News / Toronto

Urbanism conference criticized for 'shameful' all-male panel

Organizer says group can do better and must be more inclusive.

Outgoing Toronto City Planner Jennifer Keesmaat led criticism of an all-male panel at the Council of Canadian Urbanism.

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Outgoing Toronto City Planner Jennifer Keesmaat led criticism of an all-male panel at the Council of Canadian Urbanism.

The Council of Canadian Urbanism is pledging to improve diversity after an all-male conference panel was called 'shameful' and a display of 'professional incompetence.'

The panel, part of the group's annual summit in Winnipeg, set off a firestorm over the weekend after the only woman, Frances Bula, had to back out at the last minute.

Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto's outgoing chief planner, led the criticism when responding to a tweet in which organizers characterized the panel focused on urbanism and media as a "favourite."

"Shameful. All male panel belongs in another era. To call it your favourite is mind boggling. #NotMyUrbanism #CitiesForAll"

Others quickly followed suit on social media.

Brent Toderian, the council's president and former chief planning for the City of Vancouver, acnkowledged the issue head on.

"I can say both I, and I think our board, share the concern that our summits aren't reflective of Canada," he told Metro on Sunday, adding that gender diversity is just one area where more participation is needed. "It's something that we've been trying really hard to address."

Effective diversity isn't just about representation but about ensuring various perspectives have the power they need, said Toronto author and urban placemaker Jay Pitter. This, she added, needs to be a basic standard.

"Having a wide range of perspectives at the table is a core competency," she told Metro.

She called the urbanism panel "not just shameful, it's a display of professional incompetence."

It's not just about gender, but also race, she said. All of the panelists were white.

With files from Metro Winnipeg's Braeden Jones.

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