Long Blog Two- Toronto’s Diversity (or lack of) in Urban Planning

More than half of Torontos population identifies as a visible minority. (Sharp 2021)

With Toronto’s growing population of Black, Indigenous and People of Color, the city should be adapting to fit and listen to the community’s needs. However, that has not been the case. Urban planning is the city-run organization that shapes and regulates the city’s infrastructure, often catering to only the interests of the white population and upholding “settler-colonial land management practices” (Ahsan et. al. 2020) The reason for this detrimental oversight lies in the fact that the professionals in charge lack the understanding and experiences of BIPOC.

A non-profit organization called the Mentorship Program for Indigenous and Planners of Colour (MIIPOC) recognizes the importance of BIPOC planners who are greatly underrepresented in the urban planning field and work to connect these planners with opportunities and build on skills to help create a more diverse and representative future for their cities. From data collected by a group of University of Toronto masters in planning students, the four themes of career, network, support, and retention emerged as the main barriers between BIPOC and progressing change in the urban planning field. These themes relate to the shared experiences of BIPOC planners to feel excluded or dismissed in the workplace, leading to little improvement for the communities they are trying to help.

In Toronto, the issues of affordable housing, gentrification and subsequent displacement, food insecurity and homelessness are large problems that disproportionately affect BIPOC communities. Without people who understand these experiences guiding city planning, efforts by officials often miss the point. More than half of the residents in Toronto identify as a visible minority, something that is disappointingly not reflected in the less than a sixth amount of minority city council members. (Sharp 2021) This is unfortunately, a common phenomena in cities across the world, inhabiting large populations of minorities with little representation in the governments that decide the policies and distributions that affect their lives.

In an article discussing the future of urban planning and development in Toronto, Navneet Alang describes that developers are aiming to cut down on suburban homes and replace them with more densely packed apartments for more tenants. However, these plans often displace the residents, many of which are immigrants and part of their community in these areas. Many people move to the suburbs not only for financial reasons, but cultural reasons as well. (Alang 2017) Immigrant families often see moving to a house outside the city as a marker of success in Canada and an opportunity to be surrounded by their community. Urban planners need to take into consideration the demographics of these areas and make efforts to understand the populations they are in charge of. Cheryll Case, the founder and Principal Urban Planner of CP Planning says that urban planning needs to understand and pause “these processes that are continuing the harmful systems of capital colonialism and develop relationships with people who are actually impacted and develop policy that reflects their interests.”

Looking towards the future, Toronto and its city planners have work to do to achieve the proper inclusivity of BIPOC in the decision making, as well as recognizing their past oversights. The systems in place have historically harmed minority communities without giving them a seat at the table. I am hopeful for the future, as more awareness and resources, such as the MIIPOC, are being delegated to the right places for the next generation of planners to build greatness.

Works Cited