“The City and its People: Civic Engagement Strategies for Residents” – David Switzer reports on lecture he attended

A PDF outline of Brenna Keatinge’s talk can be found here:

The City and its People: Civic Engagement Strategies for Residents

I am pleased to share the following report from David Switzer of Long Branch:

On April 18th, 2013 I attended a lecture at the Munk Centre Entitled “The City and Its People: Civic Engagement Strategies for Residents”.

The speaker was Brenna Keatinge from the Centre of Criminology and Sociology Studies at the University of Toronto.

As part of her doctorate studies she investigated a local event in which the community took legal action. The case study was in New Toronto in 2008 regarding a strip club being opened.

Methods she used to research the issue included first checking the media, local organizations, stakeholders interviews.

Her research showed the strategies that the community and the club owner used both legal and not legal [that is strategies within and outside of legal frames of reference]. Such as using a zoning by-law that didn’t allow the adult entertainment in this specific proximity and yet the city issued the licence. The local [Ward 6] Councillor Mark Grimes was asked to be involved. A petition against the licence with 500 names was created by using social media. The community group were then told that the club owner had a grandfathered right.

This lead to protest, confrontation and an appeal to the licensing tribunal. When this failed the group used (or over-used) by-law complaints which verged on harassment. Even with the support of Councillor Grimes who obtained Michael Ignatieff’s lawyer they got no response. [Around that time Ignatieff was the local MP.]

Having exhausted legal avenues they then resorted to a non-legal method by starting neighbourhood revitalization. They developed “Shop the Shore” to encourage more support for area retailers. They participated in rebranding the New Toronto village.

Keatinge called this community action LEGAL CONSCIOUSNESS. That is, that laws are 10% visible and 90% that operate invisible. For example, driving on the right… we do it because it is the law (that the visible law) but it is also because it is the safest thing to do (that’s the invisible).

I understand that Keatinge will be returning to New Toronto the continue her research.

I feel that the speaker made this conclusion because of her interest in the law. Conversely I feel the the reason that a strip club or any kind of business or activity occurs is because that this kind of business would be successful in New Toronto. Legal confrontation against owners right is usually a failure (as Councillor Adam Vaughn [Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina] who was in attendance pointed out). It is by strong and continual community positive action that you get the neighbourhood that you want.

The following are some of the other point that were made.

She pointed out that civic engagement can be moving against change or towards it.
Toronto has no central registration for citizen group as other cities do. CORRA is a organization that assists such groups in Toronto.

[CORRA-Confederation of Resident & Ratepayer Associations in Toronto Inc.]

Also laws operate differently in each community.

Conflict arises with Inside vs Outsiders, the new resident or developer represent the future and the establishment represent the past. The status quo represents harmony vs disorder of change.

David Switzer

[Items in square brackets in the preceding text are from Jaan Pill.]


There’s tremendous value in a report such as this one by David Switzer. This report speaks of urban planning issues as seen from within a legal frame of reference.

It underlines the fact that so many ways of seeing – that of the urban geographer, the political scientist, the economist, and the historian, by way of example – are of relevance with regard to urban planning issues.

Among the ways of seeing is a holistic, integrated, or inclusive one which takes into account a range of systematic, recognized ways of approaching the study of urban life.

On a related topic, a back story about the philanthropist Peter Munk can be found at this link. A back story regarding Linda Munk can be found here.


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