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Ontario's planners have a role to play in fighting systemic racism and amplifying marginalized voices

The appalling death of George Floyd in Minneapolis showed a lack of human decency that has become emblematic of systemic racism in North American society, becoming a tipping point that has sparked countless protests against anti-black racism. OPPI stands with all those who fight against racism and any form of discrimination and systemic injustice in our society. 
Many of us are absorbing the events, sharing in the visceral anger and frustration, and are asking how we can contribute to a solution both as individuals and as professional planners.
As professional planners, we have a critical role in building sustainable communities for all, regardless of skin colour, sexual orientation and gender identity, age and every other element that make up our unique identities. We have the ability to break down barriers and improve our communities through the lens of equity and inclusiveness. Our recommendations have the ability to support the most vulnerable in our society or exacerbate existing inequalities. There is an opportunity for us to lead the change we want to see in others and ensure planning for our communities represents the diverse needs and perspectives of the public interest we serve.

As individuals, we also need to recognize our own privilege and how it impacts the way we see the world. How can we use our privilege to elevate others? How can we use these feelings of discomfort to make lasting change? 
This is a time for reflection. Planning as a profession has to shoulder some responsibility for a history that has been unjust to those who look and sound different from those who dominate. From our colonial roots through our treatment of those who have come from afar seeking a new life in Canada, we need to recognize that we are part of a complex political and social system that inherently benefits some, while repressing others. It is time to reflect on instances where we have ill-defined the public interest we serve and have some uncomfortable but critical conversations. 
It is easy to issue platitudes and gestures that sound good in the heat of the moment, but we recognize that we need to take a more thoughtful and meaningful approach to facilitate real change.

OPPI is seeking to facilitate meaningful discourse on these societal issues and provide leadership and guidance for our members and for the profession overall. We’ve started some positive work on Indigenous Planning Perspectives, but we can’t stop there – our work needs to be a collaborative effort.  

We will build on the conversations we’ve started previously on issues such as adequate housing, access to community services and healthcare, access to technology, gentrification, and many more. However, we need to hear more from marginalized community members and listen to what they are telling the profession. Our plan is to bring you stories and insights from those missing from the conversation through our various platforms, so you are better prepared in your roles.
We will reach out to members to get your ideas and feedback on what OPPI should do. However, this initiative won’t end here, and we are exploring other ways OPPI can support members while facilitating meaningful societal change. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any thoughts or can offer assistance by emailing OPPI at We need your help.  
It is my hope that by listening, sharing, and bringing people together, we can help inform and inspire a safer, more inclusive, and more just society for every member of our community.

Justine Giancola, RPP
President, Ontario Professional Planners Institute