Plan Canada: Social and Racial Equity Issue

Commissioner Amina Yasin and former Commissioner Daniella Fergusson co-edited the Spring 2021 edition of Plan Canada. This is a unique issue, proposed by Amina and Daniella in their role and co-chairs of the Canadian Institute of Planners’ Social Equity Committee. To provide adequate editorial flexibility and discretion, the editorial committee handed over the reins to the guest editors, giving them the opportunity and space to facilitate this important dialogue.

The issue ca be downloaded here:

Plan Canada Spring 2021 | Social and Racial Equity (pdf)

Plan Canada Spring 2021 | Social and Racial Equity

Here is an excerpt from the Editors Note in the issues:

Towards Social and Racial Equity in Planning

Amina Yasin and Daniella Fergusson

“Herein lies the tragedy of the age: not that [people] are poor, — all [people] know something of poverty; not that [people] are wicked, — who is good? not that [people] are ignorant, — what is Truth? Nay, but that [people] know so little of other [people].”

— W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk

Historian, civil rights activist, and city builder W.E.B DuBois pioneered data visualizations and infographics showing systemic racism in rural and city populations. Yet, in this unceded land that is Canada many planners, engineers, architects, and builders are unaware of DuBois, but can easily name countless white male planning figures who have changed the very fabric of city life – historically in many cases for the worst. Planning’s failure begins with these mapped divisions between neighbourhoods, both visible on plans, like redlining, and the measured socio-economic outcomes, resulting in – as DuBois points out – the physical, social segregation and ordering of people.

The concepts of separation and segregation run through our neighbourhoods, are nurtured in our education system and flourish through forced assimilation into the singular vision of “white urbanism,” a power, legal, and social order structure implemented through restrictive covenants, segregation, land theft, planning euphemisms, architecture, development and servicing bylaws and their enforcement, and aesthetic choices that smooth over structural issues in favour of aesthetic improvements to the status quo. It remains utterly unethical for the codes of professional conduct to tell us to ‘respect the diversity, needs, values, and aspirations of the public interest,’ while not substantially addressing the question of ‘whose public interests’ the profession has been upholding for over a century in Canada.

[…]

For the purposes of this issue, we defined equity as proportional representation (by race, class, disability, age and gender, etc.) of opportunities across land-use concerns, including housing and all other socioeconomic indicators of living a healthy life. Equity is distinguishable from equality, which is premised on ‘sameness,’ or assimilation, essentially looking at treating everyone exactly the same, regardless of whether there are barriers for particular groups. Equity recognizes that marginalized populations, due to historical and current discrimination, may need additional supports – including prioritization – to achieve just outcomes in housing, business licensing, transportation, community amenities, employment land decisions, and other services.

In other words, equity is the condition that would be achieved if one’s racial and socio-economic standing no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, one’s housing, economic and physical mobility, health, and environmental outcomes, all interrelated and interlocking issues. This requires addressing root causes of systemic inequities, not just their outcomes or manifestations, and demands the elimination of policies, regulations, practices, attitudes, and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes by race, ableism, gender, and other demographics, while otherwise failing to address them.

Racial equity is also a process. This means that those most negatively impacted by the creation of ‘race,’ and therefore the practice of racism, classism, ableism and colonialism – especially systemic oppression – must be part of the decision-making process about planning curriculums, funding, policies, regulations,  developments, and programs.

[…]

We hope that this issue is affirming for planners and communities working towards equity, redress, and a human rights framework in planning who don’t often see themselves represented in the field or in the neighbourhoods and cities that we plan for.

This is for you all.


For more information on the Canadian Institute of Planners’ social and racial equity work, please check out these resources

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