The 2019 Warren Gill Lecture: Canada’s Enduring Two Solitudes: Can We Bridge the Urban-Rural Divide?

June 27, 2019

The City Program, with the generous sponsorship of the SFU Community Trust, was proud to present the 2019 Warren Gill lecture.

In 1921, Canada became the first OECD nation to have 50 per cent of its population living in cities. Decades of economic and social development have magnified the differences between urban and rural communities, leading to discontent and alienation not only in Canada, but also across the Western world. Modern political movements increasingly pit city dwellers against rural residents, and downtowners against suburbanites, suggesting our differences are irreconcilable. Can we construct a new narrative that binds us together, and new approaches to governance and public decision-making that recognize the particularities of place?


About the presenter

Mary Rowe is an impassioned civic leader with diverse experience in the business, government, not-for-profit and philanthropy sectors in Canada and the U.S. Over 30 years, Mary has been a steady advocate and champion for place-based approaches to building livable and resilient cities, and community-driven local economies. She has led campaigns, organizations, initiatives and companies spanning a few months to several years.

A resourceful social entrepreneur, dynamic personality and very convincing communicator, Mary is a sought-after project leader and most recently was chosen as one of 300 for 300: an honour roll of individuals selected over three centuries for their unique contribution to the City of New Orleans, where she supported local community leaders to foster resilience after Hurricane Katrina.

Mary has led national and international urban initiatives from Toronto and New York City, including Re-Imagining the Civic Commons, an initiative to strengthen elements of the urban fabric that create social cohesion and community resilience, including libraries, community centres, parks and other 'third places.' Mary's current roles include empowering Canada's largest cities to be economically vibrant, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable as senior advisor to Evergreen and Future Cities Canada and as co-executive lead for the National Urban Project.

She is also senior fellow with Shorefast, a charity and social enterprise focused on building place-based economic development strategies that strengthen local communities.


About the Warren Gill Lecture Series

Dr. Warren Gill was passionately engaged in the cities and neighbourhoods in which he lived and worked. As a member of the senior administration at SFU, he was instrumental in the development of its downtown campus; as an urban geography professor, he inspired many students. Never satisfied with the status quo, Warren worked constantly to make life in the city more interesting and more inclusive.

The intent of this lecture series in his honour is to continue his questioning, raise new ideas and invoke new ways of thinking about life in the urban context.