How We Got Here: The Legacy of Anti-Black Racism in Vancouver’s Urban Renewal Policies

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This project details City policies regarding the displacement of Vancouver’s Black and African Diasporic communities. Our team of MPP students from Simon Fraser University’s School of Public Policy conducted an archival research project analyzing a range of “urban renewal” policies enacted between 1922-1965. We found that many of these policies negatively impacted Black communities and are still relevant today.

School:

SFU

Department:

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences - School of Public Policy

Course:

Introduction to Policy Issues and Analysis I & II (PLCY 800 and PLCY 807)

Instructors:

  • Kora DeBeck

City of Vancouver:

  • Jennifer Reddy
  • Mumbi Maina
  • Ari Bhullar
  • Wilma Clarke

Student Team:

  • Alex Black
  • Rebecca Harrington
  • Katrina Kelly
  • Giovanna Orecchio
  • Ken Wong
  • Selena Wong-Clayton

Strategy:

  • Equity Framework

Term:

Spring 2023

Summary

 

Hogan’s Alley became a central neighbourhood for Black cultural development and community building within an overwhelmingly white municipality. Prior to its destruction, Hogan’s Alley was home to talented artists, community owned and run restaurants, small businesses, and a diverse Black community.

In light of the City of Vancouver’s recent commitment to meaningful cultural redress toward the Black and African diasporic community in 2022, our team sought to investigate past City policies, and their impact on commercial and residential displacement of Hogan’s Alley and Strathcona residents. Using archival research methods, we sought to identify eight to ten key policies which profoundly and disproportionately impacted the Black and African diasporic communities.

Vancouver, like many major North American cities of the era, was committed to an urban planning doctrine called “urban renewal”. City planners were motivated to achieve goals of “beautifying” the city through programs of slum removal and blight clearance. However, when it came to identify which neighbourhoods were blighted and full of slums it was often neighbourhoods of colour that made the list. As a result, Hogan’s Alley and many parts of Strathcona were razed for “redevelopment” purposes. Homes, businesses, and residents displaced forever.

Our findings merely accompany the tireless work of existing Black-led and community organizations actively working towards reconciliation and redress. Our report is not intended to make policy recommendations. It is instead meant to serve as a resource to better our collective understanding of our City’s history of anti-Black policy impacts. Only when we know our history can we work together to build a future that is just, fair, and equitable for all Vancouverites. We encourage you to explore our interactive timeline of the highlighted policies.

 

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