Planning With Indigenous Peoples

Planning With Indigenous Peoples

Planning With Indigenous Peoples

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Leela Viswanathan

Dr. Leela Viswanathan, Associate Professor
Principal Investigator, PWIP Research Group

School of Urban and Regional Planning
Department of Geography and Planning
Queen’s University

Leela Viswanathan


I earned my PhD in Environmental Studies at York University in 2007 after a 10-year career in social policy analysis and community planning in the not-for-profit sector and in provincial government. In 2009, I joined the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Queen’s University where I am also cross-appointed to the School of Environmental Studies and the Department of Gender Studies. I am adjunct faculty in the Department of Environment and Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo. I am a Full Member of the Canadian Institute of Planners and a Registered Professional Planner in Ontario.

Research with PWIP

As Principal Investigator of the PWIP Research Group, my leadership responsibilities are for overall project management and coordination, including:

  • overseeing research design and budget implementation;
  • training and mentoring research assistants;
  • facilitating opportunities for team members and research assistants to present research findings to academic and non-academic audiences;
  • ensuring deliverables are produced in a timely manner; and
  • liaising with the public.

I frequently make presentations about our collaborative research at academic and professional planning conferences and communicate with the research team, First Nation community partners, and professional planners. As part of the PWIP Research Group, I am conducting case study research about the impact of the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement on municipal planning in Ontario and monitoring how First Nations and municipal planners find ways to plan more effectively together. In order to examine the relevance of our research to other jurisdictions, I am also learning about planning that conducted by Indigenous Peoples in cities and regions outside of Southern Ontario. In terms of theory, I am examining postcolonial and anti-colonial theories and how relationships have developed between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in the context of municipal land use planning and in relation to discourses about recognition and reconciliation.

Other Research Interests

I enjoy collaborating with community-based and academic researchers to address both technical and adaptive planning problems at local and regional geographic scales. I use transdisciplinary, qualitative research methods to examine theory and practice in the following areas of interest:

  • Equitable approaches to planning
  • Professional planning education and community service-learning
  • Race, space, and cross-cultural relations


  • Viswanathan, L. 2019. All our Relations: A Future for Planning. Plan Canada, vol.59, no 1, pp. 215-219. Open Access\
  • Viswanathan, L. Planning with Empathy. 2019, June 10. 360 Degree City [Audio podcast] Retrieved from
  • McLeod, F., Viswanathan, L., Macbeth, J., and Whitelaw, G. S. 2017. Getting to Common Ground: A Comparison of Ontario, Canada’s Provincial Policy Statement and the Auckland Council Regional Policy Statement with Respect to Indigenous Peoples. Urban Planning (Open Access) vol 2, no 1, ISSN 2183-7635. [PDF]
  • Porter, Libby; Matunga, Hirini; Viswanathan, Leela; Patrick, Lyana; Walker, Ryan; Sandercock, Leonie; Moraes, Dana; Frantz, Jonathan; Thompson-Fawcett, Michelle; Riddle, Callum; and Jojola, Theodore (Ted). (2017) Indigenous Planning: from Principles to Practice/A Revolutionary Pedagogy of/for Indigenous Planning/Settler-Indigenous Relationships as Liminal Spaces in Planning Education and Practice/Indigenist Planning/What is the Work of Non-Indigenous People in the Service of a Decolonizing Agenda?/Supporting Indigenous Planning in the City/Film as a Catalyst for Indigenous Community Development/Being Ourselves and Seeing Ourselves in the City: Enabling the Conceptual Space for Indigenous Urban Planning/Universities Can Empower the Next Generation of Architects, Planners, and Landscape Architects in Indigenous Design and Planning, Planning Theory & Practice, 18:4, 639-666, DOI: 10.1080/14649357.2017.1380961
  • Viswanathan, L. 2017. Chapter 7 “Decolonization, recognition and reconciliation in reforming land use policy and planning with First Nations in Southern Ontario,” In Dialogues in Urban and Regional Planning, Vol. 6, , eds. Christopher Silver, Robert Freestone, and Christophe Demaziere, pp.157-173. London: Taylor and Francis.
  • McLeod, F., Viswanathan, L.; Whitelaw, G. S.; Macbeth, J.; King, C.; Alexiuk, E.; and McCarthy, D. 2015. Finding Common Ground: A Critical Review of Land Use and Resource Management Policies in Ontario, Canada and their Intersection with First Nations. The International Indigenous Policy Journal, 6(1). Retrieved from:
  • Viswanathan, L. 2015. “Community Assets and Individual Expertise: Educating Future Professionals through Community Service-Learning.” In Omobolade (Bola) Delano-Oriaran, Marguerite W. Parks, and Suzanne Fondrie (Eds). Service Learning and Civic Engagement: A Sourcebook Thousand Oaks: Sage.
  • McCarthy, D. D. P., Millen, M.; Boyden, M.; Alexiuk, E.; Whitelaw, G. S; Viswanathan, L.; Larkman, D.; Rowe, G., and Westley, F. R. 2014. “A First Nations-led social innovation: a moose, a gold mining company, and a policy window.” Ecology and Society 19(4): 2.
  • McLeod, F.; Viswanathan, L.; King, C.; Macbeth, J.; and Whitelaw, G. 2014. “2014 Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) at a Glance: Changing Tides in Ontario Provincial Planning Policy with respect to First Nations Interests.” Publisher: Authors. [PDF]
  • Fraser, C.M., and Viswanathan, L.. 2013. “The Crown Duty to Consult in Ontario Municipal-Aboriginal Government Relations: Lessons Learned from the Red Hill Valley Parkway Project.” Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 22, 1, supplement, 1-18. [PDF]
  • McCarthy, D.; Whitelaw, G.; King, C.; King, C.; Viswanathan, L.; Cowan, D.; McGarry, F.; and Anderson, S. 2013. “Collaborative Geomatics and Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.” International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, 9, 2, 1-15. [PDF]
  • Viswanathan, L.; McLeod, F.; King, C.; Macbeth, J.; and Alexiuk, E.. 2013. “Are we there yet? Making inroads to decolonize planning knowledge and practices in Southern Ontario.” Plan Canada, 53, 2, 21-23. [PDF]

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