Being a public scholar means I can take the time to build meaningful, reciprocal relationships with those who collaborate on this project. The PSI helps to make alternative forms of research dissemination, guided by the community of practice, possible. Executing community-engaged research in a way that centers the community, addresses their questions and challenges, and produces an output meaningful to collaborators often follows an extended timeline, a research approach that is made possible as a Public Scholar.
Local governments are coming to recognize the importance of working towards reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, particularly as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is ratified around the world. However, the role of urban planning mechanisms in implementing the UNDRIP remains unclear. The role of collaborative planning practices is considered in this context through so-called Toronto (Tkaronto), where the inclusion of Indigenous voices in planning has often been tokenistic, assimilative, and exclusionary. The research asks, what can the context of Tkaronto inform planners about implementing the UNDRIP in complex, settler-colonial cities? How can alternative approaches to engaging Indigenous peoples with/in planning processes move us towards decolonization and reconciliation? Indigenous peoples are clear that the ways in which we move forward must be determined together to enable urban interventions that foster care, love, and equity. Employing the two-eyed seeing framework, where through one lens we value Western knowledge, and through the other, we value Indigenous knowledge (Bartlett et al. 2012), the research seeks to collaboratively re-imagine the space between Western and Indigenous approaches to planning. Methodologically, though open to iteration with community partners, I propose a collaborative process for counter-cartography development, conducted through a quilted methodology that situates counter-cartography, observational ethnography, walking interviews, and conversational frameworks together. This research has significant implications for nearly every governing body around the world as we work to do right by the wrongs caused by ongoing colonialism, through the implementation of the UNDRIP.
What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?
Being a public scholar helps in moving between the world of academia and community-based challenges. As an outsider to the community of focus for my research, being a Public Scholar means I can take the time to build meaningful, reciprocal relationships with those who collaborate on this project. The financial support offered through the PSI enables appropriate recognition of the work collaborators will contribute to this project. In thinking about outputs of the research project, the PSI helps to make alternative forms of research dissemination, guided by the community of practice, possible. Executing community-engaged research in a way that centers the community, addresses their questions and challenges, and produces an output meaningful to collaborators often follows an extended timeline, a research approach that is made possible as a Public Scholar.
In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?
In entering the PhD program, it was commonplace to hear that ‘the PhD is a lonely experience’. In bringing together a cohort of interdisciplinary early-career researchers from across UBC, the PSI helps to build relationships on the basis of challenging norms of the PhD, while being supported in conducting research. I feel grateful and privileged to be part of such a community. Building relationships carries through in how research is executed, as the PSI supports research designs that center and follow the lead of the community of collaboration. In activating collaborative activities within the PSI cohort, and the work Public Scholars do, more voices are engaged in finding solutions to pressing challenges. The more multiplicity we have in our approaches to conducting research, the more solutions we can reveal together.
How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?
My work considers the implementation of the UNDRIP, which continues to be a slow process of learning and acting together. I see future opportunities in working with Indigenous communities to de(re)construct planning engagement approaches, which have often been tokenizing and exclusionary for Indigenous peoples. Many scholars position urban planning as a powerful mediation in moving so-called Canada towards the nation-to-nation governing structure the UNDRIP calls for. As a long-term career goal, through challenging planning engagement processes, I hope to contribute to making urban environments places of belonging and safety both for those who are Indigenous to such lands, and those who have come to call settler-colonial cities home. In this, I aspire to see and help in the creation of cities that foster ways of living well together. Through the PhD, with the support of the PSI, I would like to gain experience in facilitating cross-cultural conversations and collaborations, and translating research findings into action-oriented pathways for planning practitioners. I hope to continue a career in community-engaged research that pursues the implementation of the UNDRIP, while also bridging the university and the community it resides in through community-engaged learning instruction.
How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?
With support from the PSI, I am exploring collaborative opportunities to counter-map the city of Tkaronto. Through its methodological approach, this research centers the Indigenous community in Tkaronto to challenge how Indigenous peoples are included in and listened to in municipal planning processes, and how their input manifests in the built environment. Collaborators will be invited to participate in a series of walking-ethnographic interviews to imagine a liminal space and proverbial bridge. Data from the walking interviews will be synthesized through a counter-cartography process, led by the contributors and their insights. In reconceptualizing space/place/land, counter-cartographies resist settler-colonial projections of land and instead tell alternative, community-based stories of place. I hope that these counter-maps can be shared with the City of Toronto to encourage them to plan these lands in meaningful collaboration with Indigenous peoples, and in pursuit of their visions for the future.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
To be granted the time and financial resources to complete a PhD is an incredible privilege. The general ideas surrounding this work have been percolating for a few years, and with the guidance of insightful and supportive mentors, I was encouraged to carry these ideas into action through a formal research project. In walking around Tkaronto, the city I call home, I continually felt that primarily the settler-colonial narrative of place was told in the built environment. Through the PhD, I hope to challenge that story and facilitate a process whereby those Indigenous to these lands can tell their story, and have it heard and recognized with/in/on city spaces.
Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?
It has been an incredible first two years at UBC, learning with the guidance of my supervisor and incredible mentors in my department. Beyond the beauty and connection to nature found in Vancouver, I also was keen to see the “City of Reconciliation” in action, participate in ongoing planning engagements, and learn from the lessons of Vancouver and its relationship with the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. I was also drawn to UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning in particular as they deliver the unique and inspiring Indigenous Community Planning (ICP) stream of their Master’s program. I have learned an immense amount from the students and instructors in this program, and am so grateful for their guidance, teachings, and friendship.