University in the Community: Winter 2024

Photo Credit: David Turnbull.  FB ‘Beauty of the Don’


You can fight City Hall …  you just might not get the answer you’d hoped for.

Screening of documentary, *Someone Lives Here, atInnis Town Hall, 7:00-9:30 pm

The documentary, directed by Zack Russell (2023), follows Khaleel Seivwright, the inspired builder of Toronto’s ‘tiny homes’ project in a David-and-Goliath story of one man vs. City Hall.

The Globe and Mail: Canadian doc Someone Lives Here seeks tiny shelter from the storm of homelessness

Toronto Life: People need housing to build a better life

*For this who were unable to see the film at Innis, Someone Lives Here will be screened @ Revue Cinema on February 18-20. Check times here.


Guest: Dr. Carolyn Whitzman: Housing Policy Analyst

Carolyn Whitzman is one of our most knowledgeable housing policy analysts.  With her critical eyes cast on both historical aspects of housing policy in Canada and on today’s crisis in affordable housing and homelessness, Dr. Whitzman remains solutions-oriented and optimistic. Find out why!

WATCH: ‘Ending Homelessness is Possible: Lessons from Finland’

READ: ‘Regular families will never again be able to buy a house in Toronto

Richard Warnica, Toronto Star Feb. 3 2024:

LISTEN: On the Way Home podcast with Michael Braithwaite

Books by Carolyn Whitzman:

Clara at the Door with a Revolver: The Scandalous Black Suspect, the Exemplary White Son, and the Murder That Shocked Toronto. On Point Press/UBC Press, 2023

Gender, race, and politics in late-nineteenth-century Toronto swirl around this social history/murder mystery/ true crime story of the murder of Frank Westwood and the main suspect, Clara Ford- a cross-dressing, Black single mother.

Suburb, Slum, Urban Village: Transformations in Toronto’s Parkdale Neighbourhood, 1875-2002

Suburb, Slum, Urban Village examines the relationship between image and reality for one city neighbourhood – Toronto’s Parkdale. Carolyn Whitzman tracks Parkdale’s story across three eras: its early decades as a politically independent suburb of the industrial city; its half-century of ostensible decline toward becoming a slum; and a post-industrial period of transformation into a revitalized urban village.


Guest: Steve Munro: Transit Analyst Extraordinaire

‘It is said that Steve knows more about transit than anyone, ever.’  Spacing Magazine

@SWANBOATSTEVE and his student cygnets!

Got a question about the TTC? The Ontario Line? Metrolinx?  What ‘transit-oriented development’ means and for whom?  The missing regional bus service? What are the factors that make transit service excellent?

Steve Munro has written several technical reports on transit.  Since 2006, he has written a blog that is frequently quoted by other transit commentators. He has been a columnist at Spacing Magazine, Torontoist, and was awarded the Jane Jacobs Prize for his unstinting and often lonely work advocating for better transit.

What’s on Steve’s Mind?

  • Still not enough money / too many pet projects / no sense of priority / provincial politics trumps local requirements
  • Metrolinx ham-fisted approach to community consultation
  • Long lead times for real change … focus on big projects while day to day languishes
  • Concern about quality of maintenance … SRT derailment … subway slow orders … vehicle availability
  • Mayor/Council now has a pro transit outlook, but … the true depth of problems is not fully understood. Service levels vs claims … 100% of pre-pandemic service is not actually what we will get.
  • Problem of reporting system performance and real needs. Understating problems, overstating successes … this has been a TTC problem since before covid.
  • Need for more Board members who are willing to look under the covers and challenge management to do better.
  • We are only at the beginning of the change in direction. Real signal will come from TTC policy debate in March (special board meeting) and Budget subcommittee work over the summer. What options will they even look at and aim at for the future.

After 18 years of writing his blog, Steve has a unique understanding of how our transit service could be successful:


LIKE: @SwanBoatSteve


GUEST: John van Nostrand: Founding Principal, SvN Architects + Planners

John van Nostrand aptly deserves to be called a visionary. One of our most provocative thinkers about city building, community building, and social equity, John’s commitment to a radical re-thinking of how housing gets built and for whom – an effort that brought architects, planners, and civil engineers together as a unified force for change – took root after spending three years living and working in Botswana.

During a phone conversation, John said something that took me by surprise: ‘I learned more about Canada living in Botswana than when I was living in Canada.’ Working with the local government to design the first ‘squatter upgrading’ projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, his work, now spanning over four decades, continues to challenge the socio-economic and bureaucratic barriers that perpetuate homelessness and home affordability, and to offer radical insight on the use and transformation of underutilized urban spaces. 

From the start of his career as an architect in 1978, to his founding of SvN Architects + Planners in 2015, John’s work has set the high bar for its comprehensive and integrated planning, design and construction management of places that are sustainable, pragmatic, affordable, and grounded in an historic understanding of the site.

A through-line of humane, affordable housing:  From Pro-Homes (2000) to SvN’s Cabin Communities and the launch of the non-profit, Two Steps Home (2024)

The ‘Pro Home’: ‘This is an economy, it’s not a handout.’ Globe and Mail, December, 2000.

Cabin Communities and the non-profit initiative, Two Steps Home:

Cabin Communities are transitional, low-capital / high-speed housing. They will not be permanent dwellings or interrupt modular, supportive, or rent-geared-to-income housing construction. As those units are built, community residents would have an opportunity to move in, freeing cabin space for the next person. Once the site is ready for construction, the community can be relocated to another site or removed if it is no longer necessary.

                                  Cabin Communities: transitional, low-capital / high-speed housing.

Some useful links:

Video: Could cabins like this one help Toronto’s unhoused population?

TwoStepsHome website and Instagram

Evangel Hall

John van Nostrand’s bio here.


GUEST: David Crombie: childhood landscape: Swansea’s ravines, High Park, and the Humber River; student job: meter reader for the gas company; postsecondary education: Western University and University of Toronto; former urban affairs teacher at TMU; member of Toronto’s ‘reform group’; city advocate; land use historian; champion of affordable housing and mixed-use neighbourhoods; transit proponent; long-time waterfront defender; former politician (mayor of Toronto; federal cabinet minister); Chancellor Emeritus of TMU; former Chair Greenbelt Council; spokesperson, Friends of the Golden Horseshoe; holistic understanding of the components of a great city; Officer, Order of Canada; GMOAT  (greatest mayor all time); public hero.

The issues of the economy, the issues of ecology, and the issues of community are not separate events; they are mutually interdependent.’  David Crombie on CHCH TV, June 2023

1. A Public Life: A Public Life: CPAC 1999

2. Ontario Greenbelt: YouTube video, Toronto Star article

3. Ontario Place: Crombie’s letter to Toronto City Council, January, 2023: “Say No to Current Ontario Place Proposal”

YouTube video: Future of Ontario Place

CANADA – SEPTEMBER 13: Viva el mayor: Meet David Crombie, Toronto’s singing, strumming mayor. At this year’s City Hall Revue in St. Lawrence Centre, he gave his rendition of ‘Daring Young Man on A Flying Trapeze’.  (Photo by David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images). 1977?


GUEST: Tristana Martin Rubio Social Philosopher; Ethicist

Tristana Martin Rubio, PhD, is a researcher with a government-funded research project in Quebec on aging, social exclusion, and solidarity and coordinator at the Centre for Research on Aging at Concordia University.

Rather than equating the process of aging with decline, as western culture does, Tristana’s work argues for a broader, more inclusive understanding of aging as a shared experience among individuals of diverse ages. In addition to teaching and research, Tristana is also university-appointed ethicist at Concordia University. 

Listen: Podcast:  Episode “Age Panic.”  Host: Dr. Sally Chivers, Gender and Social Justice and English Literature Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario.

Read: The Conversation, Fear of Ageing is really a fear of the unknown — and modern society is making things worse,” January 31, 2024 


GUEST: Professor Janelle Taylor: Medical Anthropologist

Professor Janelle Taylor is a professor of medical anthropology at the University of Toronto.  (Medical Anthropology is the multidimensional study of how human health and illness are shaped, experienced, and understood within the context of cultural, historical, and political forces.)

Initially trained as an ethnographer, Janelle researches social and cultural dimensions of medicine and care in North America.  In her own words, she is “fascinated with how ideas, words and images have force in the world, how ‘persons’ are socially made and unmade, and how medicine and health care are involved in all of this.”

Professor Taylor has studied fetal ultrasound imaging; advance care planning and medical decision-making at the end of life; and how “culture” is imagined within medical education.  Her current research focuses on dementia and caregiving.

On an episode of the podcast, This American Life, Janelle Taylorasks,Why are people asking me if my mother recognizes me, when it’s totally beside the point?’ (14 minutes)

Listen: Podcast: This American Life: ( Excellent!)

Read:  a short article in The Conversation about “kinless older adults with dementia

Read:  a short article in The Conversation about “medical school admissions”:


GUEST: Professor Evelyn L. Forget

Evelyn Forget is Canada’s foremost authorityon Basic Income. She is an economist, a professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Manitoba, and Academic Director of the Manitoba Research Data Centre. Professor Forget’s research informs policy for provincial and federal governments, First Nations, and NGOs.  Her current work focuses on health, healthcare costs, and poverty.

Professor Forget’s work on basic income is legendary. From her research on the original Canadian guaranteed income experiment in Dauphin, Manitoba in the 1970s, to her books, Basic Income for Canadians: from the Covid-19 emergency to Financial Security for All (Lorimer, 2020)and (with Hannah Owzar), Radical Trust: Basic Income for Complicated Lives (Arbeiter Ring, 2021),Evelyn’sclear andaccessiblewriting makes a compelling argument for a basic income as a doable, humane response to income inequality.

In December 2022, Professor Forget was installed as an Officer of the Order of Canada.

View when/if you have time: here are two full-length documentaries that feature Evelyn’s work on Basic Income:  

Watch: Keynote Talk: October, 2023.    (Note: it takes a few seconds before Professor Forget appears.)

Listen: Statistics Canada Podcast: ‘Why haven’t we ended poverty yet?



UitC Students In this our last class of the Winter term, UitC students are encouraged to talk about what they have learned this year and what topics they would like to address in Fall 2024.  We will discuss attendance at the 19th Annual Senior College Symposium to be held on April 17(topic: “Disappearing Discourses? New Perspectives on Canadian Journalism and Literature.”)  In addition, we will discuss our four-week Spring term with returning UitC favourites, philosophers Daniel Munro and Zachary Weinstein.


 In-person meeting at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema 506 Bloor West for screening of documentary Stolen Time. Follow intrepid elder rights lawyer Melissa Milleras she takesonthecorporate for-profit nursing home industry.

6:30 – 8:00 pm.  Q+A with director Helene Klowdawsky following the film.


Livestream the total eclipse of the sun with the Dunlap Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics. No glasses needed!

FREE. Registration required.


6:00 – 8:00 pm Innis Town HallA tribute memorial for our mentor and  friend, Peter H. Russell.FREE. Registration required.


Know someone who might be interested? Our friends Philippe and Julia are leading an Environmental Humanities Summer Intensive on Manitoulin Island!

Info at:

Thank you to the magnificent group of people whose interest in learning together is the very heart and mind of UitC.  It’s been an honour for me to be part of this 2023-2024 class.

Joanne M-B