By Jay Pitter, Policy Options Politiques, August 9, 2021
It has been said that traumatic incidents dislocate “the lived and imagined landscapes” of a city’s emotional ecosystem. This theory feels especially palpable as we approach the precipice of the post-COVID city. Scarred by decades of car-centric infrastructure and festering social divides, our already wounded urban landscape, along with its services and amenities, has been further threatened by the global pandemic.
This public health crisis was worsened by civil unrest spurred by spatialized anti-Blackness on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, anti-Asian attacks and the revelatory discovery of the remains of hundreds of Indigenous children lost to Canada’s residential school system. The very foundations that our cities are built upon are traumatized, poisoned by blood and colonial conquest. They are yearning for healing – the kind that can come only from integrating a trauma-informed placemaking and urban policy approach that embeds deep individual and community healing into Canada’s recovery plan.
Sadly, however, the language of recovery has been co-opted and primarily applied to the economy, negating the urgent need to also invest in both population and environmental recovery. This is particularly concerning because when Statistics Canada released a survey that asked how mental health has changed since physical distancing began, 52 per cent of respondents indicated that their mental health was either “somewhat worse” or “much worse”; 88 per cent said they had experienced at least one symptom of anxiety two weeks prior to completing the survey; and 71 per cent reported “feeling nervous, anxious or on edge.”