Great Communities

Submitted by Paul Born on July 8, 2011 - 2:57pm
What make for a joyful place to live?

What makes a Canadian community great? (Globe and Mail)


I want you to read this as it is simply excellent! I have clipped some articles passages from the article to wet your appetite. Huge thanks globe for featuring community


Recently, when The Globe and Mail asked readers to nominate the best communities in Canada, no one sent us messages about fancy houses or high-tech infrastructure, or places they are living out their comfortable lives in isolation.

People who brag about their neighbourhoods today talk about a place where people know one another, where they are loved. These are places, we are told, where you can walk to the bookstore and the grocery store, to your kid’s school and your own office. These are places where green space is not just found around the large “P” marking the nearest multistory parking lot, but where a connection to nature is part of the urban plan.

These places are easy to get around, but are not one size or one style. Some are urban, some are rural and some occupy the tree-lined spaces in between.

In these communities there is a mix of people of different backgrounds, different ages, different jobs, all of whom take part in the same rituals, from summer festivals to evening strolls.

The Death of community?

 Fifteen years ago, a Harvard academic named Robert Putnam wrote about the death of community in an essay called Bowling Alone, later expanded into a much discussed book. In it, he cited American statistics that showed a drastic and steady decline in participation at the neighbourhood level. People weren’t joining their local choral societies and football clubs any more, he found, and they weren’t voting or canvassing for votes, reading their local paper or volunteering at the neighbourhood school.

There was no longer a sense of community beyond the actual physical lines that separate one neighbourhood from another.

Across Canada, it’s hard to imagine that anyone is still bowling alone. In the time since Mr. Putnam’s findings were published, the urban tide has turned, at least up here, and created a flood of interest in all things local.


Today, the focus in urban planning boils down to one word: walkability. A strong community is one where you can walk to all the things you need: the grocery store, school, public park and pub, whether you’re in the heart of the city or a small town.

“To me, the key is to have that combination of things in close proximity and in variety, not to have things that are homogeneous,” Greenberg says.


Lenore Swystun, a Saskatoon-based community planner and urban consultant, believes the country is also shifting back to a sense that neighbourhoods must includes a shared outdoor space where communing with nature and one another goes hand in hand.

“Whether you’re in an urban environment or a remote rural environment, that call back to the natural landscape is very profound,” she says. “It’s going back home, so to speak.”


But in Canada, building a real sense of community will always be more complicated than marking off green space and strolling to the local farmer’s market.

Where we live is all tangled up with who we live among, and for neighbourhoods to work, everyone must be welcome to participate.

Leslie Spillett of the Winnipeg-based, First Nations non-profit Ka Ni Kanichihk, says her group is trying to build a sense of community that allows native people to feel good about who they are while also bonding them to the rest of the country.

“For me, healthy community is being fully accepted for everything we have brought to this country and what we continue to contribute, but also fully accepting ourselves as well,” she says.

In Nova Scotia, 24-year-old Swantje Jahn is trying to make her city more accepting of newcomers through her work as the community engagement co-ordinator for the Halifax Refugee Clinic.