Toronto: Planning for Diversity, Inclusion and Urban Resilience

July 20th, 2018

By: Dr. Zhixi Zhuang, Associate Professor, School of Urban and Regional Planning, Ryerson University

Recent waves of global migration have led to profound social, cultural, economic, political, physical, and environmental effects in metropolitan regions of major immigrant settlement. In a new report from the Building Inclusive Cities project, Dr. Zhixi Zhuang describes the important role cities play in the processes of immigrant settlement and integration. Not only do they serve as reception areas for newcomers to live, work, learn, play, and socialize like other city inhabitants; they are also important places for building diverse, inclusive, resilient and equitable communities in the long term.  This report presents key takeaways from Toronto’s planning practices for the Building Inclusive Cities initiative.

From arrival cities to welcoming communities: Why do diversity, inclusion and resilience matter to cities?

Toronto has been well recognized as one of the most multicultural cities in the world: its diverse demographics bring the world to the city. The city’s motto ‘Diversity Our Strength’ is often used in city branding and promotion celebrating its multicultural diversity. In 2017, more than half of the three million Torontonians were born outside of Canada and self-reported as a visible minority. However, in arrival cities like Toronto, an ethno-culturally diverse population does not necessarily lead to diverse, inclusive, and resilient communities. Research has revealed that diversity adds advantages and competitiveness to cities by building social cohesion, enhancing economic vitality, fostering cultural belonging, driving innovation and promoting creativity. To realize these advantages equity and inclusion require fostering in every aspect of civic life.

The key to ensuring the success of a multiculturally diverse society is treating immigrants, refugees, racialized and marginalized members fairly. A successful welcoming community ensures all members have equal access to municipal resources, infrastructure, facilities, and services, equal rights to use of public spaces, and equal representation in decision-making processes.

“It has become imperative for municipalities to understand the dynamics and complexity of the global migration phenomenon and tackle the challenges and opportunities it presents locally.”

Diverse and inclusive cities and communities have more social, economic and physical resilience in the face of unforeseen challenges because community members are equipped with the values of equity, diversity and inclusion to adapt to changes and create positive opportunities for community-(re)building.

Urban resilience is of paramount importance because it is interconnected to socio-ecological systems and is central in policy-making discourses. Recent climate-induced migration and refugee crises have triggered political and societal debates over security, newcomer settlement, risk assessment and the adaptability of cities. Urban resilience implies a capacity to respond to emergencies and unexpected events like the surge in refugee claimants crossing the Canada-US border and overwhelming Toronto shelters.

How could cities be doing better?     Continue reading…

Download the case study. See also, webinar and related resources.

 Toronto: Planning for Diversity, Inclusion and Urban Resilience [July 2018; PDF] by Dr. Zhixi Zhuang, Associate Professor, School of Urban and Regional Planning, Ryerson University, is a case study and selection of international promising practices produced for the Building Inclusive Cities Project at Cities of Migration. The Building Inclusive Cities Project is supported by the Open Society Foundations.


About the author

Dr. Zhixi Zhuang is an Associate Professor at Ryerson University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning and a Registered Professional Planner in Ontario. Her passion for city- and community-building has led to her research on how ethnocultural diversity affects urban landscapes and municipal policies and planning. Her current research projects explore suburban ethnic place-making practices in the Greater Toronto Area and how municipalities could enhance the advantages of ethnocultural diversity for suburban retrofitting and inclusive community building.



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