in all different circumstances who feel welcome and that they belong at the library.

Mary W. Rowe [00:35:49] I think that’s the question is this notion of belonging. Thanks, Sarah, I’m going to encourage everybody to put their cameras on and open your mics, unless you’ve got a marching band behind you, I’m not worried about sound traveling. It’s better that we just have as many of us on the chat as we can. It’s interesting. You know, what’s that expression? If you have a hammer, everything’s a nail. You know that expression? I feel this is what’s happening in the discourse at the moment, that everything’s about housing. And I am a little concerned about that because obviously we’re in a housing crisis, but we’re in a gazillion other crises at the same time. And I worry that we forget that we can’t … There’s no one solution and you can’t just solve one thing. So someone in the chat has asked us, has said … I’m just going to read it. “What would a streamlined approach to working on precarious housing between the city, province, the federal government, short term and long term look like? And part of me wants to say we need a streamlined approach to problem solving on every aspect of what these folks are reporting. We need some kind of way to have those kinds of conversations about a series of issues. So, Bill, if I go back to you in terms of your role as a municipal administrator, how can we learn from this extraordinary period we’ve had … And we’re still having … where a whole bunch of things are a confluence together? How do we have a new conversation with the other orders of government to solve whatever the challenge is? What do you think?

Bill Moore [00:37:21] I think the first thing is getting people around the table. I mean, it’s the structures that we have built over decades are siloed. So housing, mental health, addictions, crime, and in many cases, the policy positions for very, very, very great intentions, great intentions, policy positions are being taken based on a singular view of the issue. And I guess I would ask is that if we take a half a step back and put our policy suggestions on the table and then look at them not only from those other dimensions … you know, crime, because inadvertently we can be making decisions that are actually causing a backfire effect and a negative outcome in another area, and not doing it purposely, but just because we haven’t asked the question. And then I think the other piece that we need to do, and I call these lenses and these are kind of spread into our public safety strategy, but we need to be very, very aware that … Again, going to my previous comment one size does not fit all. So in our case, what does this look like from an Indigenous view? What does this look like from an African Nova Scotia view? What does this look like from a youth view, A seniors view? A t2SLGBTQ+ view, a business view? And I think having that broad based conversation around it will go a long way because I think there’s a lot of people that want to do good work. I think sometimes our structure is getting in the way of us actually doing that. So, you know, I respect the levels of government and all, but I think it’s important from a person that does the work that I’m doing is, I’ll leave the argument between governments to the political officials that’s there. My role is to make things better, and that means rolling up my sleeves and working with whoever I need to work with to try to move this thing ahead. And I think that fundamentally … and I’m seeing some positive pieces coming out of this, there was a time when people were very polarized in their positioning. And don’t get me wrong, there’s still very polarized opinions which are driving some of the problems. But I think there is a lot more people willing to come to the table and have a broader based discussion on the, as you said, the problems as opposed to the singular problem that they may have a primary requirement. They’re looking at it a much more holistic, comprehensive way.

Mary W. Rowe [00:39:45] I mean, it’s interesting this the concept of empathy. Somebody said that early on in the sessions that, you know, we need to have empathy for people. I always now want to say, well, how do we go from empathy to solutions? I worry that Canadians, you know, that empathy is our version of whatever the Americans say, you know, “thoughts and prayers”, and then they don’t actually do anything. So that’s why I’m … Sue, I’m kind of gobsmacked that you guys have had navigators since when, 2008? Did you say?

Sue Uteck [00:40:08] 2007

Mary W. Rowe [00:40:10] So you had 15 years, 16 years of this brilliant concept as a business improvement area, having somebody who’s a social worker, whose job it is to identify people that are at risk. And I’ve told this anecdote before in City Talk that the transit system in Toronto is in rupture state and they for a period of time have put people out on the street with little pinnies, I want to bring pinnies back, a little pinny, and I can identify them. I can walk up to them and say, I have to get to such and such a place and that person tells me how to do it. They help me navigate. And I feel like librarians and library staff are navigators. This is a beautiful concept of people helping other people. So when you have tried to break down these silos to deal with the business challenges, what’s your experience been? How have you been able to do it?

Sue Uteck [00:41:03] To be frank, Mary, it’s not been a good experience because we have this infighting with these low levels of government. As you said, the federal government says, “Oh, no, no, we gave the money to you, the province” and the provinces is like, “well, that’s your municipal park, right?” So, you know, to give an example, when we were looking for campsites, so … heads up our housing and homelessness, the province offered them two sites. One was a toxic waste dump that a chemical dry cleaner was on and they were like, “Oh gee, sorry … ” That we can’t use that … the other one was I was outside the city in a ravine. Like, you need to have access where people can have access to water, power, transit and to be local, right? They want to be, you know, the reason that they’re … They are in Victoria Park for a reason. The people of Spring Garden Road are generous. No, nobody’s going to go without breakfast. Nobody’s not going to have a coffee. You know, we work with the library, you know, for the annual drop box, for socks and coats and mitts and all of those things. But as Bill said, it’s the overall lack of coordination. So you can have one individual on the street who knows the system and has now got three sets of socks or five this. And he’s got his bus tickets. You know, I gave him ten bus tickets today. Somebody else gave him bus tickets. So that overall, like in our first meeting with Bill, I was like, can someone just give me the big playbook? You know, the overall reaching chart? And I think this is the beginning of it. But again, you need that level of cooperation. So the first level of cooperation is that’s your provincial land. Okay, I’m going to put my tiny homes on your provincial land … let’s say it was Point Pleasant Park. It’s got all the access … It’s got access. So those conversations need to happen and those that can make the decisions at the top need to start moving a lot faster. As our premier said, “Yeah, we’re coming out with a homeless strategy in November”. Well, what do I tell the 80 year old man or the family living in Victoria Park? Hang on, November is coming and we already know that through COVID, a lot of this was shuffled in quietly. Taxpayers weren’t aware of this, that, you know, we had people at risk, vulnerable …. They were living in hotels. It was not a good experience with the hotels. And as Bill can tell you, a lot of these hotels, it doesn’t matter, they’re not going to buy into that program because, you know, Covid’s over to most people. People want to travel. The hotels are at 85% capacity. They can’t put any more in because they don’t have the staff. Right. So where does that next level fall to? I need breakfast. Right. So it also falls … The other institution is the churches. And some of the churches are really good,  have always stepped up. St Mary’s Basilica has always had a hot lunch program. St. Matthew’s on Barrington St … It looks like it’ll be our Daytime Drop-In Shelter if we can, but it’s the resources that are missing, and especially in the mental health area, there’s no coordination there, to my knowledge at this point.

Mary W. Rowe [00:44:03] You know, we just have to remind ourselves a hotel is not a community. And so, you know, there was that tendency, “Oh, great, they’re in hotels”. Well, for crying out loud, you know, a hotel is not a community. Those of us that spend too much time in them can tell you that. So if what I’m hearing from you folks is “we need on the ground solutions that are coordinated with other orders of government”. We’re back to the title of this session, which is “how do we strengthen civic institutions and how do we prepare for whatever … Not only is … Åsa, you made this point, it’s not just people that are experiencing homelessness. There’s all sorts of a range of vulnerability. And then there’s people that might not identify as vulnerable but have a vulnerability. I mean, we all do. So we all need these institutions. So I’m wondering, as we move forward, let me just hear from Sarah and Åsa as two stewards of these civic institutions. What do you see as the future in terms of resourcing, how you want to … How you want to structure yourselves? What do you think? Åsa first, then Sarah …

Åsa Kachan [00:45:06] Well, I think, Mary, you and I have talked often about sort of the evolution of public libraries. And certainly COVID really signaled that libraries are actually super well-positioned to shift and to shapeshift and morph to where the community needs us to be. Certainly, we can’t do that without more resources. But  I would argue on a you know, on a regular basis, we are the front door for the federal government, helping folks with their taxes, helping them, you know, apply for serve, understanding what they need to pay back and how to do that. And, you know, the federal government doesn’t have storefronts anymore … We’re the storefront for the provincial government. Um, folks are coming in, in fact, we’re partnering in really interesting ways, having ID clinics, right, without a piece of identification many of our most vulnerable can’t access.

Mary W. Rowe [00:45:57] Even get it.

Åsa Kachan [00:45:58] So, you know, the team from Service Nova Scotia drops in, brings technology, and they’re well set up to do that work. So coming to where the people are, whether that’s an immunization clinic or an ID clinic.

Mary W. Rowe [00:46:09] So do we need more of you?

Åsa Kachan [00:46:13] I would say yes. More of us for more hours.

Mary W. Rowe [00:46:17] Yeah. It’s libraries as storefronts. It’s libraries as living rooms. It’s whole components of  … I went to the National Arts Center last week to meet with their director. He was saying that his predecessor, Peter Hahndorf, when they redesigned the National Arts Center in Ottawa, said that he wanted it to be Ottawa’s living room. And sure enough, it had … you know, their area had a resemblance to your public spaces now. So it’s not just you. I worry a little bit that “ya … let the library do it, you know?” Can you form partnerships with other folks? How do we create more of you?

Åsa Kachan [00:46:50] Yeah, of course we can, Mary. And I think Sarah alluded to our partnerships that we all have locally in many ways, right? We’re the great sharing infrastructure. So what should our community be sharing? We’ve already got the checking and checking out system. Like those are natural connections. In fact, some libraries in rural Nova Scotia are hosting virtual doctor’s appointments for folks who can’t get to a family doctor and are trying to use technology to access a doctor’s appointment. And it’s often the technology is a barrier. So I think there’s plenty that we can’t do. I think there is there are some things we shouldn’t do, right. And I think we need to temper this. We are open and flexible and want to be that natural place people land to for help. But we are not addictions counselors. We are not primary mental health care services. So we can triage folks to that work, but we need somebody to triage to. And so when I you know, I think we can … we can’t be the replacement for solving other … and we need more resources as well.

Mary W. Rowe [00:47:54] I think this is the dilemma. You know, that phrase, when you need something done, give it to a busy person. But I feel like libraries become that. Oh … just give it to libraries. But Sue, same for you. Like you did this great job. You’ve created these navigation systems. You got highly overperforming, over functioning business improvement areas, basically. And we’re back then, to “Well, if not you folks, then who”? Sarah … how do you actually engage other civic institutions then? And Bill needs more allies. Can’t all be the libraries or the BIAs? Sarah …

Sarah Meilleur [00:48:29] For sure. I mean, I think this piece that Åsa mentioned of focusing on what we’re good at, we’re really good as libraries at creating spaces where everyone belongs and everyone’s welcome. We have an amazing amount of collections and resources to help guide people through the things that they’re struggling with, but also the things that they want to achieve. We have great programing, but it also comes down to partnerships. One of the things that’s been really successful for us is working with different partners. We have newcomer serving agencies that have space in many of our libraries to provide settlement services directly in locations. We have a wellness desk where we have social workers who are experts in that work, come in and they have space in our library locations to do single session counseling and meet one on one with folks. This idea of being a space and a resource that you know, is across so many communities, that is open so many hours … And as Åsa said, there’s always an opportunity to increase that, that that’s how we can support other organizations and also stay true to what we are. And I think it’s important this piece of us responding to community needs, but remembering that one of the things that libraries do really well is look upstream and create better conditions for the future. And that’s where that focus on early literacy, that focus on getting kids ready for school, that focus on supporting children and families, you know, through the school system and supporting youth to see a future for themselves. Those are really critical things that libraries do. And you’re right, Mary, I sometimes think there is this tendency to say, “well, libraries have the infrastructure, libraries have the space, libraries have fantastic, well-trained staff”. They can take on all of these pieces, but we need to stay true to what we do, which is both that upstream and that responsive, because we don’t we’re putting future generations at risk. So I think a lot about how we support our staff, our volunteers, you know, to support the patrons who we’re seeing coming through our doors. But it has to come down to collaboration and working with other orders of government and other agencies to say, “hey, we see a community need. How can you come into our spaces? How can our infrastructure support you in serving these community needs”? You know, Bill, it all comes back to you, Bill. You know, the dilemma is it’s hard to not take a gender lens to this. Just saying … Because so many library systems are run by women. I know there are library systems run by men in Canada, and the notion of community stewardship too, a lot of BIAs run by women, just saying, but Bill when you look to the kind of battalion of supports you’ve got available to to to provide this on the ground support. What do you need? You’re running out of money. We read the papers. Municipal governments have less and less money available. Your transit systems are bleeding, etc.. Can we create something new? What do you think?

Bill Moore [00:51:45] As I was listening to Sarah speak there and Åsa speak, I was looking down my list of social determinants of health and I was trying to figure out, okay, number one, can we actually put who’s doing the work on these against each one of those determinants? And then the next question is, is do they know? Does the left hand know what the right hand is? Are we talking between people? … Do we need more money? I’m not sure we can throw money at this thing, but I would much rather take a half a step back and say, “okay, is there a way that we can better organize ourselves so that we are starting to fill in the gaps?” And then if we look at those together. And then look at it and then say, okay, what’s working well? Great. Let’s continue to support those. But where are the gaps? And I think if we’re going to look at, talk about new money, I’d like to put it down to say number one is … If we’ve got, for instance, six agencies doing the same thing, can we not look and say maybe one of those agencies can maybe move or shift a tiny bit to help fill the gap that’s here in the comprehensive support system? If we think about a wraparound service or community, that’s about providing the right mixture, number one, having the ability to access those supports, but then looking at the issue and then providing, “oh I need …” … I need it’s almost like baking a cake, you need a little bit of this, a little bit of that. But if I want to make a different meal, I may need a lot of this over here and this over here and having the flexibility and then I guess the nimbleness to be able to have those things in play. You know, it’s not struck me, and I mentioned this, I mean, my background was in policing, but it’s not lost on me that the things that are open to people on a regular basis … libraries, emergency departments and police departments, those are the ones that will that in most cases that are open for people to walk into. And I think we need to fundamentally, especially for those that are the most vulnerable, the navigator concept, let’s face it, it’s difficult for me and I think of myself as a pretty switched on person, to navigate some programing and how do I move through things. Imagine if I had additional vulnerabilities. Don’t have access to WIFI. How are most vulnerable trying to interact with some of these programs? So I think we need to take it to the streets, take it to the individuals, and do it in a much more open and collaborative fashion. Before I ask for any more money, that’s what I would say. Are we able to make better with what we have and then use that evidence then to formulate a case, as opposed to saying, give me the money and I’ll fix it.

Mary W. Rowe [00:54:28] Yeah, I know it’s not always about money, but it’s also about power. And I was losing power, so I had to move over in the kitchen here to a power supply. So if you look at the Business Improvement Association as a form of organizing, which I think is about 50 years old, and it came out of Toronto, I think, and it’s called different things …  Business Improvement District, … It’s proliferated everywhere. It’s a beautiful concept though of a collective voluntary group getting together to focus on an aspect of a place, right? Do we need to morph that into some new kind of model, which would be like, I mean, I don’t know if anyone from Edmonton is on the line here, they have community leagues that have been around for a century, don’t know if they work, if they have a higher functioning. But just this idea that we would have a network of community minders, whatever we call them, and that, as Bill suggests, there’d be some kind of coordinated impetus and then the libraries would be part of it and so would the businesses and then that entity would become the chief steward and determine their priorities. Is anybody ever talked about that, that BIA 2.0?

Sue Uteck [00:55:37] Yeah. Actually, we had a lot of discussions on it. You know, the reality is so, you know, a police officer might only have 12 to 20 hours of mental health training. Wouldn’t it be great on a call when we know it’s a mental health call that somebody is there for mental health and somebody’s there from social services to assist this police officer because the reality is no social worker, no navigator is going to go into a dangerous situation without the officer. Right? So if they can compartmentalize and start doing these teams … So, you know, my dream is to have a community safety office in the library so that, you know, the support services for regional police are there. But then to have every Friday the mobile mental health unit or the mobile mental health clinic that comes to Spring Garden in the area. So the services, as we’ve all stated, the services come to the streets, not the streets being engaged. And I think everyone of us has said it’s the four determinants of health. You know, from a business perspective, they’re like, you know what, enough’s enough. I’m sick of the needle damage. I’m sick of feces in my doorway. So the addict, you know, the …. It’s just basically they’re tired, right? They don’t have enough staff, they’re running 50, 60 hours a week. They’ve got the pressure of the loans coming due. And then this new social determinant. And my fear is in Halifax, you know, the West is the leader in this whole issue. And I don’t think that we’re learning. I don’t know, some days I just feel that we’re doomed to repeat it. Right. Everyone else just keep spinning on the wheel until somebody said, Oh, my God, get onto this wheel over here. And we’ll see. But I’m cautiously optimistic about the new levels of communication that I’m seeing. Just even have the navigators meet each other in the province. Right? So, you know.

Mary W. Rowe [00:57:27] Yeah.

Sue Uteck [00:57:28] We’re ten times the size of Edmonton. It’s huge.

Mary W. Rowe [00:57:31] Yeah, I mean, exactly. I mean, it’s interesting. I feel like that’s what the CUI’s business is. We’re in the connective tissue business to help us to learn from each other across the country and and also to continue to highlight for other orders of government just how important it is to learn on the ground. In terms of learning opportunities, I’ll just put a plug in here. I can see Evergreen’s put in the 16th of October. They’re having a thing … At the end of November. CUI with all of you, all of you that are partnering with us, many, many, many across the country are partnering on a big national convening called “At the Crossroads”, where we really want to highlight what’s working and what’s not and what needs to be next for Canada’s urban regions and smaller communities as well. And one of the people coming to speak there is Seth Kaplan. Google him, folks. He’s written a book that’s going to come out called Fragile Neighborhoods. This is a guy who looked at states and wrote about fragile states. And then suddenly it’s decided, oh, it’s actually about neighborhoods. So we’re all moving in this direction about more local autonomy, more local power, more local resources. How do we go local in every aspect of what we’re doing? So just as a parting comment, can each of you just offer a sentence or two about that piece? The focus that we were determining here about our role upstream, what did you call it Sarah? Upstream and in-stream, I guess, around the social determinants of health and the role of civic institutions. First, a couple of sentences from you Åsa, then Sue, Bill and then Sarah.

Åsa Kachan [00:58:54] Well, Mary, I love that you talked about local. I think, you know, I often talk about people bumping into one another at public spaces where everyone is welcome and the beautiful things that can come from that, that can be a deeper understanding of that person, it is a humanizing of the other. It can be different perspectives across all ages. If we can get that local connecting, well we can solve problems much better. And I’m mindful of Sue’s comment. You know, we need our civic spaces to still feel welcoming and safe for all. And that is part of the solution to solving the issues that we’re facing in the moment and preventing bigger issues a generation from now. So …

Mary W. Rowe [00:59:38] Welcoming and inclusion and being open. Quick one sentence from you, Sue.

Sue Uteck [00:59:44] Communication, communication, communication. That’s it in 5 seconds.

Mary W. Rowe [00:59:48] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Bill.

Bill Moore [00:59:52] If we don’t look at the traumas being experienced by people now, we will repeat what we’re going to be seeing into the future. Fundamentally, we need to stop  … stop the cycle.

Mary W. Rowe [01:00:05] Cautionary tale. Yeah. Sarah …

Sarah Meilleur [01:00:07] It’s about learning the real … what’s really happening from the people that are experiencing it. I’m echoing Bill, there’s not a blanket solution. It needs to be individualized. It needs to be culturally sensitive. We need to understand who we’re trying to serve and really come around together, around what the problem it is that we’re trying to solve and who those people are. But that comes down to collaboration. So echoing Sue, collaboration, communication.

Mary W. Rowe [01:00:38] Honestly, you guys are great. Thank you so much for joining us. We’ve had some of you on before. It’s you know, we always say at CityTalk, it’s not the end of the conversation, it’s just the beginning. Some of us will go back into the hall here and continue with the Art of City building … A couple of plugs. One is that we’re great partners with the Livable Cities Forum next week, which is in Toronto that ICLI is doing. We published today a report called Halifax Evolves, that we did with a lot of partners here. Please go and you’ll see it’s in the chat. It’s a work in progress part of our CUI local program about this community and its aspirations and how it thinks it’s doing. And as I suggested, November 30, State of the Cities. And then on October 16 we’ll be back with you to talk about civic institutions and libraries at the Evergreen Conference, also linked in the chat. Thanks, guys. Really great to see you. Really, thank you for joining me, thank you for putting up with the technical glitches audience. Thank you, everyone. Bye.

Full Audience
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Hello from Whitby Ontario!
11:39:27 From Colm Holmes To Everyone:
Hello from Windsor ON
11:39:32 From Anna Jones To Everyone:
Hello from Winnipeg!
11:39:37 From Madia Sidiky To All Panelists:
Hello from Mississauga Ontario
11:39:40 From Brent Kalinowski To Everyone:
Good morning everyone, Hello from North Bay, ON.
11:39:59 From Abiral Homagain To Everyone:
Hello from Toronto! Looking forward to the session!
11:40:03 From Berta Kaisr To All Panelists:
Morning from Montreal!
11:40:33 From Sherry Heinze To Everyone:
Hi from Calgary
11:40:54 From Ken O’Brien To Everyone:
These things happen.
11:40:56 From Barb Maly To All Panelists:
Hello from London ON
11:41:06 From Kelsey Longmoore To Everyone:
Good morning from Regina, SK
11:41:14 From Sherry Heschuk To All Panelists:
Hello from Treaty 6 territory in Edmonton Beaverhills House
11:41:19 From Wesley Andreas To Everyone:
Good morning from Edmonton, in Treaty 6 territory and Métis Nation Region IV.
11:41:33 From Jaime Rogers To Everyone:
Hello from Medicine Hat, AB! Treaty 7 lands, neighbour to Treaty 4 and Metis Region 2
11:41:46 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Sorry everyone, there was a momentary crossfeed with the live Art of City Building Event.
11:42:03 From Nicholas Luck To Everyone:
Good morning from Sault Ste. Marie, ON
11:42:07 From Emma Cochrane To Everyone:
Hello from Ottawa
11:42:08 From Erika Rolston To Everyone:
Good afternoon from Digby, NS.
11:42:20 From Paisley Woods To All Panelists:
Hello from Carleton Place
11:42:21 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Bill Moore – Executive Director of Community Safety at Halifax Regional Municipality (Halifax, NS)
11:42:26 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Bill Moore has 30 + years of experience within policing as an officer, supervisor, Deputy Chief of Police (Halifax) and Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and is now the Executive Director of Community Safety for the Halifax Regional Municipality. Throughout his career Bill has acted as a leader and change agent as a senior executive in the criminal justice system at the municipal, provincial, national, and international level. His experience in human resources, strategic planning, change management, mental health, organizational design, technology, community response and applied police research have garnered him a reputation as a trusted and principled individual who believes in leading by example and holding executives to a high level of accountability. Bill received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, was invested in the Order of Merit of Police Forces as an Officer in 2013 and named as a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in 2014.
11:42:32 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone: @BillMooreNS
11:43:23 From Jane Vinet To Everyone:
Good morning from the unceded territories of the Snuneymuxw – Nanaimo, BC
11:43:30 From Thomas Dishlevoy To Everyone:
Hi from Comox on Vancouver Island! 30 earthquakes over the weekend! So there hurricane Lee!
11:43:56 From George Milbrandt To Everyone:
Watching from Old Town in Toronto.
11:45:45 From vanessa wellsch To Everyone:
Good Morning, Everyone. From sunny, smoky Saskatoon, SK.
11:46:11 From Heather MacKenzie To Everyone:
Hello from right here in Halifax!
11:46:20 From Reg Nalezyty To Everyone:
Hello from Thunder Bay
11:46:37 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Reminder for the chat to please change your chat settings to “Everyone” so that everyone can read your comments.
11:46:44 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Please note that given the limited duration of these sessions, we are not able to answer to raised hands. Do you have specific questions for the panellists? Post them in the chat, and we’ll try to answer as many as possible.
11:47:20 From Carol-Ann Chafe To Everyone:
Hello all. Carol-Ann from Access 2 Accessibility in Mississauga, Ontario
11:47:33 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Responses to questions and additional resources will be provided in the chat by CUI staff.
11:47:39 From Stephanie Chai To Everyone:
Morning from Treaty 6 and Métis Nation of Alberta Region 4, and the Edmonton Metro Region. Hope everyone is recovering from the hurricane in Halifax!
11:50:34 From Sherry Heschuk To All Panelists:
This currently is not on the radar for many ER clinicians and poverty is problematic and complex and strategies are needed in Edmonton to deal with the homeless or house less community members.
Records have not been kept regarding reasons for death of homeless populations in Edmonton.
There were an estimated 2,765 individuals in Edmonton experiencing homelessness as of April 2022. An audit of the city’s response to homelessness recommends that the city develop a corporate-wide plan to integrate and coordinate response efforts:
City administration said the new plan will be developed by Dec. 31, 2023.1
1. Develop a corporate-wide homelessness plan that defines the strategy and integrates and coordinates a response to homelessness.
2. Assign accountability for the delivery of the corporate-wide homelessness plan and its activities.
3. Develop performance measures
11:50:36 From chadda neil To Everyone:
City of Brampton
11:50:41 From Tom Young To Everyone:
Hello from Montreal / Tiohtià:ke.
11:50:56 From dorian moore To All Panelists:
Hello. Dorian Moore from Windsor/ Detroit.
11:50:58 From Anne Finlay-Stewart To Everyone:
Owen sound Ontario
11:51:02 From Cassandra Alves To Everyone:
Hello all. Cassandra from the Downtown Yonge BIA in Toronto
11:51:15 From Caroline Taylor To All Panelists:
Hello from Windsor Ontario
11:51:34 From Erica Henry-Jackman To Everyone:
Hello joining from the City of Brampton.
11:51:41 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Sue Uteck – Executive Director, Spring Garden Area Business Association (Halifax, NS)
11:51:47 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Sue Uteck has been the Executive Director of the Spring Garden Area Business Association since 2019. She brings a wealth of lived experiences as the former Abilities Coordinator with March of Dimes Canada and 13 years serving as a Municipal Councillor and Deputy Mayor with the City of Halifax. She is driven by a passion for people and the ability to cut through government red tape.
11:51:54 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone: @SpringGardenRd
11:52:14 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Reminder for the chat to please change your chat settings to “Everyone” so that everyone can read your comments.
11:53:39 From Devon McCloskey To Everyone:
Good Morning from Thunder Bay
11:53:44 From Sherry Heschuk To All Panelists:
A report by a project for ECOOHEdmonton Coalition On Housing and Homelessness (ECOHH) promotes awareness, advocates, and takes action on housing issues to enhance community life is being considered and discussed.
11:54:58 From Canadian Urban Institute To Sherry Heschuk and All Panelists:
Hi Sherry, Your comments only went to Hosts and Panelists – please change your settings in chat so that you are posting to Everyone. Thank you!
11:56:33 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Friendly reminder to send your chat posts to Everyone, not Hosts and Panellists. We want to encourage a lively conversation among everyone here today!
11:57:34 From adriana dossena To Everyone:
Wondering if panel might speak to any ‘psychological safety’ research they are utilizing in designing new, co-created paths/systems to respond to eg. Accessibility or concerns by those with disabilities accessing nearby cooling spaces or neurodiverse-safe (ie. lighting, sound design) considerate response/services? Many thanks
11:59:46 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Åsa Kachan — Chief Librarian and CEO, Halifax Public Libraries, Halifax
11:59:49 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Åsa Kachan is the CEO and Chief Librarian for Halifax Public Libraries, an internationally recognized 14-branch library system highly regarded for its services, programs and welcoming spaces that reach diverse populations with equality and respect. Prior to her role with the Libraries, Kachan spent 16 years in senior administrative roles at universities, most recently serving as the assistant vice-president, Enrolment Management & Registrar, for Dalhousie University (2004-2014). Kachan serves on the boards of The Walrus, the Canadian Urban Libraries Council, and the Centre for Equitable Library Access, as well as the Governing Council for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).
11:59:54 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone: @hfxpublib
12:00:34 From Canadian Urban Institute To Janet Song and All Panelists:
Hi Janet – Your comments only went to Hosts and Panelists – please change your settings in chat so that you are posting to Everyone. Thank you!
12:01:21 From Sherry Heschuk To Everyone:
Interesting that the concerns for these supports which were made available in this regard to research by Jiaying Zhao, Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Sustainability, scarcity isn’t just a lack of resources—it also creates psychological demands on a person. Zhao’s research has shown that scarcity can hinder cognitive function and lead individuals to make decisions that worsen their condition. A pilot was designed in Vancouver in 2021 as a randomized control trial to measure the effects that a one-time lump-sum gift had on people’s lives over the course of a year. Participants were recruited from local shelters and screened to ensure they were recently homeless and functional in their daily lives to reduce the risk of potential harm that funds might bring if they drove people deeper into addiction.
12:04:34 From Janet Song To Everyone:
Hello from Toronto, Ontario!

How does it look like to have a streamlined approach in working on precarious housing between the city, province, and the federal government short-term and long-term? What does it look like now and how can it be better?
12:04:38 From Kimberley Nelson To Everyone:
Calgary Central Library is indeed my favourite happy place 🥰
12:05:22 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Sarah Meilleur – CEO, Calgary Public Library (Calgary, AB)
12:05:25 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Sarah Meilleur is the CEO of Calgary Public Library. She is a recognized speaker at international conferences, has authored numerous journal articles, and has lectured at Harvard University on library design. She also led the design thinking, completion and launch of Calgary’s award winning new Central Library, which has seen over four million visitors since opening in November 2018. Sarah believes in supporting the community through volunteering and has served as the vice-chair for the Calgary Heritage Authority, on the Cultural Leadership Council and the Social Wellbeing Advisory Committee. She received Avenue Magazine’s Top 40 under 40 award in 2011 and was a recipient of Queen Elizabeth ll’s Platinum Jubilee Medal in 2022 for outstanding service to family, community, and country. Sarah is passionate about how public libraries transform lives, and she works to foster curiosity, innovation, belonging, and fantastic visitor experiences.
12:05:58 From Sandra Miller To Everyone:
YES! Beautiful public places and spaces are so important in so many ways. It’s not a ‘nice’ extra – it’s a core part of city-building. As is attractive community housing, etc.
12:06:19 From Sherry Heschuk To Everyone:
EPL and Edmonton Public Libraries have been working to support evacuees who were homeless and some Community Leagues.
Drayton Valley was evacuated in May and Hay River NT in the last evacuations from August.
12:06:26 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone: @calgarylibrary
12:08:54 From Mark Garner To Everyone:
Hello Sarah and thanks for the shout out
12:12:05 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
As always, the The CityTalk chat is thoughtful, provocative and dynamic! Amplify the conversation on social media! @canurb #citytalk
12:12:42 From dorian moore To Everyone:
Excellent point! Housing, institutions, and public space are all drivers of successful cities!
12:13:42 From Sherry Heschuk To Everyone:
In the city of Edmonton a document was compiled from responses received through the survey and engagement and to access the report visit Key themes heard from Edmontonians include safety, enforcement, support for Edmontonians in vulnerable circumstances, disruption or prevention from using public spaces, and maintenance and cleanliness of public spaces. Some concerns listed by these surveys ● Concerns about gentrification and pushing unwanted behavior to other places in the
○ Residents and business owners are worried about being located in areas where panhandling, drug use, lingering and night use are more common
● Balance public feelings of safety when providing space for those in vulnerable circumstances
● Transit is not an appropriate place for these types of activities, but recognize that a safe space is needed
● Concerns related to these activities include aggression from those engaging in this behaviour and obstructing others’ use of those spaces
12:16:19 From Janet Song To Everyone:
Great conversation about different perspective of what housing means at the Evergreen Brickworks conference: The Evergreen Conference
12:17:35 From chadda neil To Everyone:
people need access to public services
12:17:56 From Janet Song To Everyone:
12:20:55 From Thomas Dishlevoy To Everyone:
I just pulled off my shelf a copy of Dark Age Ahead, by Jane Jacobs, 2005, plastered with sticky notes. Looks like in spite of our/her understanding, we have gotten far worse in the last 20 years. Going to re-read this week!!!
12:21:42 From Sandra Miller To Everyone:
It’s not just about busting open silos and finding short term emergency solutions but understanding the many root causes of addiction and health crises, homelessness, etc. and addressing those root causes.
12:24:01 From Wendy McDonald To All Panelists:
We need a hub in my community that can house & support agencies and volunteer groups… that it is accessible to engage community
12:24:22 From Canadian Urban Institute To Wendy McDonald and All Panelists:
Hi Wendy – Your comments only went to Hosts and Panelists – please change your settings in chat so that you are posting to Everyone. Thank you!
12:24:58 From Sherry Heschuk To Everyone:
Homes for all a community driven to send an open letter by ECOHH chair Nadine Chalifoux told that much of the provincial money put toward affordable housing isn’t meeting the need and existing laws fail to protect renters.
Adopt housing as a right.
12:26:29 From Wendy McDonald To Everyone:
What about hubs in communities that can support agencies and volunteer groups..engaging community and helping to support all ages. It’s a step past Libraries.
12:26:34 From Linda Williams To Everyone:
Agree dealing with root causes of homelessness and prevention is required. While it is wonderful libraries are undertaking these serious issues, libraries could help encourage levels of government to deal with these issues in a meaningful way – ignoring mental health issues and homelessness is not helping.
12:27:16 From marina queirolo To Everyone:
Not only Libraries, it is about all the assets that create the civic commons, like Public Markets, Community Centres and religious institutions. However the big problem many times is how can community participate in delivering the solutions. Many time this institutions have so many steps that discourage innovation and community base solutions. How do we get them to say YES.
12:28:23 From Sandra Miller To Everyone:
London, Ontario is currently unrolling a community hubs program to try to address our challenges. Early days…
12:28:25 From Sandra Miller To Everyone:
12:29:45 From Thomas Dishlevoy To Everyone:
“After spending billions, federal government doesn’t know if it’s reducing chronic homelessness: AG” | CBC News.
12:30:27 From Sharon Livingstone To Everyone:
Numbers of homeless have tripled in one year and more older adults are homeless
12:30:51 From Samantha Staresincic (CUI) To Everyone:
News Report from Thomas’ comment:
12:31:05 From Sandra Miller To Everyone:
London’s Hubs Implementation Plan – “That group included more than 200 individuals representing nearly 70 local organizations in community health and social services, institutional healthcare, education, emergency services, business and economic development, land and housing development and multiple levels of government.”
12:31:16 From George Milbrandt To Everyone:
One very successful silo busting example can be found in the work that Waterfront Toronto has done on the flood proofing and re-naturalization of the Don River. Three levels of government agreed on the need to solve a problem and then funded and set up an arms-length agency to deal with it.
12:32:07 From Barbara Sutherland To Everyone:
Downtown Brantford Ontario is the lead partner in the Downtown Action Committee, involving BIA, Police, Health Unit, City, Grand River Health Unit, and others
12:32:36 From Barbara Sutherland To Everyone:
…and Library…omission not intended
12:32:37 From Christopher Wilson To All Panelists:
We have co-opeted our parks and libraries to do s job they were never designed to fulfil.
12:32:51 From Sarah Meilleur, CEO Calgary Public Library To Everyone:
This has been an approach that is working and expanding.
12:32:57 From Canadian Urban Institute To Christopher Wilson and All Panelists:
Hi Christopher – Your comments only went to Hosts and Panelists – please change your settings in chat so that you are posting to Everyone. Thank you!
12:32:59 From Samantha Staresincic (CUI) To Everyone:
The London Hubs Implementation Plan mentioned by Sandra:
12:33:03 From Kimberley Nelson To Everyone:
Recently, Calgary Police held a community summit discussing many of the items Sue is mentioning now
12:33:32 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Registration is now open for CUI’s Annual Convening on the State of Canada’s Cities in Ottawa on Nov. 30:
12:34:09 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Keep the conversation going #CityTalk @canurb
12:35:02 From Sandra Miller To Everyone:
Learning from other communities across Canada but are we also looking at solutions happening in Europe, Asia, etc. Yes, there may be cultural differences but there may be creative solutions we can adapt here
12:35:18 From Margaret Anne McHugh To Everyone:
Cannot imagine what a policing office in the library would contribute. More marganilized people are afriad of them than feel any safety from them.
12:35:39 From De Szoller To Everyone:
Thank you Sandra – for sharing on London.
12:35:50 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Thank you for joining us! We have recorded today’s session and will share it online along with the chat transcript and key takeaways next week at
12:36:05 From Janet Song To Everyone:
When I was living in northern BC, I worked in an employment agency for marginalized populations where they had monthly calls with civic agencies in the town
12:36:11 From Thomas Pfanner To All Panelists:
Thanks a lot for this insightful talk and the great hosting of this hour.
12:36:17 From Ken O’Brien To Everyone:
Thanks for helping us all hear about the challenges in many of our communities, experienced by many of our citizens.
12:36:33 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
We are proud partners of the Liveable Cities Forum taking place in Mississauga Sept. 25-27. There is still time to register!
12:36:34 From Janet Song To Everyone:
Having locally focused calls can make huge impacts to create grassroots solutions
12:36:35 From Sandra Miller To Everyone:
Indwell Supportive Housing is a great initiative in SW Ontario
12:36:40 From Barb Maly To Everyone:
Thanks for this very informative session! Have a great day!
12:36:40 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
Our latest report from CUI x Local, “Halifax Evolves” is now available at
12:36:50 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
SAVE THE DATE: CityTalk will be broadcasting live on October 16 from the Evergreen Conference:
12:36:55 From Sandra Miller To Everyone:
Thank you everyone!
12:36:59 From Nicholas Luck To Everyone:
Thank you, always great takeaways from these discussions and from the chat.
12:37:01 From Janet Song To Everyone:
Thank you!
12:37:01 From Emilie Charlebois (CUI) To Everyone:
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