A Symposium on the Histories of Housing Discrimination

When and Where

Friday, February 23, 2024 10:00 am to 3:00 pm
Room 1180
Bahen Centre for Information Technology
40 St George St


Keynote: Dr. Kendra Boyd (Department of History Rutgers University)



The histories and geographies of housing discrimination in Canada is not well known and is understudied. Human Rights Commission Reports between 1961-1977 indicate the prevalence of this issue; and are only what Frances Henry calls ‘the tip of the iceberg’ as most instances of housing discrimination are not reported. Housing discrimination has material consequences for marginalized Canadians. Social Media groups such as ‘Renting While Black’ demonstrate the contemporary continuity of this problem. The current housing crisis and the differential treatment of African and Black Caribbean refugees is a recent publicized emblem of Anti-Black housing discrimination. This event will be interdisciplinary, intercollegiate and in conversation with community to examine this particularly critical issue. Ongoing discussion about the state of housing as it pertains to persons of African descent are well placed for this contemporary moment. While much conversation had focused on local contexts, more meaningful discussions that consider the interconnected nature of Anti – Blackness and housing discrimination would help to contextualize its history and effect on the quality of life for Black Canadians and marginalized groups.  

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Keynote Speaker - Dr. Kendra Boyd
Kendra Boyd is an Assistant Professor of History at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey. An award-winning historian, Boyd studies African American history, focusing on black economic development and urban history. Her forthcoming book, Freedom Enterprise: Racial Capitalism and Black Entrepreneurship in Great Migration Detroit, will be published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Willow Key
Willow Key completed her MA in the History Department at the University of Windsor and is currently working on her PhD . Her research project, “We Were Here: Recovering the Stories of the McDougall Street Corridor,” examines the Black history of the central Windsor neighbourhood prior to the post World War II housing boom, displacing many of the residents.
For this oral history project, she has sought out former members of the community to gather their stories and the stories handed down to them, as well as laid out the little-known history of the area. Key has collaborated with community partners to get the story out, conducted area walking tours, liaised with local media, and with community partners such as the Leddy Library and the Essex County Black Historical Society has built a walking tour website that guides users through the area highlighting the history. In the wake of her research, the Essex County Black Historical Society engaged artists to paint three murals which depict former McDougall Street Residents and historical figures important in the Black community in order to bring broader exposure to the history of the area and the remaining architecture. Willow Key has launched a living project which not only brings the history of the Black community in Windsor to life but which will serve to protect the remaining historical buildings in this area.

Dr. Jason Hackworth
Jason Hackworth is a professor of geography and planning at the University of Toronto. He has published three university-press books—The Neoliberal City (Cornell University Press, 2007), Faith Based (University of Georgia Press, 2012), and Manufacturing Decline (Columbia University Press, 2019)—in addition to numerous articles in urban studies journals. He is currently writing about anti-Black housing discrimination and attitudes in Toronto.

Chiyi Tam
Chiyi (she/her) is an urban planner and anti-displacement organizer practicing in Tkaronto's Kensington-Chinatown neighbourhood. She is currently a visiting expert with the School of Cities’ as an Early Career Canadian Urban Leader. Chiyi is the managing director of the recently established Toronto Chinatown
Land Trust. Her goal is to reciprocate knowledge and wealth into community ownership. She was the first staff and executive director of the Kensington Market Community Land Trust, where she acquired the organization’s first building acquisition, securing 12-units of deeply affordable residential units from further speculation. Chiyi serves on the advisory board of Montreal Chinatown’s JIA Foundation, the steering committee of the Canadian Network of Community Land Trusts and is a director of the Union Cooperative Initiative, a unionzed cooperative incubating unionized worker cooperatives. She co-developed “Planning and Designing for Community Power”, a graduate urban design course at the University of Toronto. She frequently supports groups from all corners of turtle island exploring community ownership and wealth building as an anti-displacement strategy for racial & economic justice.

Dr. Prentiss A. Dantzler
Dr. Prentiss A. Dantzler, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Faculty Advisor to the School of Cities at the University of Toronto. His research specifically looks at how and why communities change and how policymakers and communities create and react to those changes. Dr. Dantzler's current work focuses on the politics of social housing in the U.S. and Canada. He received his Ph.D. in Public Affairs with a concentration in Community Development from Rutgers University-Camden.

Dr. Nemoy Lewis
Nemoy Lewis is an assistant professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning. He received his PhD in human geography from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Lewis earned both his undergraduate and master’s degrees in geography at the University of Toronto. For his doctoral research, Lewis analyzed the ongoing foreclosure crisis in the United States and its effects on Black people and low-income communities in Chicago, Illinois and in Jacksonville, Florida. Lewis' research explores how space is racialized by examining the co-production of racialization and financialization in North American urban housing markets, and the growing affordability problems impacting Black renters. His current research investigates a relatively new type of financialized landlord – primarily private equity, asset management firms and REITs – and their impacts on the physical infrastructures and urban social geography of disenfranchised communities.
Lewis recently commenced two major research projects that explore access to housing for Black Canadians. The first study examines the housing affordability and eviction crises by exploring financialized landlords and the broader consequences for Black renters during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto. His second project aims to understand the distinct challenges Black Canadians face in their pursuit of home ownership.
Lewis has co-authored a paper on race and urban politics in Ferguson, Missouri in the leading geography journal, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (2016) and a book chapter for a special collection Gentrification as a Global Strategy: Neil Smith and Beyond (Routledge, 2018). Most recently, he wrote an invited commentary piece about the unexpected nexus between anti-Black police violence and real estate financing in the United States for the journal, EPD: Society and Space. Additionally, Lewis
has a forthcoming invited book chapter entitled, “The Impact of Foreclosures on the Home Environments and Education of Black Youth in U.S.” in the text Education in the Cosmopolis.

Dr. Ted Rutland
Ted Rutland is an associate professor in the Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment at Concordia University. His research focuses on urban politics, planning, and policing in Canada.
His most recent book, co-authored with former gang leader Maxime Aurélien, examines how Haitian street gangs were formed in 1980s Montreal to combat racist violence. The book is available in English and French.
His previous book, Displacing Blackness, is an award-winning exploration of how anti-Black conceptions of people and spaces have guided modern urban planning from its inception.

Nicole Yakashiro
Nicole Yakashiro is a PhD Candidate in the History Department at the University of British Columbia. Her current research examines property logics and “neighbourly relations” in settler colonial British Columbia and in particular, how Asian peoples’ possession and occupation of property has been understood and conceptualized by white settlers, Indigenous peoples, and other neighbours in local contexts. Her work has been published in BC Studies and Urban History Review.

Dr. Joseph Mensah
I am a first-generation African-Canadian intellectual, born and raised in post-colonial Ghana where I did my B.A. in geography, with a minor in philosophy, at the University of Ghana. I immigrated to Canada in 1987 under a Wilfrid Laurier University Graduate Scholarship for my MA in geography, after which I completed my PhD (in 1993), also in geography at the University of Alberta under another academic scholarship. I taught at various colleges and universities in British Columbia, including SFU, UBC, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, before taking up an Assistant Professorship at York University in 2002. I became a tenured Associate Professor at York in 2005, and a full Professor of Geography in 2010.
I served as Chair of the Department of Geography at York University; before then, I was the Deputy Director of the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migrations of African Peoples at York University (2010 to 2013); a Board Member of the Center for Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement (CERIS), from 2011 to 2013; the Coordinator of York University’s International Development Studies (IDS) program (2008 to 2010); and the Undergraduate Program Director for the Atkinson School of Social Sciences from 2005 to 2008. I am a founding member of the University of Ghana Pan African Doctoral Academy (PADA). Sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of
New York, PADA runs short-term courses on selected topics for Ph.D. students across Africa. Professor Mensah’s research cuts across a wide range of disciplines, culminating in publications is such diverse and reputable journals as Health Economics, Higher Education, Studies in Political Economy, Housing Studies, Canadian Geographer, and Social Identities.
I have written a number of book chapters and books, including the well-received Black Canadians: History, Experience, and Social Conditions, published by Fernwood in 2002 & 2010. With a grant from the Gates Foundation, I led a team of researchers to “Evaluate Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme.” My current research focuses on globalization and culture; transnational and return migration; and ethnicity, race, and identity formation. I have received several competitive awards and grants from SSHRC, the Gates Foundation, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and ILO. I was the recipient of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa’s (CODESRIA) Inaugural Diaspora Visiting Professor Fellowship at the University of Ghana in 2016.

Catherine Grant-Wata - event organizer/ speaker
Catherine Grant-Wata is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. Her dissertation focuses on the history of Jamaican culture and placemaking in Toronto, Canada and Birmingham, England 1948-1985. This research project reviews the ways in which Jamaican born black women in Toronto and Birmingham formed community connection and cohesion in the 20th century. Using oral histories of approximately 30 women (15 from Birmingham & 15 from Toronto), Black newspapers, reggae music/lyrics, and Black community organizations’ archives, this project situates a transnational and regional/urban analysis to consider the ways Black Jamaican women’s identities facilitated diasporic community mobilization. A central component of this project seeks to expand current archival research on Jamaica -Canadian and Black Canadian stories by centering black digital humanities and digitization. Human rights rhetoric and the rise of Black power characterize this period. Jamaican women lean into their own Black Radical Tradition, establish community and mobilize in hostile and unfriendly environments. Catherine completed her MA at York University, The Darkside of the Canadian Dream: A History of Housing Discrimination in Toronto 1961-1977 in August 2020. Catherine writes poetry and collects reggae records in her free time.


Contact Information

Catherine Grant-Wata


Department of History, School of Cities