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Massey Medal

2004 Winner - Dr. Larry Stuart Bourne

Dr. Larry Stuart Bourne (Photo: Wolf Kutnahorsky)

Urban crusader
Growing up in London, Ont., Larry Bourne never witnessed overt poverty. Social disparity surely existed in his hometown, he says, but it wasn't obvious. It was in Chicago, where he completed a doctorate in urban geography in the 1960s, that he first encountered an impoverished, segregated and crime-ridden, inner-city neighbourhood. “The intensity of that urban experience is still with me, and many of the issues I saw there I am still working on,” says the professor of geography and planning at the University of Toronto. “Inequalities in urban landscapes were really driven into me in Chicago.” More than 30 years later, Bourne is still grappling with the problem of urban poverty. He is now working on a study of low-income populations in dian cities. But his body of research spans the spectrum of critical urban questions, from economic and social inequalities to housing, sprawl, municipal governance and the changing demographic makeup of our cities.

Bourne’s contributions to the field have been honoured with the 2004 Massey Medal for outstanding achievement in Canadian geography. Established by Governor General Vincent Massey in 1959, the award is administered by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

A prolific author and passionate teacher, Bourne is also “very concerned about the applied implications of the academic research into Canadian cities,” says Peter Smith, a professor emeritus of geography at the University of Alberta who has known Bourne since his days as a graduate student in Edmonton in the early 1960s.

One of the main challenges Bourne believes is facing cities today is immigration, a major influence on economic growth, social services, schools and housing in large centres like Toronto and Vancouver.

“The social transformation in Toronto and in Vancouver is unprecedented in modern times anywhere,” says Bourne. “I can’t think of another city that has gone from being homogeneous culturally, ethnically and linguistically within half a century — and, for the most part, within the last two decades — to a place where the majority is now the ‘minority’.”

Bourne’s contributions to urban-policy debates extend beyond local and national issues. His expertise has been sought by such groups as The World Bank, the International Joint Commission and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

“What is often forgotten in the policy field is geography,” says Bourne, adding that he is committed to “making policy-makers and politicians aware of the importance of geography, of location, of the environment” in urban planning.

— Monique Roy-Sole

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