Canadian Institue Of Planners

Shaping our Communities
Sustaining Canada's Future.

Leela Viswanathan FCIP

Dr. Leela Viswanathan is an accomplished and innovative educator, researcher, and mentor.
She promotes diversity and inclusion as a core strength of urban planners in both teaching and practice. Her outstanding ability to build connections among people, places, and practice has transformed planners and communities across Canada and beyond.
Leela has been recognized as a distinguished professor, researcher, mentor, and academic supervisor for over two decades. She has demonstrated exceptional leadership in advancing planning knowledge through her ability to unite various disciplines, levels of government, and community interests toward more equitable and inclusive communities.
Leela has focused her teaching and mentoring on shaping a generation of ethical, inclusive, and human-focused planners. She actively supports an ongoing community of practice for her students, mentees, and colleagues, and consistently encourages her students to embrace their place in a worldwide community of practice. As a result, her students have engaged in planning practice and research across Canada, Europe, South-East Asia, the Caribbean, and the United States. Leela’s influence on the next generation of planners is also evident in her collaborative research with Indigenous communities. Her exceptional contributions as a professor, mentor and, particularly, as a champion of equity, diversity, and inclusion, are demonstrated by her numerous accolades and awards.
Leela has a long and established track record of culturally and socially relevant research that promotes healthy and inclusive communities. Her PhD research on, “Postcolonial Planning: The Alternative Planning Group and the Transformation of Social Planning at the Turn of the 21st Century” remains a highly relevant study of the social and spatial transformation of multi-cultural cities. Over the past two decades, Leela has continued to significantly contribute to the theoretical basis of planning research and practice, particularly in the areas of social planning, equity, truth and reconciliation, and ethical practice. Leela has authored seven book reviews on topics including Indigenous planning, social justice in diverse suburbs, planning for diversity, and negotiating identity and belonging for racialized and immigrant populations. Leela is a skilled moderator, discussant, and presenter. For CIP’s centenary celebrations, she moderated four bilingual national discussions and co-created a discussion paper about the future of the planning profession in Canada.
Leela is widely recognized as a planner who believes that a professional’s actions must enhance equity and inclusion, particularly for historically underserved communities. As a thought leader in the planning profession, Leela is often asked to serve as a keynote speaker, moderator, or facilitator. She recognizes the humanity of practitioners and provides tools for planners to address their own mental health, resilience, and well-being. She has presented public and professional lectures on “Planning with Purpose,” mental resilience and wellness, fostering empathy, and addressing trauma and the emotions of ethical planning.
Leela continues to provide mentoring and leadership advice both through her private consulting firm, Viswali Consulting and as an Adjunct Associate Professor with Queen’s University. Her consulting work focuses on strategic approaches to relationship building for the purposes of both community development and systems change. Her achievements not only advance planning knowledge, but they contribute to the development of future planners and community leaders.