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Canada’s Prairie cities are an exciting context for understanding cultural growth and diversification of urban spaces because more and more Aboriginal peoples are identifying and experiencing their lives in the urban realm. At the same time though, urban spaces are also a source for serious cultural and socio-economic challenges for Aboriginal peoples. With the sustained pattern of growth in the urban Aboriginal population experienced in Canada’s Prairie cities today, there is a need for Aboriginal involvement and participation in creating policies and programs for urban Aboriginal peoples. I explore how the city of Edmonton is engaging with Aboriginal peoples and organizations in the city to enable their rights, needs and aspirations in city planning processes. The thesis engages the concept of “Aboriginality” to explore how Aboriginal cultures can be enabled by urban planning processes to develop and manifest their values and identities in the city so that urban spaces can shift toward decolonized places. Knowledge learned from the research can be used to inform municipalities across Canada on how they can emphasize their Aboriginal heritage as a civic strength for inclusive urban planning in Canada. Engaging Aboriginal peoples and their perspectives in ideas of place-making and civic future seeking will also add more depth to the diversity discourse in mainstream Canada. To explore the research questions, the thesis uses Edmonton as a case study. Interviews involving Aboriginal citizens, Aboriginal organizations, and municipal officials are used as a method for collecting the data needed for the research. Findings reveal that the City of Edmonton is willing to engage with Aboriginal peoples to integrate their perspectives and cultures in the mainstream of urban life. However, the process is still developing and much more complicated in terms of how different Aboriginal peoples want to be engaged in city planning and associated policy. Citizens express a general fondness for Edmonton and its many opportunities that can improve people’s lives. However, though on the surface the city overflows with promises for opportunity and success, underneath the surface, some Aboriginal peoples experience subtle barriers that diminish their capacity to engage and succeed in the socio-economic spheres of the life in Edmonton. Negative stereotypes persist to discriminate against and exclude Aboriginal peoples as viable constituents of the citizenry of Edmonton. Aboriginal organizations in the city are playing a fundamental role in addressing the acute social pressures that Aboriginals face. These organizations also serve to create a collective Aboriginal voice that stands to challenge the negative stereotypes in addition to fostering a non-judgmental space for healing from the impacts of intergenerational trauma. The thesis concludes with the point that Aboriginal engagement is an important platform for raising civic literacy on Aboriginal history and its intersection with city planning and development processes in Edmonton. It engages notions of the city’s identity and begins a transformation of the systemic bureaucracies that presume universal citizenship in the public domain.



Urban planning, Aboriginality, Aboriginal Engagement, Structural Violence



Master of Environment and Sustainability (M.E.S.)


School of Environment and Sustainability


Environment and Sustainability


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