CITY hosts workshop today on cutting-edge suburban issues

Often maligned as a cultural wasteland and a breeding ground for big-box retail stores, Canadian suburbs have had a bad rap. That’s where the City Institute at York University (CITY) comes in. It plans to tackle some of the cutting-edge issues affecting suburbs at its workshop, "Canadian Cities on the Edge: Reassessing the Canadian Suburb", at York’s Keele campus today.

Speakers will wrestle with some of the tough questions currently facing Canada’s suburbs. Pierre Filion, a professor in the University of Waterloo’s School of Planning, will talk about, "Planning for Urban Dispersion: How to Mitigate Adverse Social and Environmental Effects".

Filion’s current research involves questions of how to create active and diversified urban settings hospitable to pedestrians and transit users, and more broadly, explores the relationship between changes in urban form and the evolution of society. He has edited the Canadian Journal of Regional Science and co-edited Canadian Cities in Transition (Oxford University Press, 2006).

Right: Deborah Cowen

And what makes a suburban citizen? University of Toronto geography Professor Deborah Cowen will look at "Suburban Citizenship". Cowen is interested in citizenship, militarism, war, security, (sub)urban politics and spatial/social theory. She is the author of Military Workfare: The Soldier and Social Citizenship in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 2008) and co-editor of War, Citizenship, Territory (Routledge, 2007).

University of Victoria Professor Larry McCann in the Department of Geography will discuss "Corporate Land Development and the Social Landscape of Suburbia". As director of the Canadian Urban History Committee, former director of the Canadian Association of Geographers and previous governor of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, McCann is interested in exploring early 20th century Canadian suburbanization and its multiple impacts on present (sub)urban form. McCann also delves into planning and urban governance issues, corporate land development and the evolving social geography of suburbia. McCann is the recipient of the 2001 Massey Medal for outstanding achievement in the field of geography. He is also the editor of the popular textbook Heartland and Hinterland: A Geography of Canada (Prentice Hall of Canada Ltd., 1982), which is now in its third edition.

Right: Larry McCann

York PhD candidates in georgraphy Jean-Paul Addie and Rob Fiedler will explore the state of suburbs in Canada with their presentation, titled "Canadian Cities on the Edge: Reassessing the Canadian Suburb". Addie’s dissertation research examines questions of how cities are produced and reproduced, socially and structurally, under capitalism. He is currently undertaking a comparative analysis of Toronto and Chicago, while Fiedler’s research looks at the changing social geographies of Toronto’s inner suburbs. Fiedler is examining how significant social change is being reflected in the suburban landscape, or not, and how residents are adapting the existing environment to meet their needs.

Richard Harris, a geography professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, is asking a fundamental question in his presentation – "What is a Suburb?". As the associate director of the School of Geography and Earth Sciences at McMaster, Harris is interested in housing, urban social geography and urban historical geography as it pertains to US and Canadian cities. He is the author of Creeping Conformity: How Canada Became Suburban, 1900-1960 (University of Toronto Press, 2004) and co-editor of Changing Suburbs: Foundation, Form and Function (Routledge, 1999).

Left: Richard Harris

The workshop, which is a closed event, will contribute the latest research and ideas to the scholarly and public debate about suburbs in this country.

The event is sponsored by York’s Office of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation, York University Bookstore and Urban Studies Program in the Faculty of Arts, Division of Social Sciences.

The launch of York Professor Emeritus Frances Frisken’s book, The Public Metropolis: The Political Dynamics of Urban Expansion in the Toronto Region, 1924-2003 (Canadian Scholars Press, 2007) will follow the workshop. (See the Tuesday, Feb. 26 issue of YFile.)