These transcripts were based on the closed captioning feed from the discussion. It may not be 100% correct, so please refer to the video as the official version. Time stamps do not correspondence exactly with the video recording.
Good evening, everybody. Thank you. I am so deeply honoured to welcome and thank everybody for joining us this evening. My name is Omar Dominguez. I am the Director of Government Relations and Sector Development at Vantage Point. I’m also a Vancouver City Planning Commissioner.
The Planning Commission is a body of volunteer citizens who are appointed by Vancouver City Council to advise on the future of our city. Now, I can’t emphasize this enough, and I urge you to remember this throughout our whole conversation this evening, is that we are not elected officials or in any way employees of the city. We’re citizens who represent diverse perspectives in our city.
I was born in Mexico City, the land of Mexica Indigenous people. My father comes from a small village of Huiramba, in the small state of Michoacán, which is about four hours west of Mexico City. My mother comes from a village called Buena Vista in Chiapas in México.
I have been an uninvited guest in the ancestral, traditional, and unceded territory of the of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh people.
As we come together this evening in the month of June of 2020, we acknowledge this is also Indigenous History Month. We take this opportunity to celebrate the courageous resilience and the wisdom of Indigenous people. At the same time, we condemn the unjustifiable harm, violence, and colonization and systemic racism and oppression has inflicted on multiple generations of Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour.
[These historical systems of colonization, exclusion,] and oppression are the foundation of the current city [in] which we now live. [Land use] planning here in the City of Vancouver also segregated [and privileged access to land and resources] to benefit white colonial settlers. To this day, you can find land titles in our city with covenants that were meant to prevent the sale or rent of land to people who were of Indigenous, Chinese, Japanese, and African descent, among others. While these explicit forms of discrimination are now illegal, their lasting impact continues to disadvantage communities and is a painful reminder of our racist past. [The Planning Commission itself also], bears responsibility for for the legacy [of this colonial history]. A legacy we have continued to understand, to acknowledge and to heal.
Over the last months and weeks, all of us have been reminded that there’s still so much to do. We have seen the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19, which disproportionately affect certain communities. We have seen an increase of drug overdoses in our city. We have been faced with a growing recognition of systemic instances of police brutality and violence.
We recognize that so many of us are facing ill health in a precarious economic outlook. So many of us are grieving, angered, confused, and isolated. We’re increasingly aware of the harmful impacts of colonization on our communities and in our personal lives. How then can we heal and redress the historic harmful legacy of the past? This is our work. Traumatic, in fact, for many people. But the urgency of this moment compels us to come together, to seek understanding, support, and community in this difficult work.
So as we embark on this dialogue, our hope for this evening is that we take this opportunity to create a space for kindness, mutual respect , acknowledge[ment] and mutual support. So I would like to invite you to take three deep breaths together as we ground ourselves in these intentions. (Deep breaths).
The mandate of the Planning Commission is to advise the major and council on topics that relate to the future of the city. On a broader level, [in our role as convenor of] dialogue, we provide and support space for thoughtful conversations about how our city is evolving. These dialogues bring out ideas for what we need to pay attention to as we look to future to the future, to help us make choices that guide our evolution in a direction that leads to a just, equitable, decolonized, and an inclusive city.
I’m wondering if Councillor Fry has been able to join us. I know he was at a public hearing this evening. So I’m not sure if he was able to come and join us.
So I don’t think he’s with us. But in the meantime, I’d like to acknowledge that we have a number of other Commissioners and a large team supporting us in the background. And that you will see their names in the chat. From SFU Public Square, we have Seth Erais. [I am] also really grateful for their partnership to put together this event.
[For our hard of hearing audience members, we are providing closed captioning through Elizabeth Royal with Accurate Real Time Inc.] to assist in comprehension. This may also be of use to non-native English speakers.
A transcript of this evening discussion will be provided after the chat.
And working from Vancouver Island, from Klahoose Nation, storyteller, Patricia McDougall who will be [visually] recording tonight’s discussion.
Tonight’s discussion, it’s the first in a series of online conversations. And this is how we adapted the summit we had planned for May of this year on the Vancouver We Want; The City We Need, which was cancelled due to the current circumstances.
So, we’re truly humbled by the overwhelming success and interest in this event . We had to up our zoom account up to three times to accommodate close to 600 people who had registered for this event. And the people that are in this call include representatives from advisory bodies from the City of Vancouver, city staff, community organizers, architects, planners, interested citizens, and dear friends and family.
While participants are mainly here from the City of Vancouver, there are also people joining us from Nanaimo to Boston to India to México. So thank you for being with us tonight.
A video recording of tonight’s event, along with a graphic recording, transcripts and a summary of the discussion will also be posted on the VCPC website. Links will be sent to participants via your email.
If you need assistance, let us know in the chat and one of our technical co-hosts will help you out.
We will be using the chat function to share links and respond to technical questions. We also encourage [audience members to comment on what you hear during the discussion.] We will be saving the transcript from the Chat. It will be added to our documentation for tonight.
Now, the chat will be closely monitored so that moderators will ensure that comments stay respectful. While it is okay to disagree with views that we will be expressing during the panel, attacks, threats, and hate speech will absolutely not be tolerated.
So, to access the chat function, click or tap “Chat” in your controls at the bottom of your zoom window. Please ensure you change the chat to “all” so everyone can see your comments. After we’ve had a chance to speak with all of the panelists, we’ll be using the Q&A function to respond to the audience questions. Please enter your questions for the panelists there. If you see your question has already been asked, I would ask you to use the ‘Like’ button as a way of voting, and we’ll be sure to address the questions that have the most interest.
Again, just in terms of recommendations and agreements that we need to make with each other, please be as present as possible. Put away your phone, close any other tabs that you’re not going to be using, and to remind you that we welcome thoughtful questions in the q and a. If your question is for a particular speaker, you may type/specify that.
Again, there will be zero tolerance for disrespectful comments. [Dis]agreement is okay. [But] we will not tolerate attacks, threats, or hate speech. Also please don’t assume genders, pronouns based on what you see on the screen. We encourage you to address people by the name they provide. If you have asked a question or shared a comment, make space for others so that they can also participate. And practice self-care. If you need to take a break, to stand up, have a drink of water, please make sure you take care of yourself.
Now, before the conversation gets underway, we’d like to get a feeling for why you joined us this evening. So we were going to try to have a few polling questions. So, yuri, if that’s going to work, if you can launch the poll. So why did you decide to attend this evening? And you’re welcome to use more than one of the options
So we’ll give a few moments for people to answer.
Okay. Yuri, can you please show the results.
So, clearly, there’s a great deal of interest in this topic with over 81 percent of people and also there’s a great interest to learn and so grateful to be able to provide that space. Also the panelists and some people are bored – totally understandable. We’ll try to keep you entertained.
Again, thank you for being with us today. My job as moderator today is to keep us focused on the big question on how we can create the post-pandemic Vancouver that is just, equitable, decolonized, and inclusive for all.
So under this big question, there are two other important goals for this evening, which is about supporting and creating an online space for thoughtful and reflective conversations on how our city’s evolving and for bringing your ideas for what we need to be paying attention to as we look to the future of our city.
This conversation is also going to help us ground the future-oriented work of the VCPC in an understanding of the legacy of our colonial and racist past and present.
So this is how our evening is going to go. I’ll introduce the panelists briefly. Each one of them will have four minutes to discuss what type of post-pandemic city they envision. Then we’ll have some discussion amongst the panelists. Then we’ll open up the floor for discussions and invite you to share your questions and comments at that time
And since the poll worked, let’s maybe use another one before we introduce the panelists. We’d like to get an idea of the passions and people joining us today. You will see a poll on the screen. Please answer the question and you can pick more than one. So, Yuri, please.
Okay, Yuri. Can just take a few moments and show the results.
I’m not seeing the results on the screen. Okay. There we go.
So a lot of people from academia, faculty, staff, and students. Quite a large group of people from the city of Vancouver. And a lot of people in the planning profession and also not for profit organizations.
Thank you for you for your company tonight. Hopefully we get a lot of insights in the dialect we’re going to have this evening.
So we want to focus our conversation and the dialogue that we’re going to have amongst commissioners. I urge you to learn more about these commissioners on the invitation to this event and on our website [on] a page we’re going to be sharing.
I can just tell you I’m proudly honoured to be able to be able to know these four people. They’re all people I have a lot of respect and admiration and really excited to be in conversation with all of you.
So Sierra Tasi Baker is the lead cultural and design consultant at sky spirit consulting. Sierra is a descendant of the Squamish, Musqueam, Kwakwaka’wakw, Tlingit, Haida and Hungarian chieftains and matriarchs. I hope I got that moderately right.
Veronika Bylicki is the Executive Director and cofounder of City Hive, which is an organization on a mission to transform the way young people are engaged in civic processes, in particular city planning and decision-making.
Leslie Shieh is a planner, urban designer, developer, and academic. In her work, she seeks to bridge research and practice.
Amina Yasin is a care giver, a daughter, a sister, an auntie, and a wicked dancer. She likes to play football [the world’s sport], basketball, and is an aspiring surfer.
She works as an urban planner in metro Vancouver with a focus on anti-racism, equity, and accessibility in planning. She co-chair[s] the Canadian Institute of Planners Social Equity Committee and is a board member with the Hogan’s Alley Society.
I will now turn over the microphone to the panelists for their opening remarks. Sierra?
Sierra Tasi Baker
Thank you, Omar. Good day. My hands are up to you and welcome to my territory. My name is Sierra Tasi Baker. I’m from the Squamish Nation. I’m also Musqueam and Kwakwaka’wakw Thank you Omar for attempting to pronounce that. And I’m also part Hungarian on my mother’s side.
I have an under-grad which focuses on sustainable architecture and have my Master’s in Urbanism which focuses on sustainable urban planning and policy. And then in both of those, through my academic pursuits and my architectural interests, I’ve been working on in ensuring Indigenous [design] methodologies are included in processes.
We’ve been working on incorporating different Musqueam and Squamish, Coast Salish design methodology process. So how do we ensure Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh is visible, how do we ensure Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island are represented in the cities which we inhabit now due to colonization.
A lot of my work focuses on the concept of two-eyed seeing, which is a concept of being able to able to translate between western worldviews and Indigenous ways of knowing to ensure there are better ways of understanding between our cultures in order to start moving the conversations forward so that we can that we can truly approach reconciliation from anti-colonized lens and we can truly approach city planning, building, and consulting and engagement and meaningful engagement in ways Indigenous people are held and upheld in design processes and ways Indigenous have sovereignty in our own land, especially British Columbia, which is unceded territory. This territory is still ours. Do we recognize that by not engaging Indigenous people in these situations, we are perpetuating colonization – there is continual colonization happening on our lands
The more developers construct is building in our territory without our prior and informed consent, engagement, desires and good will… Without asking what we would like to see in the city, how we would like to see our territory, how we would like to see the people provided for in our own territories.
What’s incredible about our culture and cultures is what it means to be a good host means that the guests are esteemed guests. It’s not a scary conversation when you start realizing that the more we position visibility as the host through design, urban planning, and so on and so forth, our esteemed guests will have safer space to say practice their cultures as well because it’s part of our culture to be inspired by trade knowledge and get interested and curious about other people.
How can we create beautiful safe spaces where Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh are hosts?
Thank you. So much more to dig into that conversation. We’ll come back to it, for sure. Veronika, would you like to go next, please.
I’m Veronika Bylicki. I’m joining from the unceded MST territory I’m grateful to be a guest here on these unceded lands and to grow up here. I was born and raised in Marpole. My parents are from Poland. I grew up in south Vancouver and what I consider home.
Some other context is I am not a capital ‘P’ planner; or really even a small ‘p’ planner for that matter. I do work in a lot of different intersections of city building and in particular making sure that youth are engaged and included in shaping what our cities look like, which i mainly do through city hive.
What we do is work with and directly support civic institutions to engage youth more meaningfully. We have a number of programs for youth to learn about how their cities work and to engage hands-on so they can continue to engage over their lifetime.
And coming into this conversation, I’m really thinking about the cracks that COVID has revealed in our cities and how it’s made more visible the inequities brought by colonization, white supremacy… I’m thinking about the call to action right now which is not new and been led by Black voices for a very long time. There’s no way of disentangling that with conversations of city planning or youth engagement with work I do or when we talk about the recovery or post pandemic world.
As I’m sure many of us have been feeling and been talking about, we have an opportunity to do things differently and that call is both deeply personal and I know I’m certainly learning and unlearning a lot. And it’s also a broader call for all of us and I imagine all of us who are tuning in today.
Going back to that initial question of a city that’s decolonized, just, equitable, inclusive, that’s a really big undertaking to think about how we get there. And I’m still learning and trying to imagine what that looks like as well. And in my everyday work, I care about and work with systems that do and don’t uphold young people. There’s so much overlap with systems that also oppressed so many marginalized communities.
As I speak to youth engagement, I want to make sure I’m clear I can’t speak on behalf of a generation. So many youth that have dreams, barriers, and needs. I want to speak to what we have learned at City Hive, why we do the work we do and how youth relate to their cities and communities.
So in thinking about our post pandemic city and recovery, I think what I’m thinking about right now is process; and what we end up is really important but it’s also really important how we get there. If we don’t embark on this collective imagining in a way that centres the voices of those most often excluded from these processes to created a post pandemic city more just, equitable, and inclusive.
Thinking about the work I do, there’s a lot of lessons how we strive to engage youth. In terms of how we really nourish engagement, I think that really ties into power and how we build deep literacy in communities, who we traditionally see as the experts when we engage; and also opportunities for access in how we build trust.
So I think something that we really often see in our work is that because in our K to 12 education system in BC we don’t learn about municipal government. We learn a lot about provincial and federal government. But not really how our cities work. When you turn 18, you don’t really know what the mayor does, what your city’s responsible for. And you don’t necessarily see yourself or get to know what your power is within that system. And so I think something that we really need to think about as we think about engaging deeply is how we build that capacity in literacy.
Also making sure that we look at specific barriers to access and think about how we can tackle those specific barriers rather than generalizing and trying to make engagement work for everyone, which hasn’t traditionally worked.
I’ll wrap it up there, but, yeah, i think this question around reimagining how we distribute power, how we create access –all pretty tall orders. But i think that I’m really excited and inspired of the work of the panelists, others on the commission, and I’m sure a lot of people tuning in today and i think this moment calls us all in for a really deep reimagining.
Thank you, Veronika. And, yeah, I can also attest with my work in the not-for-profit sector the fact that there’s not a deeper relationship between organizations and their government officials is something that needs to change. And so many times government officials and many planners also when they get to hear from organizations that are working on these issues, it’s super refreshing. Rather than hear from corporate or energy or other sectors that don’t carry the kind of moral compass.
Leslie, would you like to go next, please? You’re muted, Leslie.
So good evening. It’s an honour to be here with the panel, with Sierra, Veronika, and Amina.
Many of our projects are grounded in the principal that we are better together. A question that’s top of mind for us is: How do we do this with social bubbles, social distancing? In our project team, we recently discussed possible scenarios as our economy begins to open and we adjust to a new way of life. I’d like to share these four scenarios with you this evening.
I’d like to preface by saying the scenarios are not forecasts. Not meant to predict the future but to frame what we are experiencing personally and observing in social discourses, market reports, consumer behaviours. The scenarios stories help us discuss uncertainties, are imagine multiple futures, and consider how each might work.
The first scenario we came up with is almost “Business as Usual.” In the long-term, we return largely to the way things were. After 911, after the after the 2008 economic downturn, two recent crises, cities recovered though some of the control and surveillance measures stayed and we adapted.
Scenario Two: “The Smaller World.” Families thinking of moving out of the city to smaller communities now have the emphasis to do so. People are shopping online, supporting local neighbourhood businesses, grass roots efforts of mutual care bring food to more vulnerable neighbours who are isolated at home. We are cautious, wary of folks outside the community. In the smaller world, we are supported by technology. We have virtual parties, meetings. We are purchasing online. Smart city technologies help us contact facing and smart city technologies become more ubiquitous in our everyday life.
A third scenario we call “Winner takes All.” So there are clear winners and losers in this pandemic. It has highlighted the inequalities and failures in our systems. Some are struggling financially, mentally. Some are doing well. Here competition is better than cooperation, it seems.
[The] fourth scenario is Truer Democracy.” We don’t want to go back to the way things were, don’t become disoriented and panicked to short-sighted decisions… We draw on our collective intelligence and innovation, take deliberate actions to make our city more equitable, just, and inclusive. Our recovery and healing alternatives, radical ideas that were perhaps thought impossible are idea.
So these scenarios simply offer a platform for our discussion. There’s no limit to the stories we could tell about the future.
I look forward to this evening’s discussion.
Thank you, Leslie. Yeah, I mean, so often getting to know you and having the different view of what a developer is, the curiosity, the value that you have for society and for bringing people together has been truly commendable and the kind of projects you work on are really, really admirable. So thank you for all of that curiosity and smart approach that you bring to your work. Thank you
Amina would you like to go next, please?
I’m going to do a quick screen share while i do my intro. Has it been disabled, screen sharing? It has, eh? No worries.
So thank you for having me here, first and foremost. Thank you to my hosts, the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish.
How I come into this conversation today? I come towards it as a Black woman living at the intersections of many identities as coined by Professor [Kimberlé Williams] Crenshaw.
In my work as an urban planner, it is clear historically, globally, and in many instances presently during COVID-19 urban planning and urbanism have been weaponized as a tool… Including Black people, single mothers, women in public spaces, Muslims in public spaces, those with disabilities, cognitive challenges, other racialized communities. As Black people, we exist at the intersection of all these realities. Anti-Blackness has never existed in isolation in Canada, particularly in the way policy, zoning and land use planning has developed in and across Canada and impacted Black communities, specifically low income Black communities.
The field of urban planning and Canada have something in common. They both have a race problem that they have not wanted to confront for over a century. And we’re seeing these issues manifest in the ways that Black citizens and supporters have taken to the streets to take back their streets and their city. We have also seen this in the ways it has manifested in cities across not only Canada, but the United States and also in the United Kingdom and Australia. So this is quite global. When it comes to urban planning, 2019 marked the centenary year of the [Canadian Institute of Planners] …in with little change or reform.
Time to reassess, reimagine, and – most importantly – respond to the call to consider the possibility of planning in ways in a post COVID situation that count and are deconstruct racism, policing, and colonial imaginaries. Before we move forward, discussing a post pandemic city, we need to address… Including planning education, the planning accreditation process, and within planning departments themselves.
Moreover in this city, region, province, we have yet to address what happened to Hogan’s Alley. We have recognized today the infrastructure needs to be removed. The community hasn’t even received the bare minimum of an apology in recognition of what happened.
Thank you, Amina. I’m definitely thinking of something that compelled so many of us is just reimagining better future could look like, what an equitable, just city could be like for so many people that don’t get to participate as physical abilities, race, economic position, et cetera.
So I’m wondering, just in terms of starting conversation in a more fluid way, what would you like to see in a post-pandemic city and can we go some utopia, what could that look like?
I wonder if I can start with Leslie. What would you think that a post pandemic city that is equitable and inclusive could look like? And you’re muted still, Leslie.
So, yeah, so I’m preparing for – in thinking about this topic, I’m thinking about how I think in some of our discussions that we just – we need to be – well, one, I feel like we have a lot of anecdotal evidence of, like, what would be better. So there’s been a lot of talk about, like, we need wider streets or we need density or we need to rethink our density. I feel like I would like to have like a more nuanced discussion about what – it is not just about density in general but maybe we need to talk about diverse housing types.
I’d like to see us having more nuanced discussions about these bigger topics that by just simply saying: “oh, we need to rethink density,” but to really have that nuanced discussion. And to help us with that nuanced discussion, i think we really need to have more data. I think this pandemic has also shown we need more localized data that also reflects some of the race data that is truly missing.
M’mm-hmm. Yeah. Definitely. And maybe also acknowledging that culturally there are different preferences for how we want to live, whether we want to live alone, whether we want to live in community and creating space for those differences to be manifesting something our physical environments don’t always allow. Yeah.
Sierra, I’m wondering if you have further thoughts on what this post pandemic city could look like for you. Okay. We lost Sierra.
Veronika, would you like to address that?
Yeah, I think there is a lot comes to mind when i think about what I’d like our city to look like post pandemic as we transition out of the pandemic, especially the invitation to think in a kind of utopic way. Could probably get a bit carried away. But thinking about kind of echoing what I said earlier, I’m really thinking about process and what that looked like.
And as we talk about the just recovery and the process of actually get to go that state, I guess part of my response would be who am I to say what that post pandemic city looks? Like voices traditionally excluded in shaping what that looks like. To get a bit more on the ground level, i think one thing that really comes to mind is around who we traditionally see as experts in shaping what they needs.
I think a lot of what we’ve seen in the response to COVID were a lot of community organizing efforts and a lot of organizations that were really on the ground that were a part of really responding and making sure that we were resilient and I think I’d love to see – I’d love to see us shift towards a model where we really do tap into communities and are talking to people about what they need and their fears are and what their hopes are and move to that to a model where we do ask people about specific – or reengage with people on specific projects and in perhaps areas where they don’t feel they have the expertise to show up.
I would like to shift to a place where we engage with community on what they need and shifting from that concept of folks feeling perhaps I’m not an expert to engage to offering what they know from their lived experience or from the model of I don’t belong in this engagement process to i do belong. And i think a lot of that goes to connect with issues and opportunities to build trust and also sharing power.
Yeah, Veronika. Yeah, I’ve also seen the kind of wisdom that we can gain where we can provide spaces where people that don’t feel they have expertise to share their own experience and knowledge, how that actually serves to address solutions that we haven’t imagined before, so making space for that. Wonderful.
Sierra, is that you on the telephone line?
Yes. Can you hear me?
Okay. Great. Glad to have you back. Yeah, that’s fine. Maybe
I’ll ask the question to Amina so you have some time to think about it. But just going back and reflecting on, yeah, like, in some utopic way – but what would you imagine to be this post pandemic setting is more equitable and accessible.
So, for me, the first part would be to sort of understand, you know, where we’ve come from and who we are right now.in your opening, you indicated that covid-19 we know from other cities at least has disproportionately affected, racialized, disabled people, and people who are more low income and on the margins within our cities.
So the first point of order is why has it taken us this long to realize that we need desegregated data in this region? Why is it every time communities present this information and this reality that they are being disproportionately affected, the onus is on them to fight to be heard, you know, and to validate and almost perform their pain through storytelling, which is deeply problematic, i find, through anecdotal storytelling. And we have enough data. We know a lot, you know? Cities don’t differ that drastically, which is why we do a lot of copy and paste urban planning. Things are not that drastically different in Toronto; and we know that in Toronto the data shows that it is mostly racialized, Black, members of our communities who are being affected.
And so we need to be able to collect race-based data. That’s the first point of order. And the only reason we need to collect race-based data is because unfortunately the status quo doesn’t want to look to the data that already exists. Again that onus is put back on.
So I’m very happy to see that the city of Vancouver and New Westminster and et cetera have put forward motions to collect race-based data and desegment that race-based data. Because historically in Canada as well we’ve done a lot of hiding of this stuff, you know, under coded language. And so people like you and myself [and] Omar are considered visible minorities. And what does that even mean? The United Nations has declared that it and of itself is an inequity. That in and of itself is racialized and coded and problematic and is the way that Canada and cities in Canada have circumvented the process of dealing with marginalized groups…
Especially when we’re seeing very specific groups in other cities being affected. These groups are not being affected because they’re inherent things that exist within their cultures or their ethnic, you know, make up or way you want to frame that. They’re more likely to bear the brunt of health issues because of the environment, because how planners have built and where they’ve built and who they’ve built for. And so wealth and health are two things that we cannot separate. So there’s a reason why wealthy communities have been … We need to look at the privileges each of us has. And so we’re seeing rapid changes made for prioritized citizens.
You know, disabled people have been asking for accommodations in work environments, in the built environment. We don’t have the equivalent of the accessibility act they have in the United States. The onus comes down to the individual planner, to the bias of the individual planner. If an individual planner thinks that esthetics are more important than human rights.
I think I could ask an individual planner about the human rights code and they would know nothing. And yet that is a regulation that circumvents zoning, that – you know, that trumps zoning, official community plans. And so it’s almost taboo to even bring that up when you’re sitting a room and seeing bias present itself. And so we have tangible things that we can do. We’ve always been able to do it.
COVID is not the opportunity. I don’t like the framing of that. It is not an opportunity. We knew how to do this, how to ensure and be proactive that this is not the space and place we would have been in. But we made accommodations for the middle class because that’s the class of people we value, for the wealthy who were able to flee and go to vacation homes. Now we have people saying these urbanists are flooding into our communities or whatever it might be. So we have to have some really hard conversations. It’s not a utopia. It’s –we’ve always had the answers.
I think it’s also important to acknowledge our own response as planners when we want to hear from, say, equity-seeking communities a response like oh, we’re going to go and do some consultation and then we’ve already heard all of the stories. We just want an apology, want to be reflected, we don’t want more dialogue. We just want that to be acknowledged. But we have an unconscious biases that we need to be made aware of for ourselves so much more.
Also the fact that what gets measured gets done. Something that happens a lot with the sustainability sort of aspect of, you know, cities and companies.
Sierra, would you like to address that question as well?
Yes. Sorry. Do you mind repeating? My internet has been exciting.
We’re basically reflecting on what this post pandemic city should look like. I was kind of posing it as what would utopic post pandemic city look like?
Thank you. Yeah. I really want to honour what Amina is saying in the sense of this – because of thinking of this pandemic, the framing of this being the best time to suddenly start pushing for all equity-seeking groups –like Amina said, we have the reports, the calls to action, we have the united nations declaration of rights for Indigenous people. All the work that has been done.
What needs to be said has been said. By this point, we’re just front face and centre with colonization, front face and centre with white supremacy. Amina and myself, we’re every single day facing a barrier, every single day facing issuess or facing a missed opportunity and we have to re-contextualize, reword, educate our clients, we have to start decolonizing this language just to get to the table to be able to get creative.
A lot of what I’m trying to do is train my clients and train the city and train people to get to the point where i can start being creative, to the point where my people can start being creative. I want to get to that point where it’s utopic, and even reading the book Utopia is interesting, the concept of utopia in and of itself. I remember a scene in the book where in utopia the marginalized groups wear all the gold and all the wealth and all the wealthy people have nothing. So utopia in and of itself isn’t perfection. It’s looking at and having a different lens and ensuring we’re critiquing the way we’re governing ourselves, experience governs, ensure we’re critiquing the way we decided to govern these cities
Because Vancouver is only 200-ish years old [ed. Note 136 years old, established in 1886]. I normally have the date memorized. But the city is so young. If you start realizing, for example, my family, we’ve been here for over 809 generations, thousands of years of continued land stewardship of my family. My family has specific legends of how we surveyed the Ice Age, of how my specific family survived the Great Flood. That’s incredible.
Just think about the wisdom in that and think about how patronizing it is to constantly be requesting and asking for our power back and when people are constantly not asking our opinion on things. When actually we have over 80,000 years of knowledge of this territory and knowledge about how to govern it, how to have safe communities, how to create safe beautiful spaces and how to live in a utopic – critical of that word – but in a utopic way. To us, i would re-contextualize that as a way you can relate to everything around you.
My interpretation is that I know who I am. You know who you are. So we can share that we each other. Because of that, I can relate to you; and because I would know how to relate to myself and therefore relate to the land, I know how to ensure that I can help you relate to my land. Then by being able to be in all of my relations we’re able to come forward and move forward in a very good way that’s grounded and structured and rooted in what this land has the capacity to provide for and what it doesn’t. By being able to always be in relation to each other, you’re creating harmonious relationships that gets into this critical concept of utopic. Again, to get back to the patronizing aspect of living my everyday career/life goal of decolonizing the city and constantly coming up against internalized racism, misogyny, so on and so forth .
I’ve done my research into the origins the origins of… Often you’re walking around the city and don’t realize why you prefer a blank modern building over a piece of ornamented, like, gorgeous and wild and you know and that comes from I know what book that comes from. From Ornament and Crime [by Adolf Loos]. An ornamentation to appear New Guinea to tattooing techniques.
This fellow the father of modernism and modern architecture likened ornamentation which is obviously to our culture an incredibly nuanced way of relating to the land, about our legal laws, about our ways of knowing, he likened all that to crime. It’s actually a crime to have beautiful walls and ornamentation in city spaces and to showcase and celebrate op lens of culture. A cigarette box is the epitome of design for him. All these towers and buildings – why do I feel sick walking around the city? We’re living in a cigarette box. That was the imagination of a perfect world by this one architect
At that time as well, in the 1800s – i mean, essentially from 1400s to today, it’s been celebrated if you can associate wildness, dehumansation certain aspects with the wild, that’s a crime, that’s criminal, don’t do that, that’s worst practice. And then moving forward to today, you then are celebrating these cigarette box buildings and celebrating clean slate, sanitized spaces, which are highly traumatizing for Black and Indigenous people to walk through. Those going through the residential schools, foster system, blank modern spaces – unsafe space not because it’s uncomfortable but literally designed to be against our cultural practices.
Myself being Musqueam and Squamish and walking around the city is very difficult for me because I look at all these buildings and all the streets and the way our city has been designed, and I know it’s not accidentally racist. I know it’s very intentionally over time. And because the way planning is taught and the way academia is taught – and there’s all these examples of books like ornament and crime in all fields across the board, health sciences, psychology, and colour theory, actually, and so much more; very similar in process. You end up with these cities built on racist I’d say ideologies.
I’m decolonizing not just the city but the thinking that got us there. Don’t look back at these originating ideals and critique them. Now, we have Amina and other Indigenous and Black planners joining the field – we’re now able to say let’s not do this. This is a bad idea. It was always a bad idea. Let’s rethink. Let’s reconnect. Let’s figure out how we can celebrate and uplift each other and a beautiful teaching is … Which means to uplift and uphold each other. How can we do that through the design of our cities? We have to do a decolonized practice before we can get there.
Right now I walk around the city and it’s difficult for me to simply walk down the street. My utopia is walking down the street and existing safely in space. Technically isn’t a lot to ask for but is in the context of Vancouver.
And so many cities. We’re just scratching the surface of so many conversations here. Yeah , just in that aspect of all my relations – so much that we have lost. You and i were talking about this earlier on. We actually don’t know who were those relationships because the systems were designed to separate us from them and how our environment is built separates us from each other.
We know the single most aspect of health is social connection. Now we have this crisis that actually – the best thing we can do for each other is stay physically distant but how can we stay connected?
We have time for maybe two questions because we’re running out of time. So i’m wondering if you can –if you have any questions that you have seen that people have put in the q and a that would be good to post right now.
Yeah. I think there’s two near the top of the voting list that are talking about engagement. And I think I can mush them together here.
Much of public consultation that is demanded by the city to be done is currently dominated by either white wealthy home owners or those who have the time and capacity to participate. So how might we begin to change engagement requirements so that we can get the results of listening to the groups and people that need to be heard and the data they already have provided for us?
Veronika, would you like to take a crack at that and maybe think about youth also in ways they are able to participate or not.
I’m happy to. First, if anybody else has something they want to throw in first. I’ve talked a bit about engagement. I’m happy to jump in after.
I could speak. Yeah, we’ve been having a lot of conversations around this, especially with modus, which is a great engagement practice. Having a lot of conversations around changing the wording from hard to reach to seldom heard and trying to figure out the translations and just the inherent biases we have.
And I was speaking a bit about it earlier. When we approach engagement it’s often a patronizing way, we just want to hear from you. Whereas what we try to do is have trace out maps and put it on the table and make sure the people we’re talking to is to that what they’re putting on the paper is going to affect the design at the end of the time, which is respectful of people’s time. I’ve been at an a lot of different engagements where my time was not respected. Thinking about an sent engagement – we have so much to start doing to begin that journey.
If you are starting this decolonization journey, thinking about time in and of itself is an interesting translation. Often engaging with the seldom heard –on the Indigenous side, we have a completely different relationship with time. Often applying a project timeline to Indigenous people can cause genuine harm to the community. You’re going to tokenize the people you are speaking with. I’m going to make up a word quickly: derigidfying the timeline, make sure there’s lots of time for agency with the people you’re speaking with, you’re going to start that process of ensuring you’re not causing harm to communities by sticking to a tokenized check- the- box…
If you have a diverse group of people you’re talking to, is that just visually diverse? Or are you giving agency to those people in a way that when they actually apply pen to paper you’re reflecting different cultures throughout your design process, you’re reflecting a genuine respect for different people’s cultures and approaches and ways of learning and ways of engaging and ways of communicating. If engagement is only expected one way in one direction, at the end of that engagement we said we couldn’t get a hold of them and couldn’t include them – that’s an issue. Go back to the drawing board. Try again. If you really want to make sure you’re engaging the right voices, you’re going to be able to find them. And be very respectful.
One quick comment before I stop speaking is oftentimes we want to ensure that on the Indigenous side our elders are being heard. You need to ensure you’re respecting the Wlders and their time. I often have clients very demandingly say “Can I have that Elder’s contact?” Absolutely not. No way. Or very demanding of “I need someone to do a land acknowledgment. You have to find them for me.” Like, no. That’s not where we’re going with this. It’s – applying that – that comes from white guilt, essentially. I need to do this right. You’re checking boxes again, ticking boxes again, for what your reconciliation and engagement is going to look like. Undo that.
A decolonized engagement is going to be a sigh of relief, feel like things are going at a slow and steady pace. You want to do things in the right way. What does that mean; to truly think about the right way? We’re going to do this in the right way. If you set that intention, it should take as long as it needs to. If you don’t have the budget for it, don’t have the timeline for it, we as Indigenous people, we’re here, we’re still here, we’ll always be here. We’re not rushing this. We want to make sure this is done in the right way.
And I appreciate the momentum that’s been happening with the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s been helping Indigenous people through this. People are starting to think about things differently.
It’s really important we take time to pause and reflect and recuperate and process and processing time is so important in my culture. So how can you design in processing time into your engagement practices?
Thanks. Thank you.
Thank you, Sierra. It is 8:08. I’m going to ask the panelists if you’re okay to stay for an extra ten minutes. And if people need to log off, please feel free to do so. It feels like an important conversation that we need to have at this moment.
I’m going to say that we’re going to end at 8:25. Again, if people need to sign off, we really appreciate your company today. We’re just going to spend a little bit more time with each other here.
Amina, you wanted to say a few words.
I wanted to co-sign everything that Sierra has said. A lot of it applies to deeply marginalized communities as well. There’s a lot of – there’s a lack of trust, obviously, with city departments and Indigenous groups. But also city departments and low-income neighbourhoods.
For example, growing up in Toronto, I never met a single city planner where I grew up. You know what I mean? They just never came to certain neighbourhoods. You know, I – if you ask most city planners, they work at their desks, right? They’re not really embedded in the community. But, also, they don’t get to choose if they get embedded. They have to get invited. Too often we invite ourselves, I think.
And it’s about the rush and the timelines of white supremacy. But yet we use terms like reconciliation, which I find is ironic because we haven’t even gotten to conciliation. But when i worked in Alberta with the with the people there, there was a lot of flying in and building relationships and a lot of sort of understanding that it was going to be a lot of listening. And i might be going in to discuss one thing, but they might be might be still upset by something that another city department has done.
And because city departments are so siloed off and we don’t talk to each other, that’s one big issue going into a community is the community might be having a problem with the piece of public art that was decided would be put in place for them. Right? But I may be going in for, I don’t know, a discussion about a development or9 the census or something like that, because in Alberta they do their own census. And so trying to sort of work on the timelines of the community that you’re working with, trying to respect the time that you’re being given. But also understanding you’re going to make a couple trips, have to build relationships with people.
We don’t spend time building relationships. We’re planning for, and not planning with. That’s a big problem. That’s a part of that colonial and racist planning.
It’s shocking to me when people are shocked that planning is racist. I’m like how can you be shocked? You’re on un-ceded land and we live in a land called British Columbia who built on the Indigenous peoples.
Building relationships i think is a very, very important step. And there’s more in my article. I see that it’s been posted a couple of times about what other measures can be taken.
Yeah instead of calling it the engagement and consultation we called it relationship building and how would that change our perspective.
Yeah, I mean, I’d say I don’t have as much to add, sierra and Amina shared everything so eloquently.
Sierra, how you said a decolonized process is a sigh of relief. I felt that. I felt the ingress of that, of feeling crunched for time and having to organize and design a process that engages a certain number of youth in a deep way in a short timeline. In that case, we have some of those relationships already built. Still means we can’t do it in a deep way and make sure we do follow through and can have as much transparency along the way. Yeah, that really resonates with the need to have that –to have a decolonized process.
And one thing that comes to mind is just around in a traditional engagement planning process where perhaps there’s a wide invitation to attend and you know who chooses to show up both based on time and those sorts of more structurally either barriers or ways that people that people can access those opportunities but also who feels they have you know the power to show up and who feels like they are going to be heard and they need to and should be heard and I think often I guess.
I can speak mostly to my work with youth and this is youth up to the age of 30 so including young adults who often feel like they aren’t invited to show up or if they do show up they won’t know enough about the content or don’t have that… Often I think having experience of having shown up in a process but not seeing that transparency and that trust is broken. I think part of the equation is trust takes such a long time to build and can be broken so quickly. So i think it speaks to the power of really working on those relationships in the long-term.
And I think a story to share is that a few years ago we organized a workshop where we brought youth to city hall to witness a city council meeting and meeting City Councillors and staff. We had over 60 youth show up who are just curious. We polled them afterwards. Almost all but one had never been to a City Council meeting. Most didn’t know City Hall was a public building. I think that’s a specific building with City Hall.
It represents a lot of different things. I think it also speak to how we see that our systems do or don’t work for us. I think if we don’t get that invitation at a young age as well or have negative experience at that young age, those extend over our lifetime. So I think going back to the question of what – how we can really work on that meaningful engagement, i do think a lot of it does start young. I think a lot of it also starts in meeting youth where they’re at, whether it’s school, whether it’s extracurriculars, whether it’s neighbourhood groups, whatever it is, meeting youth where they’re at.
Thank you, Veronika. Yeah, just reflect on what the City of Vancouver had done with the Vancouver Plan and the results they got from their first widespread survey and sense of lack of trust and the future of the city, really troubling results. That was even before the pandemic. So the sentiment people have.
I want to add to what’s been said about engagement. And i think it’s really important to not forget that capacity building is a large part of engagement and that we’re not simply seeking opinions but that in the process of community engagement that we are – that not to forget that capacity building needs to happen so that it isn’t always just one way. We’re really focusing on that in our work. I’m a member of the Chinatown Legacy Stewardship Group. That’s something we’re really focusing on is capacity building.
Yeah, and sometimes like I think Veronika was saying just the permission that people have the ability to speak up and making space for all of that.
I think we’re going to do one last round of two, three sentences or final conclusion. And then we’ll go with Patricia.
Just last two thoughts that you’d like to share, our time together.
Amina, do you want to go first?
Sure. COVID is not an opportunity. Let’s stop referring to it as an opportunity. I think that’s harmful language. We’ve known what to do. We have the people with us who have been speaking to these concerns for quite some time now. My article addresses quite a few.
We need to use an antiracist lens on all of our policies. We can do that. We need to understand what anti-racism means. When we speak about antiracism, we should not perpetuate the continual exclusion of the Black community because anti-racism can do that when we just focus on very specific groups and don’t speak about anti-Black racism.
Anti-Black racism is what people have taken to the streets for. Anti-Black racism is what we’re seeing protested with regards to and anti-Indigenous sentiments as well. When we see people take to streets, they have opened the streets on their own. They didn’t need the City to do it for them. They didn’t need the City to force it on them. They didn’t need techno-crats to tell them this is the innovation they need to lead healthier lives. They took to the streets and took the streets back.
And these monuments we have glorified –the Belgium, America, Canada – many have in common – why are people taking down statues? Part of white supremacy is the systems and hoops we have to go to to beg to be able to exist in public spaces and come out of it alive at the end of a walk, at the end of buying groceries
Here in Vancouver we have names like Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter. We have Jamel Moore who was assaulted for crossing the street. The city wants to make the streets safer for us without understanding how racism works.
Justin McElroy came out with figures that said every single Vancouver city department is led by a white person. That is colonial planning. They are colonial planners still. Maybe we should change the title from urban planning to colonial planning until we get this right, until we get into the reality of what our planning departments look like today.
Yeah, I think, yeah, first off, thanks to Amina, Sierra, and Leslie, and to you, Omar, as well. For a lot of teachings and, yeah, for a lot of the work and spaces that you, yeah, just do a lot of2 work in beyond this here today.
I’m thinking about how a lot of what felt really impossible became possible overnight in terms of behavioural change, policy changes, and the way that our all levels of society had to reconfigure overnight. I’m thinking about how that – I appreciate your kind of call, Amina, not to frame things as an opportunity, how harmful that language is. To think about what we can learn from this time and carry going forward.
Yeah, I think I’ll leave it there.
Thank you, Veronika.
[I] really enjoyed tonight’s conversation. Right now, i’m thinking about, like, actions and concrete action we can take.
Yeah. And then also to remind ourselves as was said, processes and things is also an important aspect.
Sierra, I know that you fell off the internet again. But I think you’re on the phone.
Yes. Can you hear me?
Great. Yes this is what happens when you’re speaking from a particular zone in Vancouver.
Thank you so much. It’s a huge honour to speak with the panel. In particular, it’s a huge honour to speak with Amina. I think it’s really incredible that the Black and Indigenous communities through this movement are starting to speak with each other and find commonalities to work together moving forward. Both our communities are right front and centre dealing with colonization and racism and anti-Black racism in Canada.
It’s a good point to start thinking about why do we use the past tense when talking about colonization? Why past tense when talking about racism? Actually, in Canada, there’s continued colonization and continued and ongoing racism. It’s still inherent in policy.
What’s great about policy is it can be changed. Policy can be edited and rewritten. What’s great about government and governing systems is that is that we can make amendments, change how we think about governing. What’s great about cities is you can tear things down and build them back up again. A lot of community and resources.
As said, capacity building is so important. I’m a result of my… Capacity building to send me to school. I’m definitely –my existence as an Indigenous urban planner is in spite of colonization. And being able to do what i can do is really exciting. But i want more Indigenous urban planners. I want more Black urban planners. I want more of our voices, the seldom- heard voices, to start being the leaders in these conversations.
I really want to start seeing Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh people upheld. People visiting our territory – this is our territory and we welcome you.
We can’t be good hosts until we get our house back. You know? And so we build our own tables and then we can invite you to them. And that’s a beautiful relationship and a good relationship that i want to work towards.
And we’re not there yet.by having conversations, we’re on our way. So thank you for your kind attention.
Thank you, sierra. Yeah, just like we said, it’s about relationship building and throwing away our timelines.
So we’re way over our allotted time.
So what we want to see in the VCPC is to model the kind of behaviour and things we want our cities to follow that for a variety of reasons cities like the City of Vancouver may not be ready to model the behaviour that we want to see in our cities. But we’re citizens and we can model things that we’d like our communities to reflect.
So i just would like to ask Patricia if you can quickly share your screen to see some of the conversation that you captured today
I had a bit of technical difficulty. I’ve only got a piece of it. The rest I had to take handwritten. And I’ll have to – this’ll just be the first process. And then I’ll have to get that to you in the morning. [You can view Patricia’s final graphic here.]
Okay. That’s fine.
Thank you. So it’s been such an honour, such a privilege. And i feel4 ever so grateful when I get to have this kind of conversation with my fellow commissioners with whom I have all kinds of respect and affinity and with whom I learned so much from. So grateful we’re being able to expand this conversation.
I invite the rest of you to join us. I hope that you can join us in building relationships with each other.
And this is the launch of a series of conversations. We want to expand this dialogue. So hope to – you can join us again.
The next event that we have is a storytelling event in September. The planning commission has done the chronology analysis of the things the… To make a difference in the city.
In the spirit of building relationships, we also want to invite you to join us as “Friends of the VCPC” where you will learn more about the activities and events that we do. And we hope you can join us.
And with that, I will bid you all farewell. I wish you strength, connection, and love and kindness for each other. So thank you and have a good evening.