Doctor of Philosophy in Planning (PhD)
Dis/connection in 21st Century Canada: Therapeutic Planning through an Indigenous Lens
Leonie has been a great supervisor, always available to meet and talk, and ready to provide critical and knowledgeable feedback. Her support and guidance has made all the difference for me staying the course with my program, even through difficult and challenging times.
Many of the communities in which planners work are characterized by deeply rooted conflict and collective trauma, a legacy of various forms of injustice, including some that have been enabled by the planning profession itself. In this context, can planning play a healing or therapeutic role, without recreating or perpetuating the cycles of oppression? This dissertation reflects on my community-based action research on Tsulquate, a small First Nations reserve on Vancouver Island, where the Gwa’sala and ‘Nakwaxda’xw people have lived since relocation in 1964. Between 2009 and 2012, and particularly over a year of intensive fieldwork, I engaged in this community to assist in the ambitious task of addressing intergenerational trauma, the importance of which was expressed within the Band’s newly created Comprehensive Community Plan. Written as mixed-genre creative analytic process (CAP) ethnography, the dissertation tells the stories of my engagement, and in particular of a series of public, intergenerational workshops I facilitated using a methodology called Deep Democracy. I document evidence of modest but promising patterns of individual and collective ‘healing’ and ‘transformation’ in the course of the workshops, and evaluate the effectiveness of my tools and approaches using first person (reflective), second person (interpersonal), and third person (informant-based) sources of information. I argue in favour of a role for a therapeutic orientation in planning, suggesting that planning is in fact particularly well-suited to a therapeutic task given its collaborative-community focus, its ability to connect the past to the future, its practical orientation, and its relative lack of ‘baggage’ compared with the other helping professions. The ability to play a therapeutic or healing role is contingent, however, not only on planners learning new skills, but also on developing a set of ‘metaskills’ or personal attitudes –compassion, playfulness and beginner’s mind – that are essential for effective and ethical involvement in such sensitive settings. I argue that reflective practice is key to the making of therapeutic planners, and outline a developmental path based on a combination of personal and assisted reflective practice: journaling, meditation, artistic practice, peer coaching, and supervision.
This investigation provides insights into the significance of community art in community development through a case study investigation of the Queer, Imaging, and Riting, Kollective of Elders (Quirke). I use collaborative documentary video as both a method and a text to address two research aims. First, I explore Quirke members’ experiences as part of the Arts, Health, and Seniors Project. Second, I examine significant outcomes of using collaborative documentary video as a research and communication tool. I argue that individual and collective empowerment through building skills, interconnections, and confidence is of central significance to Quirke members’ experiences. I also argue that documentary video informed by a collaborative, structured process may produce mutually beneficial outcomes for researchers, participants, and program administrators. While this study is limited by its context specific nature, it nonetheless contributes to our collective understanding of community art programs and collaborative video.