Equity and Diversity

A Message from the CSLA Executive Director Michelle Legault

The Canadian Society of Landscape Architects condemns discrimination and all forms of racism that permeate our society. We believe that inclusion is a priority of utmost importance not only to society as a whole but to the profession of landscape architecture. One of the core values of the Canadian Landscape Charter is to Consider All People.

Recent events remind us there is much to be done and much to be done urgently. For me, it is also a reminder that we all have the responsibility to act to effect positive change. Let's be part of the solution to create a just society.

We are currently working on several initiatives to promote anti-racist advocacy in our organization, including the following: 

1. The CSLA has engaged the provincial, regional and territorial component associations and the Landscape Architecture Canada Foundation in the discussion of equity and diversity in the profession

2. The CSLA has joined a cross-disciplinary discussion with other organizations from related professions

3. The CSLA has added equity and diversity to its draft Strategic Plan, which is slated for approval at the Annual General Meeting to be held on Thursday, June 18th.

4. The CSLA has drafted a statement for discussion at the Annual General Meeting on June 18th. Do you have any feedback on the draft statement? If so, share it with Michelle Legault, Executive Director, at executive-director@csla-aapc.ca. Read the draft statement below.

CSLA DRAFT Statement on Racial Inequality and Injustice, For Member Feedback

From the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects Board, Staff, and Members

We affirm that Black Lives Matter.

The CSLA condemns racism, bigotry, and oppression in all its forms. It is imperative that each of us, as associations, employers, and individuals, do our part to eradicate systemic racism.  Let us be clear: there is no place for racism in our association or in the profession of landscape architecture. Landscape architects have the power to design places that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, we recognize that design which ignores those values can bring harm to Black, Indigenous, and other racialized people in Canada. The profession of landscape architecture must not be silent about the injustices that people of colour are facing. Systemic racism in the built environment has taken many forms, including redlining, gentrification, and disinvestment. Environmental injustices, including lack of equitable access to clean air and water, and greater concentrations of pollution continue to plague these communities. We know that many of you share our concerns for those who have been hurt and impacted and are searching for answers. 

We have a long journey ahead of us to see diversity, inclusion, and equity represented in our profession and to break down the barriers within the profession. However, the CSLA recognizes that dismantling systemic racism requires more than words. We require action to unravel injustice. The CSLA commits to working on those actions to ensure the profession is inclusive, right our historic wrongs, and lead the profession to be part of the solution, not the problem. As the voice of the profession in Canada, we are committing to leading positive change within the profession.

Addressing the issues of racism and inequality will require significant commitment and ongoing effort by the CSLA and by each of us as individuals. We are dedicated to working towards a framework for understanding and creating solutions that help bring an end to these longstanding injustices. The CSLA has united the provincial, territorial, and regional component landscape architecture associations, has amended its Strategic Plan, has created a web page with resources, and has shared important social media content as a start to this framework. 

We believe that the pillars of the CSLA’s Reconciliation Action Plan are an exemplary guiding framework for moving forward:

  1. Acknowledge that harm has been inflicted
  2. Create an awareness of the past and atone for those behaviours, and
  3. Act to change our behaviour and create opportunities for inclusivity

Racism, injustice, and intolerance must come to an end. We commit to taking action to change, no matter how long it takes.

LACF Statement on Racial Inequality and Injustice

The Landscape Architecture Canada Foundation has released a statement on racial inequality and injustice. The statement outlines their stance on the issue and some of the actions they will be taking to break down barriers within our profession.

Read the statement


Resource lists

Articles about Juneteenth and Slavery in Canada

Hans Baumann - Immaterial Outcomes

Hans reflects upon his long-term collaboration with the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, sharing how landscape can act as a medium of communication between design methodology and Indigenous knowledge. His work presents the case for why landscape architects must engage with North America's diverse tribal peoples during an era of unprecedented ecological change.

Learn more

Pierre Bélanger - Landscape as Foundation for revolution and Resistance

If landscape is a foundation for revolution and resistance to dominant forms of spatial control and political hegemonies, then the design disciplines must confront their legacy rooted in dispossession, domination, and exploitation. So, what if environmental justice was our ground zero? Who then, would we be accountable to? Landscape architects must decide if they want to champion change by engaging in deep dialogues about spatial injustice and racial erasure to rise up against legacies of white supremacy and dismantle settler colonialism. Opening a lens on the past to better understand the extreme climate of oppression and inequalities today, overlooked voices from the past 25 years shed light on alternative worlds, reciprocal ways of working, and just relations for the next generation.

Learn more

Nick Jabs - Working Landscapes and the Middle American City

Nick's research explores the past and present condition of Middle American cities through the evolution and intersection of their working landscapes and public realm. The project positions the Green New Deal within this context and seeks to amplify the influence of the design profession by actively engaging with spatial, political, and economic drivers of their urban condition.

Learn more

Jeff Hou - Design as Activism: Educating for Social Change

Facing environmental and social crises on a global scale, how can landscape architecture education prepare students to become changemakers in meeting these challenges? Working with a group of educators around the United States and using findings from an online survey and interviews with practitioners and program leaders, this project presents a framework of actions to reposition and transform landscape architecture education for social change.

Learn more

LAND from ASLA: The Landscapes of Enslavement

Just a few decades ago, the story of African American slaves would have been brushed over, sanitized, or, even worse, left blank. Now, a few brave public educators, academics, photographers, and historians are shaping new, complicated, and layered stories that honor the truth and dignity of those who were enslaved. They show that landscapes can tell the story of American history in all its beauty and horror.

We invite you to learn about the full symposium with The Landscapes of Enslavement (Part 1) and The Landscapes of Enslavement (Part 2).

Learn more

75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice

Learn more




Harvard University tool to assess your own implicit biases about race, gender, sexual orientation and much more

Take the test

The Planner's Beginner Guide to the #BlackLivesMatter Movement

This compilation of resources is meant to be a starter guide for those looking to educate themselves on the #BLM Movement. This document was compiled solely by myself, Danielle Dirksen, from outside sources and does not necessarily reflect on the views of METRANS Transportation Center or its partners. I do not claim creation of any materials listed. 

This is from my point of view as a white USC student and as a future transportation planner looking to do better, both from the white-privilege and urban planning perspectives. I hope that you choose to make positive change in the (transportation) planning profession for all, especially for Black folks. 

Download the document (PDF)

A Call to Courage: An Open Letter to Canadian Urbanists by Jay Pitter

"Dear Canadian Urbanists,

Cities across North America are aglow with rage and unwavering cries for justice. While leaders throughout the entertainment, sports and business sectors have issued statements formally denouncing anti-Black racism, mainstream urbanists have, for the most part, remained silent. This is disheartening given that a civil uprising is unfolding against the backdrop of the public realm—the central domain of urbanism practitioners. Consequently, as a public housing kid turned award-winning placemaker, with a practice spanning both Canadian and North American cities where beloved colleagues are risking their lives on the front lines, I’m compelled to issue this call to courage."

Read the full letter (PDF)

How do we respond to anti-Black racism in urbanist practices and conversations? (Video)

A candid conversation with Jay Pitter: what's working, what's not, what's next?

With panelists:

  • Orlando Bailey, Director of Engagement, BridgeDetroit & Detroit Host, Urban Consulate;
  • Tamika Butler, Director of Planning for California & Director of Equity and Inclusion, Toole Design;
  • Anthonia Ogundele, Founder, Ethós Lab;
  • Will Prosper, Co-founder, Montréal-Nord Républik & Hoodstock.

Watch the video

Black Landscapes Matter - Kofi Boone, ASLA

"It may be time to not only think about how Landscape Architecture can better serve Black communities, but also to be honest about the need to begin a radical rethink of the profession."

Professor Boone focuses on the changing nature of communities, and developing tools for enhanced community engagement and design. Through scholarship, teaching, and extension service, Professor Boone works in the landscape context of environmental justice, and his research includes the use of new media as a means of increasing community input in design and planning processes. Professor Boone is the recipient of several awards including the Opal Mann Green Engagement Scholarship Award, the Department of Landscape Architecture Professor of the Year, and the Alumni Association Outstanding Teacher.

Watch Kofi Boone's recent video, Black Landscapes Matter, HERE. Read his article by the same title HERE

Spatial Equity in the Time of Covid 19 | Kurt Culbertson 

The imperative for designers to create spaces of great social interaction that bring together diverse, multi-generational populations is now being questioned in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Yet out of this crisis and chaos can come lasting opportunities to rethink the nature of work, to redefine resiliency to address challenges of pandemics and other health crisis, and to examine the equitable design of public spaces which are flexible and adaptable to a new understanding of public health. The pandemic has been particularly devastating for seniors, low income communities, and people of color. In the face of our current challenges, we need to determine the place of landscape architects in crafting a safer, more equitable society. 

View the recording HERE

LAF: Caño Martin Peña Restoration Project

In Puerto Rico—even before Hurricane María—the communities along the eastern half of the Caño Martín Peña, a tidal channel within the San Juan Bay Estuary, faced public health and safety challenges. Buena Vista Santurce is a community that was settled informally in the mangrove wetlands there in the early 1900s. The neighborhood lacks critical infrastructure—sanitary sewer systems, storm drainage systems, flood protection, access to public open spaces, among others. Repetitive flooding, typically by contaminated water, has had serious health impacts on the residents, especially the children. Hurricanes Irma and María exacerbated these conditions.

In 2016, as part of the larger Comprehensive Development Plan for the Caño Martin Peña led by ENLACE, Spackman Mossop Michaels was awarded funding through the EPA Smart Growth Implementation Assistance Program to work on green infrastructure design options for the community. The collaborative process involved multiple community-based meetings and workshops. The final report proposes a series of interconnected water plazas and green infrastructure to clean the water and reduce flooding, while also creating a framework of civic open spaces to strengthen the social fabric of the community.

Register for this webinar HERE
To view recordings of past LAF Webinars, click HERE

PlacemakingUS: Porch Talk: Race and Place

Join a diverse panel of voices shaping the dialogue around urbanism, place and space for a national porch-to-porch talk on "Race and Place." The panel includes Jay Pitter, award winning placemaker and author of a forthcoming book Where We Live, from Toronto.

Watch the recording of the June 4, 2020 discussion HERE

There's Something in the Water

An examination of environmental racism, the film explores the disproportionate effect of environmental damage on Black Canadian and First Nations communities in Nova Scotia. If you have Netflix, you can watch the full documentary HERE

Ingrid Waldron, the author of the book that inspired the documentary, also gives a Tedx Talk on Environmental Justice in Mi'kmaq & African Nova Scotian Communities. Watch it HERE

Urbanarium Vancouver: Urbanarium Smart City Talks | Putting People First 

A dialogue on Vancouver's public spaces in partnership with City of Vancouver's Places for People and VIVA Vancouver.

Moderator: Derek Lee, MBCSLA, PWL Partnership
Speakers: Jay Pitter, author and placemaker; John Bela, Gehl Studio; Kelty McKinnon, MBCSLA, director/principal of PFS Studio, adjunct professor at UBC

This conversation was recorded on December 17, 2019. Watch the recording HERE

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