By Romi Levine
Toronto continues to grow, with sky-high condo developments, and pricey boutiques and restaurants sprouting up in neighbourhoods across the city. But amidst the revitalization and gentrification are groups of people – low income residents and new immigrants, for example – driven out of their neighbourhoods by rent hikes and expensive shops.
Though understanding and supporting the city’s most vulnerable residents is traditionally in the realm of disciplines like social work and anthropology, Shalice Coutu is bringing social justice to architecture.
Coutu, who is part Métis, graduates Thursday from architectural studies at University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design. She is hoping to improve the lives of Canadians through built environments.
“I’m not in it necessarily for the building and the art form of architecture, but more in it to make people's lives better,” says Coutu, who will be continuing her studies at U of T, pursuing a master’s in architecture.
Coutu grew up in Prince Albert, Sask., a city of about 35,000 people. There, she cultivated an understanding of what inequality looks like.
“Coming from a small town in Saskatchewan that definitely has its share of poverty – I'm not oblivious to poverty around me, and I make a point to help those people,” says Coutu, who spent many summers helping her brother run a volleyball camp in rural areas and First Nations reserves in Saskatchewan.
Though she was always interested in architecture, Coutu began her university career in Saskatoon where she studied psychology.
“Our opportunities in Saskatchewan are a little less available,” she says.
But once she found out about the Daniels architecture program, she put the wheels in motion to transfer to U of T.