Case Study: Toronto's Plan for Diversity, Inclusion and Urban Resilience
With recent waves of migration, Toronto city planners, the public and other community stakeholders are working together to build a city that is inclusive, equitable, meaningful and culturally distinguishable
Toronto has been well recognised as one of the most multicultural cities in the world – even the city’s motto ‘Diversity Our Strength’ celebrates its multicultural diversity.
However according to Dr Zhixi Zhuang, an Associate Professor at Ryerson University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning and a Registered Professional Planner in Ontario, an ethno-culturally diverse population does not necessarily lead to diverse, inclusive, and resilient communities.
Like many other cities around the world, Dr Zhuang writes that Toronto is facing “unprecedented challenges associated with its diverse and fast-changing demographics”.
In this Cities of Migration case study, Dr Zhuang presents some key takeaways from Toronto’s planning practices as part of the Building Inclusive Cities initiative.
- Public art planning is a way to connect and engage community members, create common ground and build social bonds among stakeholders. An art mural on a building in Toronto’s St. James Town neighbourhood depicts a soaring phoenix painted in bright colours. It reflects the themes of diversity, accessibility, safety, happiness and local culture. Hundreds of community members helped paint it, and the process helped build a sense of community among residents.
- Build inclusive, culturally meaningful and inclusive shared public spaces – in Toronto, this includes R.V. Burgess Park in Thorncliffe Park, which has the first Canadian outdoor tandoori oven in a public park and has created a welcoming community environment for everyone.
- Create community spaces that are cultural hubs – Regent Park Aquatic Centre and Daniels Spectrum were designed with diversity and inclusion in mind and offer culturally sensitive programs that meet the needs of residents. For example, the pool in the Aquatic Centre is screened in on Saturday evenings to provide a safe space for Muslim women to swim.
- Focus on equity and inclusion-embedded planning policies and programs – to build inclusive cities, it is critical to develop planning policies, programs and professional training that are focused on equity and inclusion to guide urban growth and change. Toronto’s Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy (TSNS) 2020 is an action plan that seeks to activate people, resources and neighbourhood friendly policies.
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