Written by: Kalen Anderson (CanU Vice President) and Jo Flatt (CanU Caucus Co-Chair) 

Last week in Winnipeg the Council for Canadian Urbanism held its ninth summit, #CanU9. As we head towards our tenth, #CanU10 in Montreal, we have an opportunity to re-think how the diversity of Canadians and our cities is reflected from coast-to-coast.  As with all summits, the purpose in Winnipeg was to create a conversation about the state of city-making in Canada today. The #CanU9 summit supported many productive national and local conversations, but not all for the reasons we might have expected going into it. In addition to rich content centered around the theme “city-making math: the art and science of urban design,” and an exploration of the beautiful host city, there was also a discussion about the nature of the summit itself.

We’re referring to commentary that emerged about the lack of diversity in the speaker line-up, particularly as it related to gender balance. Of the over 30 speakers registered on the program less than one third were women, and none were visible minorities. The fact that a wide range of folks engaged actively with the organization to call for better is an incredibly promising sign about the state of our conversations and the importance of great urbanism to all Canadians. Building better places for, and with, people is the work. And this only actually “works” if all Canadians are contributing to the conversation, as leaders, experts, and participants. All conversations about how we build and rebuild our communities together are impactful and send a strong signal about what we think matters.

Achieving genuine and effective diversity means actively changing the status quo and making a concentrated effort to recognize different knowledge, experience and skills. We can do this by broadening our outreach and engaging, cultivating and holding space for critical dialogue. This requires integrating a wide-range of voices and opinions that are reflective of our current and future communities. And it can’t happen overnight. To this end the Council for CanadianIMG_1481 Urbanism will work to ensure that it is fostering the diverse conversations that make our communities thrive.  In Edmonton last year at #CanU8, in the keynote panel on reconciliation between Mayor Don Iveson and Chief Billy Morin concluded by inspiring positive, inclusive, change. They reminded us that the journey is not necessarily an easy or straightforward one and there are many voices and intersectional perspectives that need to be leading the way. Making proactive and committed efforts to notice and seek out those who are not in the room, and to ask “why” and “how,” is the first step.

We are starting work on Montreal summit now to ensure that the lessons learned here don’t fade. Our Board and Montreal organizers welcome the opportunity to hear from new voices who want to be involved. This is a call to those who want to help us ensure that as we discuss city-building, research, and education we are doing so with a community that is reflective of the diversity across Canada. Join the movement, share your opinions, participate in local discussions and lead the national ones. Let’s work together to talk about what matters, and why.

From the Board of the Council for Canadian Urbanism

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