Why Canadian Cities Avoided Detroit's Fate

Simply put, this scholar says, it comes down to race. With far fewer non-white urban residents, Canadian cities didn't fall prey to the redlining, white flight, and incarceration problems that so heavily impacted cities like Detroit.

1 minute read

October 5, 2018, 2:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Detroit Vacant Properties

alisafarov / Shutterstock

According to Jason Hackworth, a professor of urban geography at the University of Toronto, there's one big difference why cities like Detroit suffered while Canadian cities like Toronto did not, despite their similar economies. 

John Gallagher writes, "The more [Hackworth] looked, the more one big difference between Canada and the United States emerged: It came down to race. Put simply, U.S. cities tend to have large black and other non-white populations and Canadian cities do not." In U.S. cities, an influx of non-whites led to a white backlash, encompassing flight to the suburbs, redlining, biased criminal justice practices, and the like. Compounded with economic decline, those factors landed cities like Detroit in deep trouble.

Historical Canadian policy, on the other hand, "made sure black and other non-white populations remained small. Restrictive covenants in real estate sales, and an immigration policy that specifically gave preference to white people, kept the black population small." 

Gallagher concludes, "Simply put, in Canada, white people never felt as threatened by a rising non-white population because there just weren't that many non-whites coming into cities like Windsor or Toronto. Hence, no Detroits in Canada."

Friday, September 28, 2018 in The Detroit Free Press

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

Ice fishing tents surrounded by fence in Safe Outdoor Space for unhoused people in parking lot in Denver, Colorado.

An Affordable Housing Model for Indigenous Americans

Indigenous people make up a disproportionately high percentage of the unhoused population, but many programs designed to assist them don’t reach those most in need.

March 1 - High Country News

An electric bicycle is shown with the legs of a human who is riding the e-bike.

Oregon Bill Would Ban E-Bikes for Riders Under 16

State lawmakers seek to change Oregon e-bike laws following the death of a 15-year old last summer.

March 1 - Oregon Capital Chronical

Aerial view of canal cut into beach in Charlestow, Rhode Island with boats parked in sand.

Northeastern Waterways More Polluted After Wet Year

Intense rains washed more runoff into local bodies of water, while warmer temperatures contributed to the growth of an invasive bloom.

March 1 - University of Rhode Island

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.