Last night, Francesca Smith-Jones* and I went to see the inaugural City Talk organized by UVic’s Urban Studies Committee. Dr. Leonie Sandercock from UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) spoke briefly about her new film, Finding Our Way, and screened the middle section of it. Her talk was called The Legacies of Colonization: Apartheid in Small Town BC.
The portion of the film that we saw deals with a conflict between native and non-native people in Burns Lake, over access to municipal services. It also details efforts at reconciliation between the two groups. The film is part of a larger process that Dr. Sandercock is involved in – making the film was the first part of the process; she is also trying to use it to create broader social change through dialogue within the community and within other communities, leading (hopefully) to mutually beneficial coexistence.
Dr. Sandercock gave three reasons for why she, as a planner, is involved in trying to create this type of social change.
- The field of planning is implicated in First Nations issues. The first planners in B.C. were colonial administrators. Since then, other planners have implemented similarly racist, colonial policies. She wants to help decolonize her field.
- The issue of native/non-native coexistence is growing as a contemporary issue, with demographic, political and economic causes and consequences that planners can help sort out.
- By making this film, she has become involved in a larger struggle for social justice within the community.
I was impressed both by Dr. Sandercock’s talk and by the film that we saw. She’s a brilliant, engaging speaker who has tackled an important issue well. The film was well directed and edited, using well chosen interviews paired with excellent images and haunting music. When it becomes available, I would recommend seeing it. (I think Dr. Sandercock mentioned that it should be out next week, but I missed the opportunity to grab the flyer with the appropriate information. See the Facebook page for more information.)
I was also impressed at how many people came to see the talk. There were at least a hundred people there, so there’s obvious pent up demand in the community to hear about cities related issues. I think UVic’s Urban Studies Committee has tapped into an important, relevant issue in the lives of Victoria’s citizens, and I applaud their efforts at engagement. It gives me hope that an idea that I floated a few months ago may still come to fruition: a Victoria Public Space Network.
Two connections to the experiences that Dr. Sandercock described in Burns Lake occurred to me while listening to her. Earlier on this blog I described how racist officials coerced or cajoled local First Nations to leave their harbour side reserve in 1910, so that industry could take its place. Next month’s City Talk lecture, by Dr. John Lutz, deals with this same issue in a local context. (That lecture is called Getting the Indians Out of Town: Race and Space in Victoria’s History and happens on October 21 at The Legacy Gallery, 630 Yates St., 7:30 pm). As Dr. Jordan Stanger-Ross, one of the organizers, said in his concluding remarks, there are some common themes in these lectures surrounding racism in small towns. I’m looking forward to hearing what Dr. Lutz says next month.
*Not her real name.