Introduction and Synthesis

Introduction

In April 2018, VCPC invited members of City Advisory Committees relevant to A City for All, along with key community groups to a workshop to help design the VCPC 2018 Summit. The goal of the Summit was to increase Vancouver’s resiliency in the face of shocks and stresses by increasing our social capacity and inclusion. The workshop led to the identification of three themes: belonging, equity and the design of places and spaces, and, in addition to resiliency, two overarching frameworks – intersectionality and reconciliation. The early working definitions described below guided our planning. The roundtable on intersectionality refined its definition (see Roundtable 17).

The goal of Resiliency was framed as: the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within a city to survive, adapt and grow, no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.

Intersectionality was the idea that the intersection of various social identities such as gender, race, sexual identity, and social class has a cumulative impact contributing to the systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by a person or group.

Reconciliation occurs only after a recognition of the truth of the lived experience of Indigenous peoples historically and today. It is an ongoing healing process that fosters sustained relationships of mutual respect and understanding with First Nations, urban Indigenous people, and other later groups that have suffered systemic discrimination.

Belonging encompasses the feelings and attitudes associated with inclusion and exclusion; sharing; thriving with diversity; mutual respect and reconciliation.

Equity refers to social justice, specifically the distribution of power; access to resources, governance, and decision making processes

Places and Spaces encompasses the design of the natural and built environment; access (in the broadest terms) and mobility.

Syntheses

Joining the community of world cities that are meeting the challenge of growth in similar and diverse forms, the 2018 Vancouver Summit on A City for All focused a broad dialogue on successes, experiences, interactions, and recommendations. Social exclusion and oppression of the marginalized are taxes on economic, political and social resources, on social growth and urban sustainability.

At the heart of good, urban living is social and political equity and justice. The Summit represented the vast array of knowledgeable groups which
are working intimately on our city’s most challenging issues, and are prepared to be a resource to city decision makers to help shape policy and practice to enable Vancouver to become a more equitable, accessible, and vibrant place.

In the face of the growing disparity between income and housing cost and availability, Summit participants expressed deep concern over the ability of Vancouver to be a city for all where people can live and thrive.

These syntheses were prepared for the closing session but were not shared because we chose to hear each tables top priorities. Prepared by Terry Anne Boyles; Omar Dominguez, Jennifer Marshall and Marnie Tamaki, they are included below, followed by a brief summary of Andy Yan’s talk at lunch.

Belonging

The roundtable discussions on the theme of Belonging were, themselves, reflective of the integral nature of belonging – of connection to others, to family, to community, to culture, to diversity, to reconciliation. They explored themes of resilience of individuals and communities within and across other communities. They were consistently cognizant of not only inclusion, but of exclusion. They shared, explored and developed initiatives that alleviated not only social isolation, but lent power to ongoing engagement. Models that did not settle into comfort zones of the “included” but continually invest in re-invigoration to reach to others – individuals and other networks, cultures and communities. They fertilized each other’s ideas and garnered a breadth of understandings of, not only a belonging continuum, but of intersectionality.

Across the tables the importance of places, food, accessibility, flexibility and adaptiveness were considered. They examined the importance of helping others whose belonging had been impeded by violence, trauma, dislocation, ability or health. They both demonstrated and committed to sustain the relationships that are the underpinning of reconciliation. The Social Determinants of Health permeated these roundtables.’ discussions.

In the respective recommendations there are enabling mechanisms…ones where flexibility, adaptiveness, innovation and evolution are key principles of funding programs. There are innovative concepts for diverse gathering places, and food production and sharing. Most vitally individuals who were grouped with others from outside their own spheres sought ways to continue the networking launched at the Summit to increase their impact,together and individually.

Equity

Among the Equity roundtables there was a spirited recognition that current legal, economic and political systems do not empower the vast diversity of Vancouver’s residents. The disparity which was prevalent during the first contact between Indigenous people and European settlers – and which favored older white males – made its way into legal systems and continues in our current society to perpetuate an unequal distribution of power. On average, women continue to earn less than men, Indigenous residents are disadvantaged, the diversity of our citizens is not reflected among our business and political leaders, the experiences and preferences of both youth and seniors are not adequately reflected in city-building priorities.

More striking however, was the fact that regardless of their focus – whether on issues related to seniors, youth, people living with disabilities or the impacts of colonization – table participants acknowledged that citizens often have little choice over the path on which they find themselves. Their current circumstances are a legacy of inherited unequal access and distribution of power. Table participants identified a critical need to empower people to drive their own destinies. The notion of “nothing about us, without us” has been largely associated with Indigenous issues. and was also clearly relevant to the Summit’s discussions on equity for all.

While there was a recognition of the need for reformed formal structures, legal systems and social programs, Summit participants highlighted the importance of flexible, non-prescriptive approaches to empower citizens. A shared distribution of power would meet each individual where they are and facilitate opportunities for co-creating a common destiny. A shared distribution of power would require having an open mind, not over-programming and not having overly prescriptive notions of expected outcomes. It is precisely this flexibility that would give a diverse population equity of opportunity to choose and flourish, based on their own undeniable aspirations.

The Design of Places and Spaces

The Places and Spaces Roundtable discussions encompassed process, access and inclusion, work space, housing, and public spaces. There is a need for a reality check on the kind of city that is evolving. There was a feeling that the spaces and places forming the city today are not meeting the needs of the people who live here.

Concern for a broad swath of citizenry being left behind with narrowing opportunities for spaces to work, live, and play and avocation for more inclusive and accessible public spaces drove the recommendations to the City:

  • Design our city for belonging, equity, inclusion, and access for all:
    • Find common ground with citizens being engaged and bring shared common values into decision making.
    • Include grass roots organizations in a meaningful way in the planning process.
    • Address need for affordable, suitable housing with security of tenure.
    • Create more spaces for informal connections.
    • Re-envision Vancouver using a “Longhouse” lens, creating welcoming community spaces for gathering, celebration, and dialogue throughout the city.
    • Improve mobility and safety.
  • Be bold – look to collaboration and experimentation as a way of working:
    • Allow for pilot projects, experimental use of space, and adaptable space with a plurality of uses.
    • Allow for failures and build ways to bring successful initiatives to scale.
  • Support inclusionary zoning agile enough to respond to evolving economies, social infrastructure, and technologies. Resilience through flexibility of use.
  • Challenge and change the paradigm of housing as a commodity through policy and regulations, incentives and disincentives.

Overarching Frameworks: Resilience, Intersectionality and Reconciliation

The Summit’s goal of Resilience and cross-cutting themes of Intersectionality and Reconciliation are not boutique issues but overarching, affecting every aspect of urban sustainability and reflecting both the continuity and the challenge of our urban future. While Resilience, Intersectionality and Reconciliation were discussed at every round-table, they were also the subject of their own tables which delved deeply into these themes from individual, organizational and community perspectives, highlighting initiatives and contributions and making direct, proactive recommendations. There was a common call for education (sensitivity training) of city and community services staff on decolonization and intersectionality.

The stresses and their inter-linkages of affordable housing and homelessness, social isolation, economic inequality, aging population, lack of mental health care and drug abuse were discussed in one way or another at all the round-tables, with affordability and social isolation the most prominent. While recommendations throughout the round-tables addressed specific stressors (e.g. tackling social isolation through the provision of space for more informal encounters or through cross-generational programming), one theme running through the recommendations was the need for place-based and especially neighbourhood-based solutions.

The Resilience Round-table focused on the resilience of organizations such as non-profits and local businesses. These organisations are extraordinary assets to the City, strengthening residents’ connection to people and place. Local organizations that have changed and adapted in the face of uncertainty shared their stories and identified a number of recommendations that would bring about systemic change in support of a robust civil society sector.

The Intersectionality Round-table discussed the range of identities that each person has rather than a single identity. Intersectionality strives to include as many voices as possible and thereby help to create flexible and responsive civil processes and policies. Discussion centered around implementation of the intersectional lens at all levels, particularly at the municipal level.

The process of reconciliation is well underway with over 75 City initiatives. The Reconciliation Round-table was a report card of sorts and a look into the future. The many definitions and characteristics of reconciliation were discussed particularly in the context of assimilation, fluidity and the inter-generational impacts. Recommendations describe continued implementation and integration of reconciliation into all processes.

Highlights of Andy Yan’s Talk at Lunch

Andy Yan (2016)

Director of the City Program at SFU, Andy Yan’s talk entitled: “Hot, Uneven and Connected” challenged participants to consider how we will plan for climate refugees, not only from the global south but from the US and not in the future, but now. Three quarters of Metro Vancouver residents live outside of the City of Vancouver’s borders. We are a growing city with ongoing challenges about income distribution – with hunger in the midst of abundance. The issue is about how we grow.

Of 4,600 new housing units built, there were only 8 units of coop housing in any particular year over the last 20 years in the City of Vancouver. It is not a question of what we are building but who we are building for. We need to be connected not just in terms of globalization or technology, but to one another. And we need a rediscovery of the city from indigenous roots to a global future. A City for All is a city that is open to ideas and to people, with a physical and social infrastructure to support it.

A City for All is a city that is open to ideas and to people, with a physical and social infrastructure to support it.

Andy Yan