Solitude and the City: Building Connections in Urban Canada
A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation
1. Building dense living environments leads to social connectedness
We must rethink urban design and look beyond public spaces to build close connections with the wider community. Paty Rios, housing expert and research lead at Happy City in Vancouver tells us that multi-unit housing developments and changed living circumstances can capture social connectedness and bring people together. She believes that in designing and planning our city buildings differently, we can enable accidental encounters. These encounters will foster belonging and attachment to help combat isolation and loneliness. Paty says, “We have put all of our eggs in public space as our only basket.” Multi-family housing and denser cities can solve urban isolation and loneliness while addressing affordability issues. Cities can amplify the voices of vulnerable populations and underrepresented minorities by involving them in the co-creation process. It also allows city builders to create spaces that allow for intimate encounters with neighbours and the larger community.
2. The newcomer experience and loneliness
“Newcomers will feel like a stranger in a new city,” says Shadi Shami, Success Mindset Coach and steering committee member of the Together Project in Mississauga. Shadi advises newcomers who experience loneliness and isolation to acknowledge those feelings and act because loneliness can impact our physical and mental well-being. Lucenia Ortiz, a retired urban planner and board member of Multicultural Health Brokers in Edmonton says that the loneliness and isolation newcomers experience can be viewed in three realities:
- newcomers experiencing inequities when striving for a better life
- their desire for belonging in a new homeland
- experiencing unfilled dreams and expectations
Newcomers look for social connections to combat these feelings of loneliness and isolation. Diane Dyson, senior director, research and engagement at the Canadian Urban Institute says it’s vital for newcomers establish loose and close connections within their ethnic enclaves in order to survive. Lucenia agrees, mentioning political scientist Robert Putnam’s work on social capital. She says, “The first link is called bonding social capital which is our connection within our family and our familiar communities.”
3. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated loneliness and isolation in cities
“The pandemic definitely has amplified these feelings of isolation and loneliness,” said Lucenia. The emergency lockdown measures in Canadian cities has led to the disruption of social connections. To mitigate the social disruptions, we see community members working hard to foster a sense of belonging and social connectedness in their neighbourhoods. Paty notes the musicians playing in their front yards, people appropriating the green space between the sidewalk and the street for gardening and using their rooftops for small gatherings, as ways to overcome loneliness and social isolation. The pandemic has also encouraged people to seize spaces in the city that aren’t very useful and put something dynamic in them. These spaces can help build resilience in cities and help individuals tackle urban isolation and loneliness.
4. Dynamic urban policies help build social connections
“At a policy level, there are a couple kinds of connections that people need to have,” says Diane. People need to have close bond connections, for instance, someone to call at 3:00 a.m. if they need to. They also need looser connections, such as connections to their neighbours or people they pass on the elevator. Diane elaborates, that the theme of belonging is an important consideration for policymakers as they think through built form. “In Canada, policies are actually one of the big barriers,” says Paty. She conducted a study called Design to Engage where six big moves were identified to bring people closer together through the design of multi-unit housing. Paty questioned various community stakeholders including planners, architects, designers and developers about their inability to implement these big moves and 80 percent of them said that “It’s a policy thing.” Paty acknowledges that policies do take time, so we need to identify the low hanging fruit and start working on them. She also highlights the importance of pushing for new, dynamic policies that help build social connections moving forward.
5. Neighbourhoods are our final destination
We need to look at our neighbourhoods and see what we can do better to build connections. Lucenia says, “It’s in neighbourhoods, our village, a safe space where we can be ourselves and feel a sense of community.” She advocates for more inclusive neighbourhoods and designing neighbourhoods that meet the evolving needs of everyone in the community. Lucenia points to immigrants living in multigenerational households to make her case. She says that in young families, it is grandmas that watch the kids and bring them to the playground, however, not all playgrounds are designed to meet the needs of grandmas. They don’t have benches or other amenities that can help facillitate connections and reduce loneliness. We need to listen to the needs of our community. Diane says, “My plea is that we think about changing the built form so that people can live there at different life stages.” It is important that people feel connected to their neighbourhoods, so they aren’t left feeling lonely and isolated. According to Paty, evidence shows that “…people who are connected can live up to 15 years more, they can overcome cancer more easily, they are less likely to have a heart attack and they are more likely to participate in community events and be an active part of the community life and political life of a city.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with “transcription” in the subject line.
Mary Rowe [00:00:48] Hi, everybody, it’s Mary Rowe from the Canadian Urban Institute, really pleased to be welcoming you to another City Talk this time about solitude in the city and how we build connections or need to build connections to be an antidote to some of that. We’re really pleased to be partnering with the Goethe Institut again on this series of programs. The Goethe Institute is a cultural institute in Toronto all around promoting and advocating for German culture and the experience, the kinds of rich experiences they’ve had. They have three films, I think, that are part of this series on loneliness, and I think it’s called CompliCITY in boldface and in caps. And there are three films that are going to be available. We’ll put that into the chat so you can watch some of them if you’d like to. And they were very thoughtful as you can imagine. They come from a rich cinematographic history there in Germany. And I watched one of them last night, a very poignant movie. And the others, I expect, will be equally so. So I hope that you can tune into those. It’s important for us, I think, to be reminded that culture and art helps us to understand what’s really going on and gives us kind of eyes, different kinds of eyes to see. And we appreciate all the gifts that artists bring to us in different capacities. And so for us to have film and have Geothe to working with us on this series has been tremendous. I happen to be in Toronto today. They just asked me to shut the patio door that I have, which was bringing a lot of bird sound. It also construction noise into the broadcast. But Canada is a big country and I know that construction is everywhere. But that was the reality I have here in Toronto, which is the traditional territory of a number of First Nations, Inuit and Metis, particularly the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Chippewa, the Anishinaabe, the Haudenasaunee and the Wendat peoples home to many First Nations now and two treaties here, the Williams Treaty and Treaty 13. We continue to have these conversations about the extent to which urbanism has been an exclusionary kind of reinforcement of how societies kind of sort people and often by race and by different kinds of economic characteristics. And so the connections that we’re trying to bridge here or across all sorts of different kinds of differences. And that’s part of I think our conversation today is going to be to talk about how do we actually forge those relationships and how can urban life actually enable people to have a deeper sense of connection. Then I want to ask our gang about things like loneliness, a problem or as loneliness part of life. I don’t know. I want us to talk about that as broadly as we can. And a number of you will have seen in the media this morning that mental health providers across the country are suggesting it’s code pink, that we have lots of young people that are struggling, particularly with the impact of COVID-19 in the lockdowns and the legacy that that may, in fact, leave for those younger folks. And so, again, I want us to think a little bit about particular populations and how they experience loneliness. I’ve often remarked to anyone that was interested in hearing what I had to say, that if this had happened to me when I was a young person and I had been trapped in my family of origin house, that would have been a very, very difficult time for me because my life was lived outside in community playing sports and engaged with my peers and kids on the neighbourhood and my street, and to be constrained and not be able to enjoy that kind of connection. So here we’ve had this unbelievable moment. Now, what are we, 16 months to have a really vivid view of the components of our communal life that have been working well that we’re deprived of, but also ones that weren’t working very well and that we now need to start to move in and try to correct so that when we emerge will emerge better and stronger. So joining me today, you’ll see a couple of familiar faces. One is my colleague, Diane Dyson, who’s stepping in, who’s in Toronto today because we had someone fall ill. So she has stepped into the breach and is going to talk about some of the work that she’s done around particularly immigrant communities and connection. And then Paty and Lucenia and Shadi coming in from different parts of the country to reflect on this theme of solitude and I think connection or loneliness and connection. So what I’m going to suggest is we’ll go around and I’ll ask everybody, just tell us where you’re coming from. And then I guess some of the initial thinking that you’ve been doing because this is part of your life’s work, is to find new ways to make these kinds of connections. And I’m wondering if you can tell us a little bit about your perspective, and it can be pre-COVID-19, if you like. So don’t feel you have to only talk about COVID-19, because a lot of what we’re dealing with, of course, is pre-existing conditions that existed before COVID-19 but were made worse. So, Paty, can I go to you first? Welcome to City Talk. Really great to have you join us. Tell us a little bit about where you are and what you do and what your perspective is on this topic. Could you? Thanks for coming.
Paty Rios [00:05:43] Hi, Mary. Thank you so much. Hi, everyone. Also today, I’m joining from Vancouver. I’m originally from Mexico. And in the last 10 years, I’ve been going back and forth between Mexico Vancouver. So I consider both of them my homes, I can say that the definitely the first time that I move in Vancouver everyone was telling me this is a lonely city. People don’t talk much to each other. Neighbours are a little bit kind of like wrapped up in their own world and I didn’t have that experience at all. So when I was seeing all of this, the reports from the Vancouver Foundation about it’s called Connect and Engage, that loneliness was on the rise and that more people were feeling, reported to feel lonely more often than they would want to. I was pretty surprised. So back then, in 2015, when I started researching this, this topic, I wanted to know what was at the core of this thing and why were people feeling like this. Because coming from a country where sociability is everywhere around me and you actually had to put some control your social exposure at some time so that you can have time for yourself. I was very curious about this. However, I’ll tell you more about this. I’m just going to leave a seed right now. I went through depression, deep anxiety and depression. So I know how, what it is to be there. And my work today actually builds on this life experience. What I do at Happy City is try to understand what is the relationship between the built form specifically multiunit the design of multiunit housing and social connectedness. So when I arrived to Vancouver in 2015 and started working on Happy City, this project was about like, hey, how can we build a way smarter in a way that we are actually building family homes that are not driving people apart but closer together. So I have been developing along with my team, the happy home story. That is basically a project, the five year program in which we have started identifying the design elements, but also programming and policy that can help bring people together and how we can advise municipalities to push policy forward, but also how we can advise developers to enhance well-being while they’re designing the space. So make wiser decisions in terms of how you’re going to bring people together. That’s basically what I do on a daily basis. I also have a background working with public space. That’s how I got in love, actually, with the idea of connecting people. I felt that architecture was doomed. I had the rupture with architecture at some point. I thought the architecture was just producing luxurious buildings that were only focused on form and didn’t have the possibility of actually bringing people together. So I went into public space and started addressing social connectedness through the design of urban parks. And for a while I worked on that. Right now I’m mostly on how housing can actually bring us together. And just to refer quickly to COVID-19, I don’t think that loneliness is something that has emerged from COVID-19. It is a longstanding issue, a challenge that North American cities have and a lot of cities around the world. There’s definitely this consideration about whether right like if whether it brings us in and if we spend more time at our home, but then also our homes, the place that we used to spend 8 to 16 hours and now we are spending up to twenty four hours. They are not the site to promote social connectedness. They are not the size so that we can actually have a conversation with our neighbour without feeling overcrowded. So you would say, well, what about high rises and my building? I bump to people in the corridor, in the elevator, in the mailbox. The thing is, when we are driven to the spaces that are really, really small and you feel that you are like next to the other person. It actually wants yourself to pull away. So there’s no consideration about the actual social safe space that you need so that you can engage in a proper conversation and have the ability to retreat when you want. So I just want to leave you with this thought. Think about the amount of times that you feel uncomfortable in an elevator. And if you haven’t, I would be very curious, like what sparked the conversation or how you managed to get over, like this weird moment when you feel trapped with so many people in the elevator. So I leave it there.
Mary Rowe [00:10:06] Paty, thanks, boy so many interesting things you raised there. I just want to pick up on a several of them. I’m sure my other group, other panellists will as well. And I wonder, too, if we’re going to have to do some clarifying of language. So loneliness is not necessarily the same as isolation. So maybe that’s one clarification that I’m hearing you say. But also, you know, as you as you’re pointing out on which I’m going to go to you Shadi next to talk a little bit about your perspective. At Happy City, you guys are actually making the case that if you design, if you physically design cities differently or communities and buildings differently, you can enable this kind of, you know, sort of accidental encounters, which somehow maybe are an antidote to isolation. You know they don’t, actually yeah actually I mean, we’re very aware of this through some of our platforms at CUI, we put up City Share Canada because we wanted to surface all the ways that people were reaching out to each other, different kinds of ways through COVID-19 to improvise. And we were calling it the DIY city, you know, all of a sudden Facebook groups and all that stuff. And so the question is whether the spatial environment, which I think is the argument you’re going to make is could have an impact on that. So, of course, the big dying question, I hope people are going to come in on the chat for us and give us some viewpoints. The big question is going to be then, you know, are people less lonely or less isolated and not sure they’re synonymous if they live in dense environments versus in suburbia, for instance, or if they’re on a farm you know, and their closest neighbour is far away. So anyway, we’ll come back and touch on a whole bunch of these things. Thanks for offering that. And also thanks for sharing some of your personal experience about how that informs your work in terms of your own mental health challenges, which I really empathize with and understand that’s part of how we see the world. It’s reflected by our own experience. So you came from a very dense city, Mexico City. Right. And I’ve heard this, too, about Vancouver. I want the Vancouverites to tell us whether or not they think they’re really a lonely city. And, you know, I’m interested whether we can even actually say that. You know what I mean? Like a city it is this or a city is that. Anyway, Shadi, let’s go to you. You’re in Mississauga. I’m going to be very interested to hear what you have to say about whether Mississauga is a lonely city or not. But talk to us about your sort of perspective on this and your engagement and then we’ll go to you Lucenia after. And then, Diane, you’re going to clean up. Go ahead, Shadi.
Shadi Shami [00:12:36] Thank you very much. Actually, I’m so happy to be with you. My name is Shadi, originally speaking, I’m from Syria in the Middle East. So now I’m happy that I have two homes, two countries, Syria and Canada. Damascus in Syria is the oldest inhabitant capital in the world. So it’s a very, very social city where you can find all people are integrating with each other. So I’m used to that. And we all know that Canada welcomes newcomers and welcomes immigrants. So in one way or another most of us were newcomers in this country at one point. When I came here to Canada, actually, because of the loneliness that one can find, I involved myself with the newcomers and I took a responsibility for myself to help them overcome this issue because actually being or feeling lonely is something different from being alone, you can be sitting with many people, with your family members, but at the same time, you still feel lonely. So actually, it’s a big, big issue. And as I told you, I started working on that special support the newcomers to overcome this challenge, because even away from Canada, even back home or in any other country if you change just your city, you will feel as a stranger in the new city. So this is common. But what is not usual and what we must face and overcome is that feeling that comes from loneliness. So, number one, we need to accept that feeling. We need to accept the feeling of loneliness because acceptance is number one to face this thing. After that, we need actually to take action. We can’t just play the role of the victim all the time. And I just complain that I’m feeling lonely, I’m feeling lonely because this will increase. And by the end, it will actually escalate to other levels that we don’t want to get to. So I have instead of blaming others or blaming the circumstances or blaming any other body, I have to take action. Taking action actually involves many, many things which we can talk about later on, because we all know that mental sorry, the issue of loneliness can affect our physical and mental well-being. And in a study that I read about, I found that feeling of loneliness might increase the mortality of individuals by 26 percent. So it’s dangerous and it’s there and we cannot connect it just to Corona or COVID-19 because, okay, COVID-19 is one issue that we are all facing now, but can we guarantee that in the future we will not miss anything else? No one can guarantee anything. So we are open to anything. So it means that we have always to be ready to face and to cope with what we face and to interact and take action so that we can eliminate all these challenges. The big word for me to make all that done is integration. Yeah, I leave the space now for other colleagues, then we can elaborate more on this.
Mary Rowe [00:16:19] So interested, you know, I’m a dual citizen between Canada and the US, and I always live with this melting pot mosaic business. And you when you say integration, I’m immediately thinking, okay, are we diminishing our own ethnic and cultural identity if we do integration? You’re saying, no, we don’t,
Shadi Shami [00:16:40] Because actually for me, I’m still that Syrian guy. But at the same time, I’m a Canadian guy and I totally understand my rights, my responsibilities, what to do in Canada, where to go in Canada. I used to the Canadian lifestyle. I have many, many Canadian friends who have been here for ages and ages, and I like them. They like me and I like the way they live. They like what added to them. And actually, look, this is a mutual process. When it comes to newcomers it’s a mutual process, we have to accept them and we have also to teach them our own lifestyle.
Mary Rowe [00:17:19] Both Yeah. Can I just encourage people? It’s so nice to have people coming in on the chat like Camila Fisher. I see that you’re there. And of course, one of our super city talkers, Abigail Slater, is back on. I see that. And we’ve got folks coming in from Madrid and from Kelowna and Edmonton and Calgary, D.C. Glad to see D.C., Sunny Stratford, all those places. Thanks everybody, for tuning in. When you provide a comment in the chat, can you adjust your settings to panelists and attendees? If you only do panelists, then only the five of us see it, so six of us see it. So if you could just and those of you that have posted, if you’ve already only posted to one to just attendees, you might go back in and repost everybody so people can see. Shadi, you know I was in Damascus. Really? Yeah. I will never forget my time in Damascus just as a and I’ve been so saddened to watch so much of the built environment be destroyed by the war. But as you suggest, I experienced what you’re describing in terms of how that ancient city had been designed in such a way that you were having all sorts of kinds of day to day collisions with people as you found your way. And of course, the Islamic city form, urban form is historically embedded in that sacred geometry of connection. So I feel for you in terms of the adjustment you’ve made to go to Mississauga. But we’re going to talk more about Mississauga when we come back and we’ll talk about some of the other things that you just mentioned too. Okay, Lucenia hear your experience from sunny Edmonton. I hope it’s sunny in Edmonton today. And I want to hear all about your experience, because I know you’re a planner. You’ve obviously professionally been interested in this, but you’ve also got a personal interest in it. So welcome to City Talk and really glad to have you on.
Lucenia Ortiz [00:19:01] Thank you, Mary and good morning to everyone. And I’d like to greet everyone in my own language, which is good morning in Tagalog. So I bring you greetings from the Multicultural Brokers co-op in Edmonton. And it’s not sunny. We had heavy loads of snow last night.
Mary Rowe [00:19:23] Ohh Lucenia, you’ve got snow.
Lucenia Ortiz [00:19:26] I worry about my tulips and my front yard plants. Anyway, let’s let’s set that aside. So just to give you a bit of a background, you know I serve on the board of the Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op, which is a workers co-op that provides education and family support services for over four thousand individuals annually from sixty ethocultural communities in the city. I think we are this one organization who have the widest reach to immigrant and refugee communities in the city. We have over ninety multicultural health brokers, bilingual and bicultural workers, connecting individuals and families to relevant resources, support and community. So Paty and Shadi had spoken, of course, definitely from their own experiences. Immigrants as newcomers, so I’d really like to add more to this experience of isolation and loneliness and more so I think within the context of the pandemic. I think as Paty had said this is not an old issue, but the pandemic definitely has amplified these feelings of isolation and loneliness, as we you know self-quarantine in our own homes. So from my view, I think that the loneliness and isolation can be viewed from three realities of the immigrant experience from the newly arrived in Canada, the experiences in inequities as we strive to have a better life and the desire for belonging in the new homeland. And we spoke, Paty and Shadi spoke about their experience as newcomers. So, you know, and we all experience being isolated and disconnected, especially when one arrives in Canada in the middle of winter, which I did many years ago.
Mary Rowe [00:21:39] And you stayed, you didn’t go. You didn’t turn and go right back.
Lucenia Ortiz [00:21:45] No. From a plus twenty five degree from the Philippines in 1994 to a minus twenty five in Edmonton. And I did research this, that particular day that I arrived from the Philippines and in Edmonton and so heavy snow, snow up towards east and we didn’t have that much orientation back home, you know, about what winter would look like. And so having in our house and I don’t know anyone don’t know how to go about the bus route. It was a very, very lonely. It was a very, very lonely place for me when the kids are out in school. My husband at work. So I’m alone. I watch all the TV shows that I could watch. There was no internet. Phone calls are so expensive. So the feeling of isolation really breathes into you. And there is something about the cold, dark, and snowy days that makes one long for old friends, familiar places and things to do in our home country. I would sit at the window and look, oh, it’s three o’clock in the afternoon. What would I be doing if I were in the Philippines? And that went on for several months until early spring, when finally I was able to get out and find work. I could have I think at the time I was very distressed. Right. And for many times in my mind, I really wanted to go back, but I think, again, every change of season is a change of attitude. So that’s when I was able to go out. So I leave that experience for now. That was twenty, twenty five years ago. Talk about how that changed over the years. But I also want to talk about the other reality, which is our loneliness rooted in unfulfilled dreams and expectations. When we can’t find jobs or build our careers from the education and work experience we bring to Canada, we are distressed and yearn for something meaningful in our lives. So that’s why many of our university educated immigrants who come here and this is once again amplified during COVID-19 many of us work in businesses mostly impacted by COVID-19 the food and service industries where many of us were unemployed or unprotected in our workplaces, such as we have seen outbreaks in the meat packing plants, and finally loneliness comes from the perception of not belonging and feeling excluded as a result of fear of being harassed and assaulted because of our identity. And once again, it’s not an old it’s not a new issue. But COVID-19 has exacerbated this. We all know about the surge of anti Asian hate incidents and the space of assaults on women wearing the hijab in Edmonton, streets and bus terminals, all public spaces. So I’d like to end this particular part of my it’s really on a positive note, many of the families that we work with have also told us that the time spent at home was an opportunity for parents and children to be together and build a stronger family relationships where before mom and dad used to be very busy with work. I guess we all know many of our of immigrant workers have two to three jobs to keep the family going. So I’d like to end on that positive note around strengthening family bonds. Thank you.
Mary Rowe [00:26:02] Thanks, Lucenia, were you from Manila?
Lucenia Ortiz [00:26:07] Well, the neighbouring city, which is Quezon City.
Mary Rowe [00:26:11] How big a city, how many people live there?
Lucenia Ortiz [00:26:13] Oh, I think right now it’s population is almost as close to Canada’s population.
Mary Rowe [00:26:20] The whole population of Canada. Exactly. Yeah. And then you move to Edmonton. You know, I was interested in your comment about winter and oh, my God. That you had to observe a fifty degree temperature change from one place to the other. But I remember being in Edmonton in the first weekend of December 1989, because I remember it was because it was the weekend of the Montreal massacre. And I was working and I had meetings at Edmonton. I stayed with friends in their house. And what I remember the trauma of the coping with the Montreal massacre as everyone was across the country. But also I remember how cold it was. And I remember thinking and observing that people in Edmonton don’t go outside when it’s that cold and why those plus fifteens are necessary, because it was just freezing and COVID-19 in many ways has been like a twenty-four-seven, 14-month winter where we just couldn’t get outside or if we could, we were constrained. So these are all these poignant images. But also it’s interesting, all three of you are immigrants bringing the newcomer experience and helping us, I think, do this draw this distinction between being alone, being lonely, but also being isolated, and then this notion of belonging. All three of you have talked about belonging as the differentiating factor that somehow and then you’ve just extended it there Lucenia to talk about the ultimate expression of not belonging is when you experience some kind of racist epithet or attack or disparagement or which the broader culture says to you, you don’t belong. And we’re going to yeah. So it’s all very complicated. And so I’m going to go to Diane next, who’s done research, particularly on newcomers to talk a little bit about this. And then we can come back and talk a little bit about what do you think the kinds of tangible ways are for people in this in our world of urban design or urban planning, urban animation, city building, to contribute in a different kind of way to foster this belonging and attachment. So, Diane, can you just share a bit with folks, your experience and your knowledge of this?
Diane Dyson [00:28:21] Sure. And I too claim the status of being an immigrant to Toronto as I came here as a young adult from the nation of Quebec and went through those many months and early years of isolation wandering the street and feeling disconnected. But I’ve since gotten a mortgage and children, so I have settled in, although I still have a longing that double thought of do you go home? The idea of loneliness is gripping, I think, across many, many of us poets have talked about. I wandered lonely as a cloud until I saw a crowd of daffodils. Psychologists measured out that whether it’s loneliness is the same as isolation, whether it’s the same as depression, and those are all actually separate categories. And policymakers more recently have also been looking at this as an issue. So we see both in Japan and the United Kingdom, they’ve set up a minister of loneliness to talk about those issues. So I think that’s why Paty we saw that in Vancouver, that it became sort of a policy interest to look at. And we do measure those things through the some of the StatsCan surveys that go well, that are tied to looking at how our health is tied to our sense of belonging, our sense of isolation from others. And I guess I just wanted to flag that there’s when I’m thinking about this at a policy level, that there’s a couple of kinds of connections that people need to have. They need to have a close bond connection, which is who do you have someone that you can call at 3:00 in the morning if you need them. And if you don’t have that, then people you’ll talk to seniors we talk about I worry that I’ll fall down the stairs and nobody will know for days and weeks. It’s a vital fear. And then there are those looser connections, that any of us who’ve come to a new place may or may not have because we’re not talking to our neighbours, to the people in the elevators. We’re not hearing about where’s the best pizza or what’s the best school. Those kinds of loose connections are also really important. And so I think that that theme of belonging really is an important one for policymakers to think through in built form. In looking at the institutions within neighbourhoods, do schools close at three o’clock, or are they places that other people can go in and utilize? Are there community hubs? I think is a provocative idea for us to be thinking through.
Mary Rowe [00:30:50] Thanks, Diane. Yeah, I mean, there’s a number of people here who are in the urban policy business, can you actually create policies that actually enable connection? I think we all know you can create policies that disable connection. So the question is, can we come out of this differently and do it differently? For instance, this is an anecdote that’s often talked about in terms of suburban life where the roads are too wide and you can’t just wander along a road and then cross the street because there’s a shop over there. You want to you have to actually go to a light and you have to make, you know, hope like hell that the light is long enough so you can get across it because you might have to go across two, four, six lanes to get to it. So obviously, we’ve got all sorts of ways that we’ve embedded this. Let’s talk a little bit, if we can, about this notion of changes you can make to the built environment. That’s what Happy City is talking about, Paty, right? Like, that’s part of what you guys the toolkit, I’m assuming, is getting at. Someone has asked, Laurel Snyder has asked in the chat about this are there do we have data, for instance, to show that if you have easy access to public space, do we actually know that we have better mental health benefits? Does anybody have access to data like that? Do we? Is it a hard sell? Lucenia, have you had a hard time convincing people that we need to do this or do we have the data? And if we have the data, why aren’t we doing it? Paty, do you want to take that first?
Paty Rios [00:32:23] Sure, so I’ll jump in answering this question, but also actually saying, Diane, thank you so much for bringing up this piece about how we need different relationships to feel ourselves like we have we’re addressing our social well-being. In terms of ratio, I wouldn’t say there is ratio, because also this would speak to I think that we would need to compare like the it would be a different response for the diversity of cities out there. Depending also on our cultural background, the ratio is going to be different. However, what we do know and what evidence is telling us is that people who are connected can live up to 15 years more. People who are socially connected can also overcome cancer more easily. They are less likely to have a heart attack. They are more likely to participate in community events and also be part of the community life and political life of a city. So data is telling us or evidence is telling us that actually it’s a good thing to be connected. Why aren’t we doing this more? You are touching Mary here one of my favourite topics, one of the things that I’ve encountered here in Canada is that the policies are actually one of the big barriers. Several years ago, we conducted a study that is called Design to Engage and we identified what were kind of like, the big moves that could be implemented through the design of multi-unit housing to bring people closer together. And after identifying those six big moves, I started asking people, stakeholders, planners, architects, designers, developers, why aren’t we doing this more? And 80 percent of them would answer because it’s a policy thing, because there’s a barrier. Either you have to address the abundance density and then also the affordability ratio. But there’s no chance for you to negotiate or planners don’t have kind of like clarity in terms of saying, okay, this person is bringing social well-being into the community and going beyond the minimal standards of the number of amenity rooms or taking advantage of the setback that maybe instead of just having a setback, you have a garden, a community garden where people can be close together and and having this casual encounters. So if you don’t as a planner, also, these tools that are leading or give you a hint of what’s going to be for a benefit, not just for residents, for the community, then how do you negotiate abudance density? How do you negotiate the exemptions? So now that I’m getting into the technical pieces here, but trying to get back to how the design can actually be a tool for social connectedness. Well, I want to start from the premise that when people feel that they are part of something that is greater than themselves, that’s when they feel connected and alone with this premise is this concept. I want to try to read this with a concept of the different levels of social intimacy that we can have access to. So the sociologist Robin Dunbar plays with these numbers that talk about how we need intimate close encounters and then relationships with neighbours that are going to be kind of like our daily relationships. And we don’t know a lot about people, but at least we know that someone’s kid went to college or someone’s grandmother is visiting. And then we’ve got the relationships at the community level where we are familiar with the faces. We might not meet the name, know the names, but we are familiar with the people around ourselves. So we need this spectrum of social connectedness to feel like we are actually doing well in the spaces around those who don’t provide those kind of spaces so that we can have those intimate encounters, but also meet with the community in large gatherings. Then we are failing as the designers. And here the one of the things that I think that we have put all of our eggs in public space as our only basket that can solve this. But my call to action is saying multi-family housing and the way that we are building dense cities can also do this. And the more that we respond to this, to this idea that we need denser environments so that we can address affordability issues, social connectedness and affordability are also deeply, deeply connected. If we go back to the idea of equitable cities, if we don’t understand that in order to make space for everyone, for difference, for diversity, for different range of from low to high income within the neighbourhood. Sorry about that, those are my dogs. But then if we don’t actually make this connection then we are failing to understand what a complete neighbourhood is. So I know that I’m being like kind of like playing with a lot of concepts here a bit. The sense that people can feel that they are part of something greater than themselves. That’s one. And yes, we can do it through housing. There are amazing examples out there. And actually one of them is in Toronto, 60 Richmond, a house that it’s a collective of people working around plants, gardens, gardening, chefs. And they build this building that is actually, that focuses on gardening and providing the experience of foods to others and everyone, and that’s a value that connects people within that building. So there’s opportunities like this about how do we create value within the places that we live in?
Mary Rowe [00:37:38] Yeah, I mean, we need both. Right? We need both. I agree with you that there’s kind of a fetishization. I didn’t quite get it out, but you know what I mean. We’ve got a fetish thing going for public space. The public space will solve everything, but in fact, it has to be improved. Living circumstances improved. And we saw this during COVID-19 that the neighbourhoods where the incidence of COVID-19, first of all, that there were higher incidence rates. I can see people nodding about this, were in dense environments where there was overcrowding. So what Jay Pitter many of you are familiar with Jay’s work and she’s a fellow with us and continues to insist that we face this, that there are forgotten densities, there’s bad density. And it’s not just throwing a park next door is not going to be the only answer. So it has to be both. And that you mentioned Robin, who was the scholar you mentioned? An academic, Robin Dunbar. So maybe we can get that into the chat and get some of Robin Dunbar’s work. I see that suggesting Putnam’s book Bowling Alone. Diane you mentioned Eric Klinenberg. His work in 1995 about the heat wave in Chicago wasn’t just about income. It was also that those more affluent folks lived in parts of the Chicago neighbourhoods that had better urban planning around them. So they had more social engagement. So more people were aware of everybody so that when they suddenly needed to find people, they could find them because they had seen them, as opposed to the more isolating neighbourhoods that were designed poorly. And Eric’s gone on. He’s been a guest on City Talk and he’s gone on to talk about the vital role of places like libraries that allow us to connect with one another. If we come over to you now, Shadi, let’s just talk a bit about I mean, I’m hearing Paty saying we got to design better, we got to build better. But you’ve also been creating virtual kinds of networks through the Together initiative, right? Do you want to talk a little bit about that, because it kind of is both in hand isn’t it? There’s no sort of single solution here.
Shadi Shami [00:39:36] Actually, I just want to comment at Paty had just mentioned. She was talking about the resources, tools and policies, which I totally agree with and I totally respect. But okay, let me talk from the opposite side, from infield site, from the practical life of people who are living in this city or any other city. Yeah, because I’m in close touch with them, so I know what they are going through. First of all, let me just highlight the newcomer. You are a newcomer when you arrive to this country. And after some time, this must change. Unfortunately, I know people who are still newcomers, regardless of the stay that they hold.
Mary Rowe [00:40:30] 30 years later.
Shadi Shami [00:40:32] Absolutely, they are citizens. They have been here for so long, but they are still newcomers. So I used to call them all. Old newcomers.
Mary Rowe [00:40:42] Or oldcomers. What bothers you about that Shadi? Is it because you feel it’s signaling that they still don’t belong, even if they’ve been here 30 years?
Shadi Shami [00:40:50] Well, actually, and we can’t blame them, actually, because they were left alone. They were left behind. So okay policies are there, tools are there, resources are there. Okay, but for me as a newcomer, for me, for example, I’m very limited in using the language. Okay, who is going to take my hand and show me the resources and tell me about the tools. I need someone. Number one, in this country we have to work on, especially with the newcomers, we have to change their mindset because, you know, there is a proverb in Arabic language. It says that, change is the enemy of human beings. We don’t like to change, we always like to be in our comfort zone. Although it’s not like maybe I’m not feeling comfortable in my comfort zone, but I’m afraid of changing. I don’t want to change.
Mary Rowe [00:41:42] So Shadi, what do you do with multi-generational situations? So I hear you about this, that people remain newcomers. But I am you know, I lived in New York City for a number of years and I lived in Washington Heights, which is Latina, Latino. And so I would go into the restaurants there and I would have people waiting on me that had been born in the United States and maybe they were 20, 25 years old and they did not speak any English and their families would have been immigrants into that environment. And we have it here in Canada too, where there are various kinds of businesses that are owned by newcomers or ethnically culturally oriented businesses. And the elder generation does not actually speak English. And they rely on their kids to get them to register to vote, or to register their vehicles. Diane, I can see you wanting to chime in. What do you want to say about that?
Diane Dyson [00:42:33] Well, you’re talking about my in-laws who also didn’t speak English and never went to a school interview or anything. But it really is that at a policy level, discussion about the value of ethnic enclaves and they actually serve a very valuable contribution in that you are able to create those kinds of loose connections and close connections that you need to survive. And when we look at various immigrant communities, we see that the ones that live in enclaves actually do better economically than the ones that are dispersed throughout the city because they do not have the ability to connect with others. So while I appreciate Shadi’s efforts to make sure that people feel like they have a sense of belonging to the wider society, that is really good that we have the ability.
Mary Rowe [00:43:16] I mean, I guess the question is how do we do both? Here I have an anecdote to sort of match this, which is that there is a Vietnamese community in New Orleans, in New Orleans East, that highly, highly Catholic and highly connected community. And after Katrina, they lost no one. They lost very, very few because the priests in that community knew where everybody was and they tracked them and they supported them and all that stuff. And when it came to the recovery, they had markets that the Asians that the Asian community was running that were serving predominantly that neighbourhood. And I was involved in supporting sort of other kinds of food justice issues, community movements. And we tried to see if the Vietnamese market vendors would come in to the other areas or vice versa. Could we create some markets in New Orleans East that would have a more diverse kind of mix? And it was very, very difficult. The enclave wanted to remain the enclave. I’m wondering in in Edmonton, Lucenia how have you guys resolved that? Because and I’m just I want to say it’s so good to have you from Edmonton, because we’re just about to publish one of our CUI local reports on Edmonton. We spent an intense week in Edmonton last year, late last year, and as part of our CUI local programme, and saw so many fabulous things that most of Canada doesn’t know about Edmonton. So we’re going to tell that story, one of which is how extraordinarily effective the newcomer, sort of integration you Shadi’s word is in Edmonton, how intentional you are. But how have you mastered that tension in Edmonton, both of integration, but also supporting the kind of cohesion that you can get in an ethnically or culturally organized community? How do you balance that?
Lucenia Ortiz [00:44:56] Well, I think there was a study done a couple of years ago by one of the urban professors in the University of Alberta, Dr Agrawal, who actually studied newcomers and defined it as people who have arrived ten years or less, you know have been in Edmonton ten years or less, how they are dispersed throughout the city. And it’s actually interesting to see that they actually live in suburban neighbourhoods. And then when we overlay this with the case, the clients that people come to the Multicultural Health Brokers, which is kind of a sizeable number, over 4000, we did we met them where they are and they actually resonated with this distribution. And of course, there are kind of there are some identifiable clusters of ethnic neighbourhoods. So one would say Mill Woods, which I live, which is in the southeast area of Edmonton, is definitely South Asians. But of course, we’re seeing a lot of Filipinos. Right. Central Edmonton would be mostly the Asian Chinese and Vietnamese because there is Chinatown in there. So lots of Latin Americans and Africans would mostly be in the Northeast now, of course. I mean, that’s where our mapping tells us. So, yes, I agree Diane. Ethnic enclaves in neighbourhoods because of course, you know, you mentioned Putnam’s social capital. The first link is called bonding social capital, which is our connection within our family and our familiar communities. And it’s very important for immigrants, for newcomers to integrate that they feel that kind of bonding before they actually go out and do the bridging capital, which is going outside of their community. So my point then is going back to what Diane had said, you know, ultimately we are doing where do immigrants live? Of course, in neighbourhoods. They are the final destination and they offer the most astonishing possibilities of how can we in all our differences, be at home, live together in multicultural and multiracial neighbourhoods. And I think because it’s in neighbourhoods, our village, a safe space where we can be ourselves and feel a sense of community. That’s why I really hope that city planners will invest more in creating neighbourhoods that are inclusive. So just, you know, when we also collect data, when we know, I think we all know that many immigrants live in multigenerational households, grandma, our parents and our kids. But yet neighbourhoods aren’t designed to meet these needs, just to give you one example in my own neighbourhood, and I think this is true. So every neighbourhood will always have a playground. But they are just those play amenities, but what about the people who are actually watching the kids? Now we all assume that the younger parents will be watching their kids. Really? It’s about gradmas.
Mary Rowe [00:48:52] Could be us, could be the old folks.
Lucenia Ortiz [00:48:54] Yes. And yet we don’t have benches. In my playground, there is two picnic tables and there are always full but why don’t we have things like that where grandparents can actually be there, talk to each other, or maybe a nice gazebo with the shade so they could be there. So our neighbourhoods are designed to meet the evolving needs of neighbourhoods. And then we have great we have little shopping centres in neighbourhoods now. But large parking areas, nothing in between where people can just gather together. So what I want to say is maybe it’s about time that we think about designing our neighbourhood so that they are safer, they are diverse, that they meet the first need, they’re inclusive and really build that sense of connections that, you know, that we need because connection builds trust. Of course, it reduces loneliness, but also build confidence and a sense of belonging for newcomers who really want to make it in this new homeland.
Mary Rowe [00:50:18] You know, I just want to flag for people that this isn’t you know, it’s not just newcomers that experience loneliness and solitude. There’s oldcomers. There’s seniors, there’s all sorts of folks. There’s regular people like all of us. We’ve all had our moments of struggle and whether or not we’ve got the kind of architecture, social architecture in built form to allow us to somehow mitigate that somehow. Right. Go ahead. Shadi, you’ve got your hand up. Go for it.
Shadi Shami [00:50:47] Thank you for that. Actually, I just want to highlight again that policies take time, take time to change. Sometimes it takes forever. And we don’t know that whether it will work by the end or not. So in the field, we can take action. We can make the difference actually in Together Project, which I’m a part of, we usually reach out to the beneficiaries, we don’t call them clients even we don’t like that word. We call them beneficiaries, we call them partners. We care for them. We look for them. We look for them. Then we look after them. We want to know what they need. What service do they need? This is what I wanted to do and this is what I want to, the message I want to deliver, that we can take action and we can’t let policy take time until they are implemented. But we can’t just stay.
Mary Rowe [00:51:47] So can we bridge this kind of thing. You’ve got this fabulous instinct around connection in different ways to do it and COVID-19 pushed us all into digital. But I’m sure that instinct existed before. And then we’ve got this opportunity to actually change the way the built environment could actually enable that. And I’m interested, Paty, do you want to comment on that? You may have another idea you want to throw in, but go for it, whatever you’d like to say.
Paty Rios [00:52:13] Thank you. You just raised such amazing points. Thank you for putting that out there. I’m thinking right now and thanks, Shadi, also for bringing light to this. Yes, policies take change and in Canada they take a lot of time. I just want to say that we have the low hanging fruit options that we can identify and that we can start working on them. And we have seen that neighbours are actually doing this during COVID-19, how many of us have been seeing, like the musicians that are playing in the front yard or the people that have appropriated the strip, the green stripping between the sidewalk and the street and they have started gardening. Some people have started using more their rooftops, even when there wasn’t an actual use for the rooftop and then just hanging out there. So there are a lot of things that people are already doing. And as designers or city makers, we have to keep an eye on those things because it’s not from the expert side that we need to be bringing the solutions to loneliness or social isolation. They are already out there. So we need to listen, to hear the community, to be better, to feel what they are needing so that we can meet or meet people where they are. That’s one of the things about having an equity approach to the design meeting people where they are instead of trying to bring all of this theoretical things that we think that might be right. I mean, they can, yes, they can bring light to these things, but it’s not the only thing.
Mary Rowe [00:53:33] Can we enable them to actually do their own things?
Paty Rios [00:53:36] Exactly. So that’s a policy as a piece as well. So if we are seeing that this is happening, we can put the resources in front of them and then we can make this happen in an easier way. But then the policy side, even if it takes years, we need to be pushing, pushing, pushing. Because what Lucenia was saying is right, I don’t want to teach newcomers and I don’t want to be told that I cannot live in an intergenerational housing. If that’s my cultural background, then there should be space for that. And as planners, as policymakers, we need to be thinking about the diversity that we want to bring in our cities so that we can allow for that type of development. So there is enabling pieces that can be made at the community level and there is enabling pieces that can be made at the policy level.
Mary Rowe [00:54:23] You know, I worry a little bit, too, that we get snobby about this and we say, oh, it’s got to look like that and it’s got to be like this. I see somebody citing that Asian grandmothers used to go to Gerrard Square and which is to where I live. And that is not the most visually appealing place in the world. But it’s interesting that communities appropriate it, you know, and they make it their own. And sometimes it’s a parking lot. In fact, Lucenia you were mentioning parking lots. I hope that one of the things out of COVID-19 that we’re going to do is seize these spaces that we maybe thought were kind of not very useful. And let’s put something dynamic. Let’s us, that’s community people create something that is what the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative is trying to do. Perhaps somebody could put that into the chat. If you’re not aware of that initiative that the federal government is funding and that we’re helping administer, it’s about community-based, placemaking responses. So I’m going to go round each of you and just ask for a couple of thoughts about tangible priorities that you would suggest we should focus on around addressing this issue of solitude in the city and particularly as we come back to some kind of semblance of congregate life. So I’m going to go to you first, Lucenia.
Lucenia Ortiz [00:55:38] Okay, so you know, urban isolation is a complex issue experienced differently by different people, as we have just discussed. But I think it’s something that could be and that can be untangled and tackled at two levels. One is from building resilience to thrive in the midst of adversity amongst individuals, but also building resilience in systems and institutions, particularly city governments in this context. So what are some really tangible things? What I really want to want is to have a look, we need data, right, to have a look at our neighbourhoods right now. And see what are we missing here? What are the caps in terms of building connectedness? And I’m not going through a whole set of indicators I’m sure Paty can give us a whole set of indicators of what to look for, but really just a thoughtful and mindful exploration of how are our neighbourhoods looking. And what’s missing in terms of building connectedness among, for everyone, regardless of identities, that’s what I want. And from there then we can start looking at specific solutions.
Mary Rowe [00:57:13] What are we not seeing? What are we not seeing and what don’t we know? I just asked one of my colleagues to put the COVID365 link in because we exposed this and talk about how we don’t have good data, although we do know that there has been disproportionate incidence of COVID-19 into the Filipino community. You’ve probably seen that Luciena. So but we had to scrape that data. It was crazy. So good question, good emphasis, look at your own neighbourhood and what don’t you know? And when you look eyes to the street, what are you seeing and what aren’t you saying? okay, Shadi, you next.
Shadi Shami [00:57:46] Yeah. So the main theme of today was loneliness. So to overcome loneliness, we need to change the mindset of people because it’s not related to COVID-19. Let’s change the mindset of people. Let’s encourage them to integrate, to get involved more and more. Let’s listen to each other’s story. Let’s encourage others who can’t tell their stories. Let’s encourage them to tell their stories, know their issues, and work on them. And that can all happen through integration because it’s a very big world. It has lots of meanings and it needs many activities to be implemented, but it can be done.
Mary Rowe [00:58:26] Good. A mix, Diane and then Paty you’ll do clean up.
Diane Dyson [00:58:33] Sorry, I think one of the other insights that struck me too, when we look at how to make sure that loneliness doesn’t happen within a neighbourhood and yes, they can trap you is that there’s an increasing homogeneity, our neighbourhoods are more and more just the same people living among each other of the same income bands living in the same forms of housing and our zoning laws and very practical things like that do not allow us to have somebody age through in the neighbourhood. Because as your neighbour, my neighbour is Greek. And when she moved here, there was all kinds of Greek neighbours around and she was connected and now they’ve all moved away. She’s left and feeling lonely, wondering, you know, not able to interact very easily with many of us. But if there had been a space where she could have retired to where the other neighbours had gone, instead of scattering off to wherever the children have landed, we would have been able to save that. So I guess my plea is that we think about changing the built form so that people can live there at different life stages.
Mary Rowe [00:59:39] Aging in place.
Diane Dyson [00:59:40] And at all different income levels. And in that way we can make a difference.
Mary Rowe [00:59:45] Again, making this connection between not just public space, but actually living environments. Paty, last word for you.
Paty Rios [00:59:52] Thank you. I’m going to be very objective and give the things that straightforward where we can be doing in terms of design, gentle infill in single family home neighbourhoods, build flexibility into units so that people can age in place, include spaces in multiunit developments that can allow for intimate encounters four to five people, then with neighbours, twelve households and then with a larger community. Promote missing middle because this allows residents living four or five floors to keep an eye and be connected to the public realm and last but not least involve people in the co-creation process of multiunit housing and public spaces, amplifying the voices of vulnerable populations and underrepresented minorities. I just want to leave, I want to amplify the term of integration into meeting people where they are so that we can actually bring the resources to them and meet them where they need to be met.
Mary Rowe [01:00:47] I always like to think that CUI city talks are all about ground up urbanism building from the ground up and how much we can learn by actually looking in our neighbourhoods paying attention. That’s what we’ve been trying to do through COVID-19. Thank you to people like you who are helping us try to understand what we’re seeing. So I want to thank Shadi and Lucenia, my colleague Diane. Thanks for joining us. And Paty coming in. I’m so sorry about the snow Lucenia, but it will melt. And just to say that there have been really interesting comments here in the chat, including Laurel Snyder raising the question about the privatization of space. I’d love to do another session on that. Laurel, can you get in touch with us and let’s figure out how we build that session. And yesterday I spoke to the Canadian Urban Libraries Council across the country and said libraries, libraries, libraries, we need to know what the new library is going to look like. And we need these kinds of shared spaces. I don’t know whether we’re going to call it a library. Maybe it’s a parking lot. I want that bench where I can sit down because I could be I’m old enough to be a grandmother. So thanks, everybody, for joining us. Tomorrow, if you’re part of the Canadian Healthy Communities Initiative, you’re interested in that program, remember it’s not just a federal program gang. We’re building places across this country to do all the things that these panelists have highlighted today, build better connections, give a sense of belonging. And it’s about more than just what the federal government is funding. It’s about how we can each collectively contribute to that kind of way of seeing our world and building the communities around us. So there is a mobilization session tomorrow from two to three thirty. Someone put it up in the chat. Thanks very much. Always great to have you on City Talk. So thanks for and thanks obviously to the Goethe Institut and particularly to Jutta who’s been our partner all along. Watch some of those films. Let’s keep thinking about how we strengthen our connections to one another as a way of strengthening our sense of belonging to each other and to the city. Thanks, everybody.
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From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://canurb.org/citytalk
00:30:26 Canadian Urban Institute: Welcome! Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments. Attendees: where are you tuning in from today?
00:31:01 Canadian Urban Institute: CUI extends a big thank you to our partner for today’s session, the Goethe-Institut Toronto! Join the Goethe-Institut this week for GOETHE FILMS @ digital TIFF Lightbox:
A Lonely City, streamable now until May 19, 6pm
Neubau, streamable May 21-23
Tickets at digital.tiff.net/page/goethe-films/
00:32:31 Abigail Slater (she/her): Hello from Tkaronto. Two seasons. Winter and construction.
00:33:08 Lorne Cappe: Tuning in from Toronto. Thanks for doing this session.
00:34:01 Kirsten Frankish: Hello from Whitby – traditional territory of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island.
00:34:03 Jutta Brendemuhl: … two seasons: leaf blower and snow blower! For me, noise is actually part of a conversation on how we feel & act together in our cities…
00:34:11 Toby Greenbaum: Hello from Ottawa. It’s a beautiful day.
00:34:36 Susan Fletcher: Hi Diane Dyson — so nice to see you!
00:34:39 Laurel Davies Snyder: Hello from Stratford, ON.
00:34:59 LEASA GIBBONS: Hello from Regina! Looking forward to this conversation.
00:35:04 InGi Kim: Hello from Edmonton!
00:35:46 Maria Alonso Novo: Hello from Madrid 🙂
00:35:58 Jenna Dutton: Good morning/ Hello from Calgary!
00:36:17 Canadian Urban Institute: Connect with our Panel:
Diane Dyson, Senior Director of Research and Engagement @Diane_Dyson https://www.linkedin.com/in/diane-dyson/
Lucenia Ortiz, Urban Planner and Board Member at Multicultural Health Brokers in Edmonton @LuceniaO https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucenia-ortiz-22246970/
Paty Rios, PhD, Housing Expert & Research Lead at Happy City in Vancouver @riospaty https://www.linkedin.com/in/paty-rios-47996aa0/
Shadi Shami, Steering Committee Member, Toronto’s Together Project and Success Mindset Coach in Mississauga. @ShadiShamiCoach https://www.linkedin.com/in/shadi-shami-4259a837/?originalSubdomain=ca
00:37:21 Lisa Cavicchia: https://thehappycity.com/resources/happy-homes/
00:40:44 Lisa Cavicchia: https://citysharecanada.ca/
00:42:26 Abigail Slater (she/her): Perhaps also differentiate between being alone/aloneness and loneliness.
00:46:32 Abigail Slater (she/her): I said that above in relation to what Patty said about the need for space to be alone (if I understood her properly) as well. Which speaks to physical space design.
00:47:12 Camila Fisher: Shadi, thank you for those great points. Loneliness can exist in any place or time regardless of situations (e.g. COVID)
00:47:14 Canadian Urban Institute: We love your comments and questions in the chat! Share them with everyone by changing your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees”. Thanks!
00:49:39 Yasmin Afshar: Thanks for those remarks, Shadi. I think the experience of loneliness for an immigrant is such a complex experience tied to other aspects of the immigration process. I have been thinking about how feeling like you belong in a community could help those moving to new countries, and how it may be difficult for people to reach this feeling of belonging depending on where they settle because of reasons that Patty mentioned. Really excited for the rest of this conversation!
00:52:03 Jutta Brendemuhl: @Shadi, thank you for these incredibly powerful points about the two-way street that loneliness/belonging is, the learning & teaching, the responsibilities & actions when you negotiate multiple identities (as we all do)
00:53:19 jeffery parker: Loneliness is a normal human emotion which during times of stress can take on heightened significance, like ‘one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.’ Jeffery Parker, psychotherapist.
00:55:15 Ross Cotton: Greeting from Barrie , Ontario
00:56:23 Abigail Slater (she/her): There is also the loneliness of the elderly-
stemming from dispersed families/perceived lack of productivity/and simply in many cases simply forgotten or “warehoused”.
00:57:12 Susan Fletcher: “Now is the [14 month] winter of our discontent” with apologies to Shakespeare
00:58:57 Laurel Davies Snyder: Is there any work on the ratio of integrated/connected public space & access to private space with respect to connections, belonging, etc.? Interested in more information regarding Mary’s referenced to “Islamic urban form embedded to ancient geometry of connection”
00:59:32 Ross Cotton: …and it is more when you have lost your spouse or other loved ones when you cannot have other loved one with you.
01:02:14 Mary W Rowe: @laurel google The Islamic City and you’ll get a ton of references =
01:02:28 Mary W Rowe: ditto sacred geometry and the city
01:02:59 Camila Fisher: Also really interested in The Islamic City. Thank you!
01:03:32 Laurel Davies Snyder: Thanks so much – fascinating to me 🙂
01:04:06 Diane Dyson: Sociologist Eric Klineberg’s book Heat showed that low-income and immigrants who had stronger social ties were more likely to survive the heat wave in Chicago which killed 700+ people.
01:06:29 jeffery parker: Check out: United Nations: Urban lll: Quito 2016; https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/ J. Parker
01:06:58 Laurel Davies Snyder: Great discussion. Currently working as a Planner in a mid-sized Canadian city, I see that there is increased resistance to the public good and increased support for private space, privacy, and individual rights.
01:07:32 Abigail Slater (she/her): There is also Putnam’s book Bowling Alone which talks about the need for community connection and which communities were tighter and more tolerant.
01:07:40 Abigail Slater (she/her): Of others
01:08:31 Camila Fisher: Laurel, that’s super interesting.
01:11:29 Diane Dyson: In her PhD thesis, professor Sutama Ghosh tells a wonderful story which informed the United Way Toronto research report Vertical Neighbourhoods. She tells the story of going into a building where everyone on the floor left their doors open so the children could come and go, visiting as they please. It gave origin to the idea of a vertical neighbourhood.
01:12:02 Paty Rios (she/her): Yes Diane, Chicago, hurricane Katrina, Mexicos 2017 Earthquake. They show the same relationship: seniors, low-income people, people with a disability living in more connected neighborhoods were more likely to get immediate help.
01:13:51 Diane Dyson: For the record, I grew up in an English enclave in Quebec!
01:14:51 Diane Dyson: Dr. Sandeep Agrawal has done great research on enclaves.
01:15:07 Lisa Cavicchia: Here’s one study: https://www.ualberta.ca/science/news/2018/september/urban-planning-ethnic-communities.html
01:15:25 Paty Rios (she/her): Laurel, why do you think this is happening?
01:16:48 Abigail Slater (she/her): Such an interesting tension-how do we do both. Honor the enclaves while allowing the feeling of belonging. On another CUI panel there was discussion about newcomer communities that don’t allow for upward mobility (re housing) within those communities. These issues seem related.
01:17:05 Lisa Cavicchia: From Robin Dunbar on social distance, co authored with a McGill prof: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/06/200609104253.htm
01:19:05 Laurel Davies Snyder: So many reasons and I think this would be a good webinar discussion 🙂 I see a lack of overall dialogue about “the city” and what it means to live in a city (ongoing awareness, etc.), gap between policy and implementation, decision-making models, perception of what results from engagement actually mean (the vocal minority), lack of evidence-based planning, lack of understanding context, political / sociological norms are shifting (e.g. pursuit of individual wealth, etc.). This is just off the top of my head 🙂
01:19:43 Olusola Olufemi: What about wanting to stay away from the ethnic enclaves because of stress, competition, judging and sometimes profiling that might bring about depression? This is the other side of isolation.
01:20:16 Jutta Brendemuhl: @Lucenia, love “neighbourhoods as the final destination” — that for me is really (or at least could be, with appropriate focus and funding) a huge of Canadian cities
01:20:40 Susan Fletcher: Pre-Covid, Gerrard Square shopping mall seemed to function as a space for Asian grandparents looking after young children could hang out on the benches while the pre-schoolers played or napped. I wonder how they are dealing with the isolation now.
01:21:14 jeffery parker: A 2016 conference document from the UN, in 44 languages: on urban planning and development: habitat3.org/the-new-urban-agenda J. Parker
01:22:32 Callista Ottoni: On the importance of benches for older people, in social science and medicine “When Benches Become Porches” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277953616304804
01:23:17 Jenna Dutton: Also interim policy statements and or/ Notices of Motion that can highlight importance of policy focus while larger policy elements are being worked on – i.e.: while engagement is occuring
01:23:51 Jutta Brendemuhl: @Paty getting to (lengthy) policy change: What are everyone’s most urgent policy change recommendations?
01:24:35 Canadian Urban Institute: CUI extends a big thank you to our partner for today’s session, the Goethe-Institut Toronto! Join the Goethe-Institut this week for GOETHE FILMS @ digital TIFF Lightbox: A Lonely City, streamable now until May 19, 6pm Neubau, streamable May 21-23 Tickets at digital.tiff.net/page/goethe-films/
01:25:02 Canadian Urban Institute: Learn more about the Healthy Communities Initiative here: www.healthycommunitiesinitiative.ca
01:25:31 Diane Dyson: Indeed ethnic enclaves and neighbourhoods have their limits, especially when they trap people! I often think about an introverted colleague who shudders at the thought of knowing his neighbours. Hopefully cities provide something for all.
01:25:53 Camila Fisher: Thank you to all of the panelists and the organizers! Incredible discussion! I appreciate hearing from diverse viewpoints.
01:26:06 Jutta Brendemuhl: Thank you, team Canurb, always a pleasure to collaborate with you — we’re better together!
01:26:39 Canadian Urban Institute: We put together a Spotify playlist for our talk today: https://spoti.fi/3hDHfSA
01:26:43 Lisa Cavicchia: https://canurb.org/publications/covid-signpost-365-days/
01:27:27 Abigail Slater (she/her): I wonder what people think about new app Nextdoor.
01:27:40 Abigail Slater (she/her): Helpful or harmful?
01:28:15 Kirsten Frankish: Huge thanks to the panelists and the CanUrb team for another thoughtful and thought provoking conversation. Until next time!
01:28:45 Jenna Dutton: Thanks to the panelists for your insights!
01:29:51 Canadian Urban Institute: Join us tomorrow at 2pm ET for a discussion about the concrete steps municipalities can take to help create the community partnerships they need: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Y5Pa76QXS7msOZRz4_6_oA
01:30:05 Laurel Davies Snyder: https://slate.com/business/2021/05/los-angeles-low-rise-contest-housing-crisis-affordability-missing-middle.html?fbclid=IwAR0EKZnTlMQkjOUOLy7dPH4D3erGKX8WtsIsOd938JeWJwm3ifBYPaHlaBI
01:30:20 Candace Safonovs: This was a great panel, thanks all!
01:30:27 Laurel Davies Snyder: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-05-14/the-post-pandemic-future-of-central-business-districts
01:31:09 Jutta Brendemuhl: Paty, Lucenia, Shadi, Mary & Diane: thank you for the thinking and work you do, this is so inspiring and uplifting, with lots still to discuss and amend
01:31:14 Callista Ottoni: Thank you! Great discussion
01:31:24 Laurel Davies Snyder: Super discussion. thank you everyone. Thank you CUI for these sessions.
01:31:42 Abigail Slater (she/her): Thank you!!
01:31:54 Lisa Cavicchia: Hi Arleigh!