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Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve as your President. Last year at our Annual General Meeting, I reflected on my journey with OPPI and what I envisioned for the institute in the year to come, and let me tell you, I had no idea what 2020 had in store for us all. This has been a year of rapid change, constantly adapting, retooling and building resiliency.
Thank you to those who continue to support the profession and who participate in the AGM year after year and welcome to those who are here for their first OPPI AGM. It is an exciting time to be a planner.
It’s not as fun being virtual, and I have to say that I am disappointed that I cannot get that feeling of the energy when I walk into a large auditorium of professional planners, the magic that comes from knowing that everyone is trying their best to make the world a little better, but here we are.
It’s been a wild year, and I thought I would start with some gratitude.
Thank you to my fellow council colleagues for adapting, adding extra meetings, jumping into creating a Resiliency Plan for the institute, continuing to lean into your volunteer roles while family lives and work lives have been so much more demanding, thank you for your personal commitment.
I’d like to thank the staff team for pivoting every aspect of what we do from reimagining our learning offerings. We facilitated nine Forum Fridays on topics critical to our profession, launched Planners Connect, which I love because people are reaching out on this platform and mentoring opportunities are forming. And, staff's openness in working with new leadership and embracing new initiatives, while moving our conference into a virtual experience and adapting to the ongoing changes with grace.
I continue to thank my predecessors for ensuring OPPI was in a strong financial situation going into this period while allowing us to continue to take on new important initiatives.
And, I want to welcome our new Executive Director Susan Wiggins who joined us at the height of initial stage of the pandemic. Susan has been with us for four months now and I have seen how she has enthusiastically embraced the challenge and brought in new ideas and perspectives to help us adapt. Welcome Susan and thank you for choosing us.
Last year, as we celebrated 25 years of RPP, we launched an initiative to look at the future role of planners, thank you for all of the excellent feedback and input.
We are in a rapidly changing environment, and the role of the planner is ever evolving.
We have been engaging with members, those that work closely with RPPs and other organizations to refine recommendations around how planners can support the recovery and reconnection of Ontario communities, including opportunities for increased delegation to staff, better use of the RPP designation, proactive planning tools and more meaningful community engagement.
Core to our ability to be successful is our ability to hold ourselves to account. Bill 70 our Professional Regulation is needed to ensure public accountability and trust, which is (frankly) essential in the role planners currently have and (certainly) the exploration of future roles.
While our focus has been on supporting our membership and the association through COVID-19, we have continued to seek opportunities to promote the RPP brand and increased oversight of the profession.
In addition to our advocacy efforts, we launched a Globe & Mail ad campaign to promote the value of working with an RPP. The first campaign ran throughout the summer and a fall program will be launching shortly.
Please stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks on the future of the profession and opportunities for your input to help us move forward.
This year was our first year implementing the Indigenous Planning Perspectives Task Force recommendations, and we undertook cultural training for OPPI’s leadership (council and staff), made new resources available to members through our various platforms, we have begun the process to become Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) certified with the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Businesses and revised Continuous Professional Learning requirements to specifically identify the priority for obtaining indigenous competency training.
Let me be clear, this is only the start. OPPI is committed to supporting members in their difficult journey to reconciliation. For many of us, the process must start with self-education on the true history of Canada and Ontario. Truth is a pre-condition to Reconciliation.
Because the planning profession’s focus is primarily on the rational and fair dispossession of land – we as planners should be at the epi-centre of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, because reconciliation can only be possible through a fair restitution of the land rights and the livelihoods it supports.
The next issue of Y magazine will focus on “Truth” and I urge you to use this key resource as a knowledge bank for your practice.
Additionally, we will be appointing an Advisory Committee to continue to counsel OPPI on the implementation plan of our Indigenous Planning Perspectives Task Force recommendations.
I urge you to recommit to learning and education around the difficult history and think about how your practice can contribute to reconciliation and healing the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples
We were also able to take on new initiatives, such as the anti-black and systemic racism initiative, respond to the human rights movement we are currently in.
We have seen how COVID has exacerbated existing inequalities in our society and shown us some ugly truths about how we treat our most vulnerable, and the prevalence of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism within our society.
As planners, it is in our code that we practice in a manner that respects the diversity, needs, values and aspiration of the public, we have a critical role to play in elevating marginalized voices and working to create more inclusive and equitable communities across Ontario.
2015 to 2024 is the UN International Decade for people of African Descent. Globally, we call for recognition, justice and development, recognizing that over 200 million people in the Americas, who identify themselves as being of African descent, are still some of the poorest and most marginalized groups, still have limited access to quality education, health services, housing and social security, and still suffer from racism and racial discrimination (both direct and indirect) that reinforce systemic inequality and disadvantage.
In an effort the remove systemic barriers in planning practice that discriminate against black communities and disproportionally limit employment opportunities and representation for Black planners in the planning profession, OPPI is launching a Task Force.
This month we will be seeking interested volunteers from our membership to help move this important initiative forward. We are seeking members to participate in the Task Force, or to provide input as part of an Advisory Committee. A formal notice will be going out later this week, and all members are encouraged to volunteer as OPPI is seeking a diversity of perspectives and experiences.
This is a critical moment for fundamental human rights, outside of contributing to OPPI’s Task Force and ongoing initiative, I urge you to think about how you can be an ally in the anti-black racism movement, how you can start your own critical discussions to affect change, and how you can participate in a meaningful way to take up the call to action.
Another group that requires our focus this year is the student and graduate population, who face significant challenges due to loss of internships and jobs, both of which are critical to creating the next generation of planners.
OPPI Council recently approved financial support for internships in 2021 through a partnership with MITACs and the accredited planning programs. We are finalizing details now and anticipate announcing them next month.
It’s a weird feeling knowing we are living a moment in history that will be studied for generations to come. How will we step up?
The speed of change has been overwhelming at times, but also provides an excellent opportunity to define new behaviours and sustainable ways of life, to be the society we liked to think we are.
We have a lot to do and it’s important to remember “we will be measured by our actions, not our intentions.”
This year has shown us all that we are more resilient then we could have imagined, but we need to constantly retool, reimagine sustainable ways of life and create more equitable communities for all.
Planners skills are essential, now and in the future: we have the ability to envision potential future states and how decisions today will impact those futures, we have the ability to understand the role and function of different levels of governments and the complex intertwined policy environments that influence the distribution of finite resources, we have the ability to be able to communicate complex technical information and processes so that others can provide meaningful input into decisions, we have the ability to bring people together and facilitate essential conversations, we have the ability to understand that we are all creatures of our environment, and that our built and natural environment can and does guide behaviour and how we treat each other. These are all skills our communities need now and into the future.
RPP membership renewal is coming up, and OPPI is launching new flexible options to support your professional journey during this challenging time. We need you, and our communities need you. Please continue to lean in.