Sidewalk Labs under fire for not considering Indigenous community in Quayside plans
In planning its "neighbourhood of the future," which will take up a large chunk of Toronto's waterfront, Alphabet (Google)-owned urban infrastructure company Sidewalk Labs has apparently been looking ahead without adequately acknowledging the past — or the people of Toronto.
Indigenous stakeholders, which Sidewalk Labs invited last November to provide input into the development's plans, are now saying that the company did not take any of their recommendations into account in its masterplan for the project, which it calls Quayside.
In a scathing letter to Waterfront Toronto, an Indigenous design studio that helped organize a consultation with Sidewalk Labs for its proposed smart city development in Toronto says none of the recommendations of Indigenous stakeholders were "acknowledged or carried forward." pic.twitter.com/Vt46wQy6VY— Sean Craig (@sdbcraig) October 25, 2019
"We thought this was a major, positive opportunity to integrate a diverse array of ideas, and that the Indigenous presence would be essential to that process," says Duke Redbird, the elder who was present at the Sidewalk Labs Indigenous consultation.
Redbird and architect Calvin Brook of design firm Brook McIlroy today released an open letter to the Waterfront Toronto board of directors expressing the concerns of the city's Indigenous community. The letter is the result of a meeting that Brook McIlroy and the Indigenous Design Studio held last week about Indigenous consultation and involvement (or lack thereof) in the Quayside project.
"Indigenous Peoples are accustomed to tokenism when it comes to consultation – ‘check the box’ gestures – that are labelled as inclusive because a meeting was held, but the scope of Sidewalk Labs’ insincerity reflected in its MIDP and media campaign is truly breath-taking." https://t.co/iXDK3RyXKj— Canadian Civil Liberties Association (@cancivlib) October 25, 2019
The letter mentions, notably, that Sidewalk Labs's 1524-page master plan for the waterfront ignores 15,000 years of Indigenous history in the area, and does not mention a single of the 14 recommendations Indigenous stakeholders proposed at their consultation with Sidewalk Labs last year.
Some of the recommendations included parks and outdoor education spaces, Indigenous educators as a focus of open-space programming and land-based learning for Indigenous curriculums. There was also hope that the city's Indigenous population would be able to lend their knowledge to the design of the space.
The elder in attendance at the Sidewalk Labs Indigenous consultation, and an architect at the firm that helped organize it, say Sidewalk cited the consultation in a way that led to a "grossly misleading implication of endorsement by the Indigenous community of Toronto." pic.twitter.com/MaFdXGGCTx— Sean Craig (@sdbcraig) October 25, 2019
"We wanted to see that we could have a long-term stewardship plan that embeds Indigenous community involvement with all the phases of the process," Redbird says. "[The plan makes it] appear that the Indigenous people didn’t have any good ideas to integrate, and that's insulting considering how much work we did to satisfy the consultation process."
He also points out, as mentioned in the open letter, that Sidewalk Labs's claims of due diligence by holding Indigenous consultations seem like tokenization and a "check the box" gesture.
He wonders, "If they’re not going to integrate any of our ideas, then what are we doing at the table?"
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