Saving Canada's cities: the seven-year study
A path-breaking, seven-year study of neighbourhood inequality launches July 4 at the University of Toronto with a public forum featuring experts from Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Chicago, and the Netherlands.
“Urban inequality has been well-studied in the U.S. and Europe, but for the most part, Canada has been left out of this research,” says Professor David Hulchanski of the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, principal investigator of the study.
Research has shown that Toronto is a city growing apart. Middle-income neighbourhoods are disappearing, while well-off central neighbourhoods grow richer and lower-income neighbourhoods in the inner suburbs continue to decline.
"But to what extent is this true in other major Canadian cities?" said Hulchanski. "What is causing these trends? How do they affect neighbourhood residents and urban life? And which policies, programs, and local interventions can address neighbourhood inequality and its consequences?"
The new study, supported by a $2.5 million grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, will try to answer these questions. Called the Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership, the study brings together researchers, community agencies, municipalities and private sector organizations to examine inequality in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax.
Inequality and polarization are increasing in cities around the world, especially in the so-called “global” cities that act as major nodes in the globalized economy’s transnational flows of goods, services, capital, and migrants, Hulchanksi said.
“Our project will use sophisticated analysis of national data to map Canadian trends," said Hulchanksi. "At the same time, we will work with community partners to carry out case studies in neighbourhoods in the six cities to understand how these trends affect residents’ everyday lives. This combination of large-scale analysis and local, participatory studies has not been done before on a national scale.”
The study aims to identify public policies and local interventions that can mitigate the effects of income polarization and exclusion.
"The ultimate purpose of this research," says Hulchanski, "is to understand and thereby change the trajectory of Canadian society, to move from the inequality and isolation of certain groups to a more inclusive society."
Hulchanski will open the July 4 forum with professors from Vancouver, Montreal, Chicago and the Netherlands providing brief presentations. David Ley (University of British Columbia) and Damaris Rose (Université INRS – Centre Urbanisation Culture Société) will compare trends in Vancouver and Montréal with Toronto. Janet Smith (University of Illinois – Chicago) and Maarten van Ham (Delft University of Technology) will report potential lessons from Chicago and major European cities.
The forum takes place July 4, from 6pm to 8pm, at Innis Town Hall, 2 Sussex Avenue.