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The Inclusive City: On Language and Culture

Last week, I wrote about the importance of urban design in promoting inclusiveness, and helping people change their circumstances for the better. This concept can be expanded to other characteristics as well, in terms of putting forward a message of cultural – and linguistic inclusion.

On one of my first visits to Portland, I was struck by the fact that MAX Rail announcements are made in both English and Spanish. Don’t believe me? You can hear an example here (at Pioneer Square, a flagship stop and destination downtown)

Portland, unlike cities in the southwest, isn’t known for a large hispanic community, and sure enough, the census data confirms that, with 9.4% of residents of Hispanic or Latino origin. MAX Rail is regional, so if any suburbs contain significantly higher numbers, that may boost the regional share to the state level of 11.4%, but it’s unlikely. Nonetheless, the metro average does appear to be significantly lower than the national share of 16.7%.

The point, however, is not about at what share of the population does a linguistic group command service in its native language. I’m on the accommodation side (yes, I do support official bilingualism in Canada), and see a broader point behind the language issue. It speaks to how welcoming and open to diversity a city (or, at least, its decision makers) is.

Contrast this to the proposed approach of Quebec’s government in waiting. In a province where only one major city – Montreal – is really multingual, nevermind bilingual, it proposes to further restrict the use of English and other languages. Some stats on Montreal – 66% of Montrealais identify their mother tongue as French, 13% as English. Any arguments that other languages need restriction for French to thrive ought to be debunked as mere rhetoric. I covered the long-term threat this approach poses to Quebec’s cities in last week’s post.

Now, to end on a positive note. Edmonton has the fastest growing urban Aboriginal population in Canada, and may soon have the highest in total numbers (though not proportion). Zoe Todd has previously written about the Aboriginal marks on Edmonton’s urban landscape, how other cities like Winnipeg do, and how much more can be done to honour the area’s history.

I thought about this with the unveiling of Aboriginal art panels that will line the city’s South LRT line. It’s a small gesture, perhaps, but one that takes the city another step towards putting forward a more inclusive message. In today’s world, I think that matters a lot.


A photo of the panels, via Don Iveson on Twitter.

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Photo Essay: My Year in Cities, 2009

Earlier today, Jonah Keri, one of my favourite writers, posted his “year in cities” list. It’s a concept borrowed from Jason Kottke. You post a list of cities where you spent a night during the year (this excludes cities you visited but didn’t stay overnight in, such as Fort McMurray/Wood Buffalo in my case).

I really like this idea, and decided to add on to it. I’ve included an accompanying photo for most of my destinations from 2009 (for two of them I have none at my disposal). Here we go, in roughly chronological order:

Cantley, QC
Farm
I stayed at the EcoNiche resort for a conference in late May. It’s located in Cantley, Quebec, a beautiful area full of farmland and scenery. Here is a picture of a farm located down the road from where I stayed.

Ottawa, ON
Canada Geese
My Uncle and I went for a walk along the Ottawa River Parkway; it was full of Canada Geese that day.

Calgary, AB
The Decemberists "Hazards of Love"
The Decemberists performing at Calgary Folk Fest.

Jasper National Park, AB

Rafting
A group of whitewater rafters on the Athabasca River near Jasper. I’d gone rafting earlier in the day, but was obviously unable to photograph that trip. This group came by in the evening.

Seattle, WA
Fremont Troll
The famous Fremont Troll in the Fremont neighbourhood, aka The Center of the Universe.

Portland, OR

Chicken BLT
A gluten-free Chicken BLT, accompanied by a gluten-free beer at Deschutes Brewery. I was in heaven.

Hinton, AB
Molly
Molly, my friend Nathan‘s family dog.

Victoria, BC
The Leg at Night
The British Columbia Legislature lights up at night. It was well worth the walk through a torrential downpour to catch this sight.

Pittsburgh, PA
6th Street Bridge
The 6th Street Bridge, also known as the Roberto Clemente Bridge, connects PNC Park to downtown Pittsburgh (seen in the background).

Cleveland, OH
Quinn to Furrey
Monday Night Football in Cleveland: the Browns hosting the Baltimore Ravens. Brady Quinn completes a pass to Mike Furrey, one of the few positive plays for the Browns in a game they lost 23-0.

Hamilton, ON
(no photo available)

Red Deer, AB
(no photo available)

Edmonton, AB
Churchill Square
I spend most of my nights in Edmonton; the waterfall in Churchill Square is one of my favourite daytime sights during the summertime.

My summary: 13 places, 2 countries, 4 provinces, 4 states in 2009. Where, dear readers, did you spend 2009? Post your list in the comments section, or if you blog, make sure to post a link.