Sustainable Communities in Canada: Does One Exist?


Introduction complete e-Dialogue (pdf)

We thank all the participants for the engaging discussion!

The dialogue has been archived as a PDF document. Panelist statements have been archived verbatim; however, given the software used was not synchronous, certain panelist statements have been reorganized to maintain the logical flow of the discussion.

The following has been archived as part of the dialogue:

  • The complete dialogue, as a PDF document (613 KB)
  • The dialogue summary, as a PDF document (51 KB)
  • Background information for the dialogue
  • Readings and resources on sustainable communities
  • The panelists, with their bios
Background complete e-Dialogue (pdf)
A 'Sustainable Community' makes choices that simultaneously enhance or maintain the wellbeing of both people and ecosystems while not placing unbearable burdens -- environmental, economic, or social -- on future generations. To achieve this vision all community members - individuals groups and organizations in all sectors, need to adopt sustainability as a core value to guide to decisions and actions."


--Sustainable Communities for a Sustainable Planet
(written for the Government of Canada by Steven Peck

Sustainable communities are communities that use their resources to meet current needs while ensuring that adequate resources are available for future generations; they seek a better quality of life for their residents while maintaining nature's ability to function over time. This requires a reordering of current economic, social and political priorities to ensure that human actions do not continue to harm and degrade the natural environment or the community. At the same time, sustainability requires stronger efforts to improve the quality of life of all people, especially those currently subsisting in circumstances where their basic needs for food, shelter, and employment are not being met. The challenge of sustainability is to make wise choices that will allow humankind to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The good news is that pursuing a sustainability path to the new economy holds out enormous opportunities for prosperity and improved quality of life.

"Sustainable development will be impossible to achieve without neighborliness, which makes us aware of the connections between us, both locally and globally."

-- Honorable Clifford Lincoln, MP

Transforming the Canadian and global economy to one that is based on the principles of economic, ecological and social sustainability is a huge challenge, but it is not an impossible task. The key principles have been identified. The need for a full societal effort involving collaboration across all sectors - public, private and civil - is well recognized. The role for research and education is clear, as is the need for innovation.

Canadians have never lacked ingenuity or innovation, but they do lack the necessary infrastructure and enabling conditions to realize the full potential of their human and social capital. Building vibrant transdisciplinary networks in and across communities can provide significant benefits, thus contributing to sustainable community development. These will confer social and economic benefits to Canadians, and also present exportable, commercial opportunities that will strengthen Canada's international competitive advantage.

"I truly believe that human beings can make a difference in society."

-- Dalai Lama

Communities across Canada are facing formidable challenges in meeting their basic need for clean air, clean water, energy, transportation, housing, jobs, and health care. Significant demographic shifts are leading to problems of urban growth and sprawl in some settings, depopulation in others; many rural and resource dependent communities are facing job loss and community decline. (Bell and Grinstein 2001) Such issues are dynamically interconnected and cannot be dealt with in isolation. Creative responses require closing the resulting "ingenuity gap" (Homer Dixon 2000) through innovative thinking -- new approaches, frameworks, partnerships and tools that will allow communities to address these challenges in an integrative fashion.

To this end, the purpose of this e-dialogue is to explore sustainable communities in Canada and some of the associated sustainable development implications. Questions for discussion will be presented under the following themes:

  • What does "sustainable community" mean?
  • How do 'scale', 'limits' and 'diversity' relate to "sustainable communities"?
  • How can we foster community innovation? What are examples?


Bell, DVJ, and M. Grinstein. 2001. Urban Sustainability in Canada: From Rio to Johannesburg. Paper prepared under contract to Stratos for the Government of Canada Earth Summit Secretariat, 2002. Available at www.yorku.ca/ycas

Homer-Dixon, T.F. 2001. The Ingenuity Gap. Knopf Vintage Canada.

Moderator complete e-Dialogue (pdf)
Ann Dale, Professor, Science, Technology & Environment Division, Royal Roads University.

Tony Boydell, Dean of Science Technology & Environment Division, Royal Roads University

Lindsay Cole, Sierra Youth Coalition

Louise Comeau, Sustainable Communities and Environmental Policy Department, Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Louise Comeau is the Director of the Sustainable Communities and Environmental Policy Department at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Louise has been with FCM since May 1998. Between 1990 and 1998 she directed climate change campaigns at Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club of Canada. Louise has extensive experience in all areas of domestic and international policy on climate change, including the science.

Prior to working on environmental issues, Louise worked almost eight years in marketing, public relations and organizational communications for the public and private sectors and one year as a legislative intern for Sheila Copps and Mike Harris.

At FCM, Louise's program responsibilities focus on initiatives aimed at increasing community sustainability. Programs include: the Partners for Climate Protection Program, Green Municipal Funds, Municipal Building Retrofit Program, Active Transportation, Community Energy Planning and Green Infrastructure.

The policy work focuses on the impact of federal legislation on communities. Current priorities are air quality, particularly smog, toxins, species at risk and waste minimization

Al Cormier, Centre for Sustainable Transportation

Al Cormier is the President and CEO of The Centre for Sustainable Transportation (http://www.cstctd.org), a nationally registered not for profit organization dedicated to sustainable transportation in Canada.. He is a founding Director of the Centre and has been involved since its 1996 formation either as Chair or as its President and CEO.

Al's career started with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation in the late 50's where he worked in traffic engineering and in administrative positions. From 1980 to 1996, he led the Canadian Urban Transit Association, the national association of transit authorities in Canada. From 1997 to 1999, he was under contract to the Toronto Transit Commission, GO Transit and the Province of Ontario to coordinate the local hosts activities in connection with the Global Congress and City Transport Exhibition of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) held in Toronto in May 1999.

Kasitsa Jacobs, Kahnawake Environment Office

Lynn Katsitsaronkwas Jacobs is a young Mohawk woman from the community of Kahnawake. She works in her community with the Kahnawake Environment Office (http://www.kahnawake.com/lands/environment.htm) where she coordinates a sustainable housing project, conducts environmental health research, and is developing a culturally-relevant Environment Management System for the community. She is particularly interested in environmental education and advocacy, sustainability and self-sufficiency, and international Indigenous issues.

Katsitsaronkwas is currently working towards gathering an Indigenous youth voice for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa this Fall, and recently returned from a month-long tour across the country as part of a group of international indigenous youth facilitators - to speak with other First Nations youth.

Katsitsaronkwas holds a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Science from the University of Guelph and is currently working towards her Masters Degree in Environment and Management with Royal Roads University.

Nik Luka, Department of Geography, University of Toronto

Nik Luka is based in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto. He seeks to bridge theory and practice in environmental design. His approach is based on the intricate learning connections among research, teaching, and practice. He has a degree in urban and regional planning, which he studied at Ryerson University (Toronto) and Sheffield-Hallam University (Sheffield, England), and a degree in architecture (urban design) from Université Laval in Québec City, where he worked under Carole Després.

In addition to his academic work, he has a Toronto-based planning and urban design consultancy; he has also worked in the field in Toronto, Basel (Switzerland), and Helsinki (Finland).

His primary research and teaching interests are housing, landscape, and urban form, from the transdisciplinary perspective of environment-ehaviour studies and urban design. This perspective encompasses (in no particular order) anthropology, architecture, cognitive science, cultural landscape studies, ecological design, environmental planning, environmental psychology, housing studies, human geography, policy studies, regional planning, social psychology, and sociology. Other research interests include ecological design, sustainable development, transportation, and the uses and representations of space. At the core of his work is the interaction of mind and environment in everyday settings: how people make their environments meaningful, through the processes of perception, cognition, and evaluation, leading to goal-seeking behaviour.

Now in the second year of a PhD in geography at the University of Toronto, his dissertation research focuses on continuity and change in the landscapes of cottage country in central Ontario. He is currently a member of two interdisciplinary research groups. The first, based at Université Laval: 'Suburbia revisited' (http://www.girba.crad.ulaval.ca/), developing planning and urban design strategies for the sustainable revitalisation of early postwar suburbs. The second, based at University of Toronto, is exploring the places and cultural landscapes of exurbia from the critical perspective of human geography.

In addition to his work in environmental design, he sings with Tafelmusik Chamber Choir in Toronto (www.tafelmusik.org) and is involved with a number of community groups in the Toronto area. He is also President of the University of Toronto Graduate Geography & Planning Student Society (http://www.geog.utoronto.ca/grads/ggapss.html).

Contact address:
Nik Luka, M. Arch.
Department of Geography, University of Toronto
Room 5047, 100 St George St.
Toronto ON Canada M5S 3G3

Michael Masson, BC Buildings Corporation

Alistair Moore, International Centre for Sustainable Cities

Working in the environmental and urban sustainability fields for more than 10 years, Alastair Moore (B.Sc., M.R.M.) has focused on developing and promoting innovative strategies that address urban challenges. He holds a bachelor degree in biology and a master degree in resource and environmental management. Given his background in biological sciences and his involvement in urban planning, Alastair views the urban setting as similar to a dynamic ecosystem, oscillating around its equilibrium depending on the interplay between inputs and outputs.

Alastair began his career at BC Hydro and the University of Western Australia's Biochemistry Department before accepting a position with the Greater Vancouver Regional District. Currently, Alastair is Senior Project Manager at the International Centre for Sustainable Cities (ICSC) (www.icsc.ca). Headquartered in Vancouver, ICSC's mission is to promote urban sustainability using Canadian expertise in practical demonstration projects. Working with cities that are committed to sustainable development, Alastair implements a diverse range of projects that demonstrate more sustainable solutions to pressing urban issues. Projects focus as much on process as they do on goals and feature a multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary approach. Recent projects include: applying a "Building-as-System" approach to improve energy efficiency in heritage buildings in China; identifying demand-side management strategies for wastewater management in the GVRD; developing an office Greening strategy; and capacity building for municipal officials in Central Europe.

Jiri Skopec, ECD Energy and Environmental Canada Ltd.

Jiri Skopek (AA.Dip., RIBA, OAA, MCIP, OPPI) is a director of ECD Energy and Environment Canada Ltd. (http://www.breeamcanada.ca), a firm focused on the development of tools to evaluate and benchmark the environmental performance of buildings. He wrote CSA-published BREEAM Canada, as well as BREEAM/Green Leaf for office and multi-residential buildings. He adapted the BREEAM methodology for Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) as the “Progress Towards Meeting Sustainable Development Commitments” that is currently used to assess all federally owned government buildings under the Alternative Form of Delivery. His contributions have also included Green Leaf for Municipal Operations for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and a building design assessment tool for the Department of National Defense and PWGSC. With sponsorship from federal and provincial departments, utilities and the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance, he developed an affordable and user-friendly interactive online energy and environmental building performance assessment application called Green Globes.

Jiri Skopek’s interest in sustainable buildings began in the early seventies when he designed the first active solar house in U.K. and started the energy design group in the new city of Milton Keynes. He won several competitions for entries based on healthy buildings in a sustainable community including the CMHC/CANMET Multi-residential “Ideas” competition and the CMHC “Healthy Housing” Competition.

His master plan for BCE Place in downtown Toronto, created while he was senior designer with Bregman and Hamann Architects, has become one of Toronto’s landmarks. Following the work on BCE Place, he managed the office of Architect-Engineer Santiago Calatrava in Paris, France. Jiri’s other international work at the regional and municipal level has included town planning, community and land use development plans and policies for the City of Edmonton and governments of the Sultanate of Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Jiri was the chief urban designer for the new Campus, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, and designed the new town of Jizan, Saudi Arabia.

Liette Vasseur, KC Irving Chair in Sustainable Development, Universite de Moncton

Dr. Vasseur is professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Moncton where she holds the K.C. Irving Chair in Sustainable Development since August 2001. She has been involved in a number of projects undertaken as part of the Chair's research program such as studies on climate change, ecosystem restoration, conservation, biodiversity assessment, sustainable development and community-based ecosystem management. Projects have been carried out in Canada and other countries such as China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Panama, Brazil, and African countries.

Liette is involved in many different scholarly and professional activities related to environmental issues, and is a member of the Working Group on the General Status Evaluation of plant species in Nova Scotia (under the National Framework for Endangered Species Conservation), the Committee on Protocols for Biodiversity Monitoring of the Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (Environment Canada's Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network), and the Advisory Committee of the Atlantic Node of the Canadian Climate Impacts and Adaptation Research Network (C-CIARN). She was one of the founders of Nova Scotia Plantwatch. She is currently one of the associate editors of the Canadian Journal of Botany and President-Elect of the Canadian Botanical Association. Ms. Vasseur was appointed to Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) for the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation in 1999 and was JPAC's chair in 2001.

Maureen Woodrow, Global Environmental Change and Human Security Project, Carleton University

Maureen Woodrow is the Executive Officer at the International Project Office of the Global Environmental Change and Human Security Project (http://www.gechs.org/) at Carleton University. She is a sociologist who specialises in rural sustainable community developing. Her research includes at the community level in northern Alberta, Eastern Ontario, Northern Ontario and Newfoundland.

She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Laval University with a graduate degree from University of Louvain, Belgium and an undergraduate from Memorial University of Newfoundland. She speaks French and Spanish. In the fall of 2000 Maureen and her husband launched an artisan business combining it with a foundation in a small island community off the Northeast coast of Newfoundland called Stages and Stores to provide employment and preserve the fishing
heritage of the Island.

Suggested Readings complete e-Dialogue (pdf)
Please note that this is an illustrative list only and we would welcome your additions.
Please email:
Articles top

Bell, David, and Grinstein, Michelle. November 2001. "Sustainable Urban Communities in Canada: From Rio to Johannesburg." York Centre for Applied Sustainability, York University

Bowers, C.A. May 2001. Challenges in Educating for Ecologically Sustainable Communities. Educational Philosophy and Theory (Oxfordshire). Vol 33., Issue 2. EBSCOHOST*

Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance. Nov. 2002.The Benefits of Energy Efficiency Investement: Creating Jobs and Supporting the Economy While Addressing Climate Change.

Dale, A, and H. Regier. 1999. Ecological Integrity and Biodiversity in Protected Areas: The Politics of Separation (PDF doc)

Dale, A. 2002. Learned Society Conference. Quebec City (Power Point Presentation)

Humber, William. 2003. Renewable Energy and Urban Sustainability.Centre for the Built Environment, Seneca College. Conference Presentation. (PDF doc)

King, L., and Hood, V. March 1999. Ecosystem Health and Sustainable Communities: North and South. Ecosystem Health (Oxford). Vol 5 Issue 1. EBSCOHOST*

Luka, N. and N.M. Lister. Summer 2000. Our Place. Community ecodesign for the Great White North means re-integrating local culture and nature. Alternatives. University of Waterloo. Toronto.
http://www.fes.uwaterloo.ca/alternatives/263/absluka.htm (abstract only)

Michael, Alun. 2002. National Park Authorities Conference in Hexham. National Parks at the Heart of Sustainable Development. http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2002/020918a.htm

Nozick, Marcia. June 1998. Healthy Cities, Healthy Communities. Canadian Dimension (Winnipeg). Vol 32 Issue 3. EBSCOHOST*

*Note: EBSCOhost (http://www.epnet.com/) offers fulltext and bibliographic databases online. EBSCOhost requires a subscription, and is subscribed to by many libraries. If you are a Royal Roads University learner or staff, you can access EBSCOhost at: http://library.royalroads.ca/ - Search for Articles link.

Books top

Alliance for Community Education. 2002. This Place called Home: Tools for Sustainable Communities. New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC.

Aronson, Lesley. 1993. University of British Columbia Task Force on Planning Healthy and Sustainable Communities. Working papers for the UBC Task Force on Planning Healthy and Sustainable Communities. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.

Barton, Hugh, ed. 1998. Sustainable Communities. The Potential for Eco-neighborhoods. Earthscan Publications. London.

British Columbia Round Table on the Environment and Economy. 1991. Sustainable Communities. British Columbia Round Table on the Environment and Economy, Victoria, BC.

Bunting, Trudi and Filion, Pierre. 2000. Canadian Cities in Transition: The Twenty-First Century (2nd Edition). Oxford University Press.

Jacobs, Jane. 1984. Cities and the Wealth of Nations. Random House. New York.

Maser, Chris. 1996. Resolving Environmental Conflict towards Sustainable Community Development. St. Lucie Press, Delray, Florida.

Mazmanian, Daniel A., Kraft, Michael., editors. 1999. Sustainable Communities: Transition and Transformations in Environmental Policy. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Nozick, Maria. 1992. No Place Like Home. Building Sustainable Communities. Canadian Council on Social Development. Ottawa,Ont.

Pierce, J. and A. Dale (eds.). 1999. Communities, Sustainability and Development across Canada, UBC Press, Vancouver, BC.

Pugh, Cedric, editor. 2000. Sustainable Cities in Developing Countries: Theory and Practice at the Millennium. Earthscan, London.

Roseland, Mark. 1998. Towards Sustainable Communities: Resources for Citizens and their Governments. New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC.

Government Resources top

Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC):
Healthy Housing and Sustainable Communities
Quiz to evaluate sustainable features of a community
Choosing a neighborhood with sustainable features
Sustainable community planning

Environment Canada:
Community Animation Program- Prairie and Northern Region
Georgia Basin Ecosystem Initiative

Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM): Sustainable Communities Knowledge Network

Government of Canada Sustainability:

Health Canada: Healthy Communities Division

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada: Partnership Building for Sustainable Development in the Canadian Arctic

International Development Research Centre (IDRC): Cross cutting Issues: Gender, Policy and Indigenous Knowledge

National Round Table on Environment and Economy (NRTEE)

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan): Sustainable Communities

Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition

Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI)

Tools for Building Sustainable Communities

Transport Canada:
Moving on Sustainable Transportation program (MOST)
Freight Sustainability Demonstration Program http://www.tc.gc.ca/programs/Environment/FreightTransportation/fsdp/demo/overview.htm

Organizations and website resources top

Eco Gateway Anthologies - Sustainable Communities

Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Sustainable Communities Knowledge Network

Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC)

International Centre for Sustainable Cities (ICSC)

International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI): Sustainable Communities projects and Campaigns

International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD):
Communities and Livelihoods
We the Peoples: 50 Communities

McMaster University: Sustainable Community Design

National Council for Science and the Environment: Recommendations for Achieving Sustainable Communities

National Parks at the Heart of Sustainable Development

Pembina Institute

Clean Air Renewable Energy Coalition Vision for Low-Impact Renewable Energy Policy:

Royal Roads University:
Social Capital and Sustainable Development
e-Dialogues - Building Capital: The Social Dimension of Sustainable Development

Sustainable Communities Network (SCN)

Sustainable Development Research Institute (SDRI), University of British Columbia: Georgia Basin Futures Project

Sustainable Toronto

United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):
Interdisciplinary Curriculum Themes
Sustainable Communities module

University of Calgary, Faculty of Environmental Design: Calgary Sustainable Suburbs Study

University of Prince Edward Island: Smart Communities

University of Victoria: Sustainable Communities Initiative

Walkable Communities Inc.

Sustainable Communities - Case Examples top

Canada Career Consortium:
Kingfisher Lake, northern Ontario (Small town becoming thriving)

Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Sustainable Communities Awards (Innovations):

Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD)

GVRD Sustainable Region Initiative

Industry Canada:

Moose Deer Point First Nation Sustainable Community

Kugluktuk, Nunavut Community Connections

Royal Roads University
Science, Technology & Environment Division