COVID Signpost 100 Days: Spotlight on Halifax

Hosted by Kourosh Rad, Rad Consulting, CUI Regional Lead, Halifax, NS. Welcome by Debbie Eisan, Community Planner, Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Friendship Centre. Featuring Cynthia Dorrington, President, Vale & Associates Human Resource Management & Consulting, Andy Fillmore, Member of Parliament for Halifax, and Elora Wilkinson, Urban Planner, Halifax Regional Municipality

5 Key

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

1. COVID can and should have a lasting impact on urban planning

In the realm of urban planning, there will be no ‘normal’ to revert to once COVID subsides. COVID can and should have a lasting impact on the way urban planners think about their work and how they engage in public consultation. Most significantly, COVID has forced urban planners and city builders across Canada to pause and take this opportunity to bring previously undervalued issues to the forefront of public debates.

2. Black Lives Matter presents an opportunity for self-reflection

The movement that began in the United States with the tragic death of a man named George Floyd has presented Canadians with an opportunity to reflect on our own history. For many Haligonians this has meant revisiting the history of ‘Africville,’ a community of Black Canadians that existed on the outskirts of the City of Halifax from the early 1800s until the 1960s, when the City condemned the area and evicted the residents from their homes. The legacy of Africville remains a stain on the City of Halifax and urban planners have an obligation to learn from this history.

3. We need to become more comfortable with uncertainty

Urban planners do not hold all the answers. In the last 100 days we have seen incredible innovation within Canadian cities, and urban planners, practitioners, and other leaders are bound to make mistakes. Cities need to have the confidence to pursue new ideas, the strength to admit when they have made a mistake and remember that city-building is a learning process. This is particularly true during COVID, when urban practitioners often have less access to information, less time to deliver projects, and reduced capacity to engage with communities.

4. The goal should be to build community partnerships

Community engagement is too often viewed as a checked box on the journey to delivering a new project. This approach to community engagement does not facilitate real and honest discussions with residents. Instead, urban planners should work towards building long-term partnerships within their communities. We must remember that the voices of those historically left out of these discussions are often those who are most impacted by the decisions we make.

5. Change will be a long, uphill battle

If urban planners wish to build strong partnerships within racialized and other equity-seeking communities, then they must be willing to genuinely and authentically listen to their concerns and priorities. No relationship can exist without trust and there will be many years of work ahead for those who seek to rebuild the trust that has been broken by our past actions. Urban planners need to remember the stories that they have been told over the past 100 days and apply the lessons that they have learned throughout their careers.


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