Leonie Sandercock


Relevant Degree Programs


Great Supervisor Week Mentions

Each year graduate students are encouraged to give kudos to their supervisors through social media and our website as part of #GreatSupervisorWeek. Below are students who mentioned this supervisor since the initiative was started in 2017.


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.

Lyana Patrick (2017)


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Suburban (dis)advantage: views of suburban life from low-Income immigrants in Surrey, BC (2020)

A defining feature of changing patterns of spatial inequality in Canadian metropolitan regions isthe growing dispersal of low-income households into suburban municipalities. Closely related tothis process is the suburbanization of immigrant settlement, as more and more recent immigrantssettle directly into the suburbs. Although local dynamics are complex and difficult to generalize,evidence suggests that Canadian suburbs are housing an increasing number of lower-incomeimmigrant households. Behind these changes are processes of urban development andgentrification, which are deemed to be ‘pushing’ lower-income households out of the urban coreand into outlying areas. Much of the current literature suggests that suburban location compounds social and economic disadvantages, arguing that historically marginalized populations in the suburbs become cut off from needed services, employment opportunities and community supports. Focusing on a case study of Metro Vancouver’s largest suburb (Surrey, BC), my research reveals a more complex picture of how residents experience life in the suburbs,and what informs their decisions to move there. I show how studies that emphasise a narrative ofexclusion, displacement and unequal access to opportunities are not fully consistent with theexperiences of local residents. My findings both confirm and upend current understandings of therise of low-income suburban areas, conveying a picture of neighbourhood change as a process ofboth push and pull factors. I make the case that alongside challenges and barriers, moving to thesuburbs affords lower-income newcomers with opportunities and benefits that go overlooked inthe established literature. I also argue that narratives of displacement and social exclusion areultimately rooted in particular ideas about what constitutes good planning and good neighbourhoods. I make the case that urban scholars project their own ideas about what constitutes good planning onto a culturally diverse group of people whose varied wants andneeds do not always align with those of today’s leading urbanists.

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From ceremony up: Indigenous community planning as a resurgent practice on contested lands in British Columbia (2019)

From its 19th century origins, the modern western idealization of community planning has been about social justice, including the health and well-being of people and their environment, from the “garden cities” of the late 19th century to today’s healthy built environment work. But there has always been a dark side to this ideal. In North America, socio-legal frameworks were developed that deployed the language of “health” and “hygiene” to exclude specific groups of people from cities and towns. Indigenous peoples whose ancestral lands were adjacent to towns and cities were dispossessed of their territories and became the target of colonial bylaws that sought to criminalize their presence in urbanizing areas. Bringing together the fields of public health, planning and Indigenous studies, my research sought to understand how Indigenous experiences of health in urban areas have been discursively framed by colonization and continually impacted through settler colonialism. This case study explored how urban Indigenous community planning might be conceptualized at the nexus of health and justice in the work of one urban Indigenous organization, the Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of BC (NCCABC). Through an examination of the day-to-day labours of frontline workers, I answered my primary research question: In what ways do the resurgent practices of NCCABC relate to the emerging theory and practice of Indigenous community planning? Information was gathered through immersive participation, interviews, a talking circle, and document analysis in four primary sites of study: NCCABC Health Services in downtown Vancouver, NCCABC Prince George office, and First Nations Courts in New Westminster and North Vancouver. In spite of immense jurisdictional and administrative challenges that create barriers for urban Indigenous peoples and organizations – and a political landscape that largely denies urban Indigenous claims to sovereignty and self-determination – frontline workers with NCCABC create alternative spaces of belonging through relational practices that emphasize personal accountability, integrity, trust, and the importance of culture and ceremony. These resurgent practices, I argue, inform an Indigenous community planning paradigm shift that challenges colonially imposed categories of being and belonging and creates community for diverse urban Indigenous peoples.

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Normative worlds clashing: state planning, indigenous self-determination, and the possibilities of legal pluralism in Chile (2019)

Much of the history of Indigenous-state relations in Chile has been shaped by western understandings of law, and by Indigenous engagement with and opposition to such understandings. Spanish colonial law was used to justify settler presence, land dispossession, and violence. Independence was supported by the imposition of Chile’s newly created legal system upon pre-existing Indigenous nations, legitimating territorial annexation and nation building from the state’s standpoint. Today, the state interacts with Indigenous peoples through the lens of Indigenous rights and recognition following recent developments in international law. This dissertation investigates how planning has intertwined with western law to facilitate institutionalized Indigenous dispossession over time and how that relationship unfolds today, using the implementation of the duty to consult as an entry point. First, I trace the evolution of state planning since early colonial times, suggesting that contemporary planning practice is inseparable from this colonial genealogy. Then, adopting an institutional ethnographic approach, I examine the creation of a controversial national consultation regulation through the voices of government and Indigenous representatives involved in the process, as well as Indigenous peoples who refused to participate. The analysis suggests that marginal improvements in state planning are taking place, especially regarding methodological innovations in participatory planning. However, at a more substantial level, consultation policy serves to proceduralize and restrict the scope of Indigenous rights and the exercise of self-determination under the veils of reasonableness and compatibility with Chilean legal frameworks. The failure to reach a mutually agreed regulation and Indigenous refusal to engage in the process suggest that what is really at play in Chile’s planning contact zone is not a clash between different ways of planning, but a clash of normative systems. In other words, tensions arising from multiple contrasting interpretations and narratives about what is considered acceptable or unacceptable, allowed or forbidden, legitimate or invalid regarding Indigenous and non-Indigenous coexistence in shared space. I conclude by discussing how understanding planning contact zones in terms of conflicting legal orders in action opens the door to planning practices that are grounded in legal pluralism rather than in domination by imposition of Chilean law.

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An experiment in therapeutic planning: Learning with the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw First Nations (2013)

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.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Capturing A quirke experience: using collaborative video to explore community art program impacts (2010)

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.

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News Releases

This list shows a selection of news releases by UBC Media Relations over the last 5 years.

Membership Status

Member of G+PS
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Program Affiliations


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