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."

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