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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Jane Jacobs on Toronto and Montreal development trends circa 1969

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This is a must see clip in which CBC TV’s “The Way It Is”  interviewed Jane Jacobs about development trends in Toronto and Montreal, circa 1969.

As a Montrealer who somewhat guiltily enjoys my jaunts to Toronto, I felt I could relate to Jabos’ description of Toronto’s “civic schizophrenia” :

“On the one level, there’s the spirit of individuals and small groups who do things, what you might call the vernacular spirit.  this is all very informal and genius, quite romantic and full of fun,” she says, while on the other hand, “the official spirit of Toronto is “stamp out fun,” pompous, impressed with mediocrity if it’s very very big and expensive.”

Her take on Montreal was more surprising: “I notice frequently criticism that Montreal has done so much building, including expo and very grand buildings, and there doesn’t seem to be much slum clearance. I think it’s one of the most fortunate things about Montreal that hasn’t gone in for slum clearance…,” she says.

While it is hard to believe that, in the midst of the Drapeau era, during the decade that saw the Faubourg à m’lasse, Goose Village and the Village des Tanneries razed, Jacobs perceived Montreal as having a refreshing approach to mixing rehabilitated old buildings with new construction, it is even more stunning to realize that critics were calling for even more neighbourhood clearance. How different things seem in hindsight!

And while Jacobs’ vintage takes on highway and waterfront development in Montreal are fascinating, she also boldly addresses the toll that discrimination towards Francophone Montrealers, in terms of access to capital for development, has had on our urban landscape.


One comment

  1. “this is all very informal and genius”. That would be ‘ingenious’.

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