Building Inclusive Cities Symposium

How Oral Histories Inform Equity-based Community Planning and Heritage Policies and Practices

Thursday, Oct. 27,
5:00 - 7:00 pm (EST)

A symposium that centers the Block by Block Exhibition to explore how community-engaged research processes and oral history methodologies can inform equitable city-building and heritage practices in the future.

In the face of rapid redevelopment, who gets to tell the stories, document the histories, and shape the future of Toronto’s migrant neighbourhoods? What are the opportunities, challenges, and implications of using oral histories as a form of knowledge sharing for professional practice and the policymaking process? How can neighbourhoods transform while honouring the migration history, cultural networks, and forms of resistance found in its past and present?

Funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connection Grant, the “Building Inclusive Cities” Symposium addresses these pressing issues through a series of arts-based workshops and public panel discussion held over two weeks in October 2022.

Workshop #1

October 13

Engaging migrant communities as makers of cultural heritage

Workshop #2

October 17

Establishing and maintaining non-extractive co- creative practices

Workshop #3

October 19

Researching ‘lived experience’ with mutual care, respect, and understanding

Workshop #4

October 21

Channeling community-centered research into effective change and improved futures

Panel Discussion

October 27
Building Inclusive Cities

This symposium is an opportunity for city-building professionals, policymakers, students, researchers, arts and culture workers and members of the broader community to learn about the specific challenges marginalized communities face through neighbourhood change, and the planning and engagement strategies that work best for these communities. 

Using the Toronto Ward Museum’s Block by Block exhibition and methodology as a springboard for discussion and analysis, the symposium focuses on exploring how community-engaged research processes and oral history methodologies can inform more equitable city-building and heritage practices for the future.


Xu Yingsi

Community & Youth Development Specialist, West Neighbourhood House
Xu Yingsi ’s work centres around community-based learning and knowledge exchange to build platforms for connected social research and policy-making with, for, and by key equity-seeking groups. She is committed to weaving roles on various sector capacity-building initiatives with an equity focused lens to expand our collective social imagination. She has worked with various community groups, grassroots organizers, and non-profits overseas and in Canada. She is currently part of the Community Response & Advocacy Unit at West Neighbourhood House, and is engaging in city-wide coalition building around Inclusive Development as the Co-Chair of the West End Coalition for Housing Justice. She holds a MSc in Development Management from the London School of Economics & Political Sciences.

Dr. Gary Miedema

Project Manager, Toronto Heritage Survey, Heritage Planning/Urban Design/City Planning, City of Toronto

Dr. Gary Miedema holds a Ph.D. in Canadian cultural history from Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada.  For the past 18 years, he has engaged communities in the field of public history and heritage planning.  At Heritage Toronto, a charitable agency of the City of Toronto, he served as Chief Historian, overseeing all public programs. He then moved to City Planning, and has been leading the Toronto Heritage Survey.  In that role, he has led a co-development process for the Indigenous Heritage Engagement Project, and has championed a more inclusive approach to engagement of communities.

Sonia Mrva

Manager of Museums at Toronto History Museums
Sonia is the Manager of Museums for the City of Toronto.  She is responsible for the management of 10 historic house museums including Fort York National Historic Site and the Market Gallery.  Sonia has more than 20 years of experience, having most recently served as Senior Curator with the City of Hamilton before joining the City of Toronto.  Sonia believes that the inclusion of community is critical in developing a better understanding of the role Museums plays in our society. Prior to her current position, Sonia held Curatorial positions at both Whitehern Historic House and Garden and Dundurn National Historic Site. Sonia has a Bachelor of Arts, History with post graduate work in Museum Studies, Cultural Management and Leadership.

Byran Peart

Golden Mile Coordinator, Working Women Community Centre

Bryan Peart is the Golden Mile Coordinator for the Working Women Community Centre operating the Victoria Village Hub. He has been living and working in the Golden Mile for 17 years and is currently in his 4th year of the Creative Industry at the Toronto metropolitan University. He is the founder of many grassroots groups and initiatives that have led him to achieve the Ontario Medal of Honor for volunteering, presented by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles during their royal visit to Canada in 2010. As an entrepreneur, Bryan is currently facilitating food handling certification to residents all over Ontario. He is a father and a very active community member with a passion for community work.

Dr. Thy Phu

Professor of Media Studies, Department of Arts, Culture, and Media, University of Toronto Scarborough
Thy Phu is a Distinguished Professor of Race, Diaspora and Visual Justice at the University of Toronto, Scarborough where she also serves as Interim Chair of the Department of Arts, Culture, and Media. She also holds a graduate appointment at the Faculty of Information. From 2016-2019, she was Director of the Family Camera project, which engaged local communities in the archiving of photographs and their stories. She is currently a Co-Director of Refugee States, a community-led partnership project, funded by the SSHRC Race, Gender, and Diversity Initiative, which is creating a counter-archive of narratives of forced migration.


Dr. Zhixi Zhuang

MCIP, RPP, Associate Professor, School of Urban and Regional Planning, Toronto Metropolitan University

Dr. Zhixi Zhuang is a Registered Professional Planner and an Associate Professor at the School of Urban and Regional Planning, Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University). Founder and director of the DiverCityLab, her research explores the growing urban diversity and how city-builders can instill the values of equity and inclusion into planning policies and practices. Her work aims to understand how the intersections of individual characteristics have an impact on different lived experiences of cities, and how diversity and differences play out to shape planning policies and practices. Specifically, she explores the lived experiences of immigrant and racialized communities, their strategies for cultural recognition, and negotiations for social, economic, political, and spatial inclusion. Her research addresses the impacts of global migration on local governance and inclusive community-building and sheds light on equity-based approaches to planning and design with diversity.


Brannavy Jeyasundaram

Co-Executive Director, Toronto Ward Museum

Brannavy Jeyasundaram is a writer and the co-executive director of the Toronto Ward Museum. In 2020, she was a youth researcher and curator for the Block by Block program’s Agincourt team. She is also the managing editor of the literary journal exploring global politics, Adi Magazine. Her main interest lies in exploring movement traditions and memory formation through understanding histories of displacement. Her writing on cultural memory can be found in The Local, Briarpatch, Jacobin, and the Tamil Guardian, among other places.

Building Inclusive Cities Team

(funded by SSHRC Connection Grant)

Dr. Zhixi Zhuang, MCIP, RPP, Associate Professor, School of Urban and Regional Planning, Toronto Metropolitan University Dr. Maggie Hutcheson, Block by Block Program Director, Toronto Ward Museum Brannavy Jeyasundaram, Co-Executive Director, Toronto Ward Museum Dr. Irina D. Mihalache, Associate Professor, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto Dr. Lena Mortensen, Associate Professor, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Toronto Scarborough


Agincourt Community Services Association

Regent Park Film Festival

Toronto Public Library

Working Women Community Centre, Victoria Park Hub