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Leela  Viswanathan  - Queen's University. Kingston, ON, CA

Leela Viswanathan

Associate Professor, Department of Planning and Geography | Queen's University

Kingston, ON, CANADA

Leela Viswanathan teaches topics about social planning, planning history, qualitative research methods, and urban geography.





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Integrating Immigrants into Rural Labour Markets




Leela Viswanathan teaches topics about social planning, planning history, qualitative research methods, and urban geography. She is co-editor with Dr. Scott L. Morgensen of the Journal of Critical Race Studies. Her professional expertise in social policy, integrated comprehensive planning approaches, and community development with diverse populations informs both her teaching and her research. Leela is cross-appointed to the School of Environmental Studies and to the Department of Gender Studies. She is a Full Member of the Canadian Institute of Planners and a Registered Professional Planner in Ontario.

"My research emerges at the intersection of planning, equity and diversity. I am Principal Investigator on a multi-year SSHRC-funded collaborative research project examining approaches to planning with Indigenous peoples. See The aim of the research is to enhance Indigenous-municipal relations in the context of land use planning in Southern Ontario. My ongoing research interests involve theories and practices of: (1) planning with First Nations; (2) planning pedagogy and service learning; and (3) race, space, and cross-cultural relations. I collaborate with community-based and academic researchers to address both technical and adaptive planning problems at local and regional geographic scales."

Industry Expertise (4)


Government Relations

Program Development


Areas of Expertise (6)

Social Planning

Urban Geography

Qualitative Research Methods

Indigenous-Municipal Relations in Planning

University-Community Engagement

Equity and Human Rights

Accomplishments (3)

Finalist - 2015 & 2016 - Queen's Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching (professional)


Leela Viswanathan was a Queen's Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching Finalist in 2015 and 2016. The award is presented annually to a Queen’s teacher who show outstanding knowledge, teaching ability, and accessibility to students.

Steve Cutway Accessibility Award (professional)


Awarded by Queen's University

Julian Sziecz Award of Excellence in Teaching (professional)


Awarded by Queen's University, Department of Geography

Education (3)

York University: Ph.D., Environmental Studies 2007

Dissertation Title: Postcolonial Planning: The Alternative Planning Group and the Transformation of Social Planning at the Turn of the 21st Century.

York University: M.E.S., Environmental Studies (Planning) 1994

McGill: B.A., Sociology 1992

Affiliations (6)

  • Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP)
  • Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI)
  • Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG)
  • Canadian Association of Community Service Learning (CACSL)
  • American Association of Geographers (AAG)
  • Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP)

Languages (2)

  • English
  • French

Media Appearances (5)

The costs of John A. Macdonald

Ricochet Media  online

"The City of Kingston grapples with the story of Canada's founding father. Though national progress defines the story most often told about Sir John A. Macdonald, there's a lot more to it."

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Pecha Kucha to highlight research successes

Queen's Gazette  online


PechaKucha has each presenter deliver 20 slides for 20 seconds each, making for information-dense but fast-moving presentations. Among those presenting is Dr. Leela Viswanathan, a professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning. She’ll be kicking the night off by talking about the work she’s done at the intersection of de-colonization and land planning. “I’m asking how we can get planners to rethink their entire process and to ask the community what was in this space before,” she says. Her research brings First Nations people into the planning process and has had interesting results when put into practice. In one of the townships she’s worked with, it led to them incorporating archaeological knowledge and indigenous land use practices into the town’s development plan. “We all plan constantly, even if we have different words and credentials for it. This type of work is about creating a feeling of belonging in new ways, because the public learns and translates history into their everyday life.”

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Diverse projects earn funding

Queen's Gazette  online


Art history, family justice and economic models are just three of the diverse research areas that have received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant and Insight Development Grant programs. Seventeen Queen’s researchers were allocated a portion of the $3 million in funding. “These grants from SSHRC are aimed at supporting research projects that tackle various societal challenges and offer progressive solutions with cultural, social and economic benefits,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “The success of 17 of our faculty in garnering these grants is a true testament to the vibrant and innovative thinking of our researchers and their creative, leading-edge research projects across a variety of disciplines.”

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Planning professor focuses on building strong relationships

Queen's Journal  online


Leela Viswanathan walks into the Tea Room café and her eyes brighten when she spots two of her students. She immediately heads over to talk, about class and life in general, before moving to the counter for tea. She chats casually with the servers, then takes a seat. It’s obvious that connecting with people is a big priority in her life. “It’s in my nature to create these relationships, and as a social planner it’s crucial for designing better neighbourhoods,” says Dr. Viswanathan, an assistant professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP), with a cross-appointment to geography. “We need to think about having conversations with the people in our communities – not just asking people what their opinions are once, but going back several times, creating a dialogue.” This is exactly what she has done in her class, SURP 871: Social Planning. Students take a grassroots, social justice-oriented approach to community development and neigbourhood revitalization. Dr. Viswanathan formed a partnership with Christine Williams, a minister with Kingston North Anglican Ministries – a connection that enables students to create direct links with the community. Her students develop relationships and engage in dialogue before producing their vision of what affordable housing could look like in the communities of north Kingston

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Shedding light on disabilities

Kingston Whig-Standard  


Phoebe Chan nominated Viswanathan, her professor. "I nominated her because she's amazing and she made a huge difference for the lives of students with disabilities and I really recognize her for that," said Chan. "It's really touching, I actually tried to nominate her last year as well." Viswanathan, who teaches urban planning, said her students have been a factor in her considering accessibility. "They taught me a lot about building a more accessible environment" said Viswanathan.

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Research Grants (1)

Enhancing Indigenous-Municipal Relationships in the Context of Land Use Planning in Southern Ontario

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) 

This is a five-year project (2014-2019) involving researchers from Queen's University and the University of Waterloo and in partnership with First Nations. Our objective is to enhance Indigenous-municipal relationships in the context of land use planning in the cities and regions encompassing First Nations’ lands in Southern Ontario.

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Articles (6)

An Evaluation of Ontario Provincial Land Use and Resource Management Policies and Their Intersection with First Nations with Respect to Manifest and Latent Content

Queen's University

2016 This summary table entitled An Evaluation of Ontario Provincial Land Use and Resource Management Policies and Their Intersection with First Nations with Respect to Manifest and Latent Content represents a condensed version of the initial analysis executed in summer 2013 and revisited in spring 2014 to evaluate the manifest and latent content of 337 provincial texts...

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Finding common ground: A critical review of land use and resource management policies in Ontario, Canada and their intersection with First Nations

International Indigenous Policy Journal

2015 This article provides an in-depth analysis of selective land use and resource management policies in the Province of Ontario, Canada. It examines their relative capacity to recognize the rights of First Nations and Aboriginal peoples and their treaty rights, as ...

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2014 Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) at a Glance: Changing Tides in Ontario Provincial Planning Policy with respect to First Nations Interests


This article highlights key changes to the Ontario Provincial Pollicy Statement Proper from 2005 to 2014 for its recognition of First Nations. Please cite the article in the following way: McLeod, Fraser; Viswanathan, Leela; King, Carolyn; Macbeth, Jared; and Graham Whitelaw. 2014. “2014 Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) at a Glance: Changing Tides in Ontario Provincial Planning Policy with respect to First Nations Interests.” Publisher: Authors

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Sustainability through intervention: a case study of guerrilla gardening in Kingston, Ontario

Local Environment

2013 The purpose of our paper is to provide an in-depth look at guerrilla gardening as an example of sustainability in action. Through participatory action research methods that triangulate content analysis, 16 semi-structured interviews and researcher logs, two case ...

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Marginalized expertise of community organizations in Quebec's search for interculturalism

Canadian Journal of Urban Research

2013 Community organizations providing reception and integration services in Montreal have been on the frontlines of immigrant services delivery yet on the margins of the public debate of intercultural practices. Although the public debate led by the Bouchard-Taylor ...

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The Crown duty to consult and Ontario municipal–First Nations relations: Lessons learned from the Red Hill Valley Parkway project

Canadian Journal of Urban Research

2013 This paper examines ways in which the Crown Duty to Consult is implemented in Ontario planning processes. The authors present the Red Hill Valley Parkway project in Hamilton, Ontario and draw from seventeen semi-structured interviews to examine the role ...

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