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RAIC aims to keep pushing on climate issues post-election

Don Wall
RAIC aims to keep pushing on climate issues post-election
QUADRANGLE — The RAIC is advocating for more Indigenous input into the design of projects. Two Row Architects, an Indigenous-led firm, consulted on the design of the Indigenous Hub that will be built on a 2.4-acre site on Cherry Street in east Toronto.

The federal election has faded into the rearview mirror, but the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada is serving notice that the four priority issues of its RAIC Votes campaign will continue to be the focus of its advocacy efforts.  

RAIC vice-president of corporate affairs Giovanna Boniface said the four issues, with climate change ranking number one in priority, will continue to be pushed by the institute at every opportunity as it consults with the re-elected Liberal government.

The other three issues are Indigenous concerns, long-term-care advocacy and the need for a national architecture policy.

“Until there’s a meaningful change in these areas, I don’t see these falling off of our advocacy plate. This wasn’t like a one and done kind of thing,” Boniface said, referring to the RAIC Votes initiative. “We highlighted it during the election and we’re going to keep this on our path.”

The RAIC heads into a round of strategic planning this month but Boniface expects the four topics will remain cornerstone issues for RAIC advocacy.

“This is what’s on the minds of Canadians. I don’t see climate going anywhere.

“We’re approaching it from the point of view, what can we do, what is the role of the architect and architecture to be part of the solution. As it relates to climate, how can we be part of the solution, and can we effect positive change as it relates to long-term care, Indigenous matters.

“That’s a really high-level wish.”

Boniface said the RAIC provides input to the federal government through a variety of channels, whether it is responding to announcements, discussing where funding should be allotted, reporting from the grassroots or dealing directly with Public Services and Procurement Canada to offer guidance on projects such as the Centre Block renovations.

“We just need to keep pushing forward, prioritizing some of the strategies that we’re interested in, like establishing requirements for net-zero carbon on all new buildings.”

The latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in August highlighted the need for governments to move faster to deal with climate change, Boniface noted, and the RAIC hopes to see a strengthening and acceleration of federal policies.

“We are providing very specific strategies and ideas and so we’ll just keep doing that. We have a laundry list of what we’d like to see happen.”

On Indigenous issues, the RAIC has technical advice along with more high-level input to offer. Advocacy issues are addressed through an RAIC Indigenous task force. First, the institute will advocate to require that the National Building Code apply on reserves.

“The code itself can be utilized on reserves in terms of preserving health and minimizing inequity.”

The RAIC also believes in giving agency to Indigenous peoples to plan, design and develop their communities as a step toward reconciliation. Involving Indigenous architects and designers and including the local community in the design process can be transformative, the RAIC Votes document stated.

The commitment should be to “really giving space to Indigenous ways of knowing, Indigenous ways of doing,” on projects where the Indigenous community has a vested interest, Boniface said.

On long-term care, she noted building codes address occupant safety on perils like fire but they don’t adequately deal with risks from contagious disease in a congregate living situation.

“So we have some recommendations on what can be changed in the NBCC as it relates to long-term-care design, so that will be around shared living spaces.”

Other concerns include RAIC representation on standards associations and including long-term care in the Canada Health Act.

The RAIC is part of a team working on a national architecture policy; partners include the Canadian Architectural Licensing Authorities and the Canadian Council of University Schools of Architecture. More than 30 countries have adopted or are developing a national architecture policy, Boniface noted.

“The idea is that we need a co-ordinated vision on architecture, and the policy would be a tool to support that,” she said, suggesting the discussion could inspire Canadians to become engaged in such pressing issues as climate change, reconciliation and rapid urbanization.


Follow the author on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.

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