Peter Oberlander and the Imperative of Global Citizenship






Reviews and articles

  • Book Review by Dr. David Witty MRAIC, FCIP, RPP for Planner's Bookshelf

    Dr. David Witty, who was recently named an Honourary Life Member of the Planning Institute of British Columbia, has written a review of Showing the Way that appeared in the fall 2019 issue Plan Canada. Witty writes “Ken Cameron has done a remarkable job capturing the times, the nuances of life and the evolution of the man, Oberlander from an interned non-citizen to a global citizen who walked with pride and energy amongst the leaders of Canada and the world.”
  • Book Review by Nancy Knight, Ph.D. MCIP RPP, June 2018

    One of the earliest reviews of Showing the Way was prepared by Dr. Nancy Knight MCIP RPP.  

  • Profile of Peter Oberlander in Plan Canada

    Ken Cameron prepared a profile of Peter Oberlander for the Fellows’ Corner in the Winter 2018 issue of Plan Canada, the journal of the Canadian Institute of Planners. “Peter Oberlander’s life and work were infused with the spirit of tikkun olam, a Hebrew expression meaning ‘to heal or repair the world,’ which fitted well with his broad definition of citizenship.” English and French.
  • Book review in Planning West

    Showing the Way was reviewed by Kristin Angello MCIP RPP in the Winter 2019 issue of Planning West, the magazine of the Planning Institute of British Columbia. “Contemporary urbanists and historians alike should read Cameron’s book and consider how Oberlander’s vision – a vision of creating inclusive, culturally-rich, and democratic cities – has shaped urbanism in Canada today.”


Ken Cameron has spoken about citizenship and Showing the Way at many great events around Vancouver, BC.  

Presentation to Lambda Alpha Vancouver’s 30th Anniversary Event

On April 3 2019, Ken Cameron appeared as one of the “Legends” asked to reflect on the past 30 years and to identify important issues for the Vancouver region’s next 30 years at a meeting of the Vancouver chapter of the international land economics society. See below for a copy of Ken’s presentation, Regional Strategic Planning: Part of Vancouver’s Secret Sauce. 






Presentation by Ken Cameron to Canadian Institute of Planners Online Conference for World Town Planning Day, November 5-9 2018


Planning, Global Citizenship and the Future of Humanity:

Planning, Global Citizenship and the Future of Humanity: Keynote presentation by Ken Cameron to Vancouver Island University Community Planning Program’s Planning Week, January 9 2019

View Presentation




As the consummate Canadian urbanist of the 20th century, Peter Oberlander’s mark is
all over Greater Vancouver and other pace-setting cities, not only through his own
innovations but also through the work of so many of the students that he taught and
mentored. Ken Cameron’s superbly crafted book tells the story of this ever-forward man
who set the foundation of the urban culture of our country.

Larry Beasley CM, Retired Co-Director of Planning, City of Vancouver, and Distinguished Practice Professor of Planning, University of British Columbia

Showing the Way is much more than a description of a life. This book teaches us that
the value of life lies not in what you get but in what you give. Peter Oberlander had
every reason to turn inward after being subjected to the horror of the Nazis. He had
even more reason to turn bitter when he experienced the unexpected antisemitism of
Canadians - Canadians who only very grudgingly provided him refuge. Instead Peter
Oberlander dedicated his life to building the very containers needed for a true
democracy, i.e. cities where all are valued and all can find their place. His optimism and
generosity under the circumstances described in this book are breathtaking. His life and
work are a beacon for young city builders to follow in these unsettled times.

Patrick Condon, Professor, Urban Design, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of British Columbia

While this book at one level tells the life story of a most remarkable man, it also offers
great insight and perspective on the planning history of Vancouver and Canada. It will
be of interest to not only those who knew or met Peter Oberlander, but also to others
around the world who want to understand why cities and citizens in Canada, and
especially Vancouver, have excelled at creating livable urban environments. It advances
the powerful idea that one of the keys to the future of humanity is better cities, managed
by their citizens.

Michael Geller, planner, developer and commentator on urban affairs, former CEO of Simon Fraser University Trust

In this book, Ken Cameron has produced a compelling story of the life and contributions
of a legendary Canadian planner, educator, and humanist. Peter Oberlander is one of
several immensely influential immigrants – including Thomas Adams, Humphrey
Carver, Hans Blumenfeld, and Jane Jacobs-- who have shaped the way we imagine
and plan Canadian cities. This book ably addresses a gap in the history of Canadian
planning by documenting Oberlander’s trajectory – from elder child of a middle-class Viennese Jewish family, to interned teenage refugee, to brilliant student at McGill and Harvard, to university professor and to leadership roles in government agencies and international commissions. Peter Oberlander’s commitment to creating spaces for active, sustainable, and meaningful citizenship shines through on every page.

Jill Grant, Professor Emeritus and former Director, Dalhousie University School of Planning

Ken Cameron’s great tribute to Peter Oberlander is terrifically written! Peter was the
embodiment of an engaged citizen of the world, with a unique talent for turning ideas
about cities and citizenship into action.

Mike Harcourt CM, former Mayor of Vancouver and former Premier of British Columbia

In his characteristically perceptive profile of Peter Oberlander as global citizen, Ken Cameron has opened a new window of understanding into the character of Canadian
cities. Across Canada, and well beyond it, Oberlander’s thinking has opened minds to creating the cities that we now depend on.
Many people wonder: What lies behind the particular look and feel of a Canadian city?
Our urban communities often appear poised somewhere between the refined form and sophisticated function of the great Old World cities and America’s expansive civic
exuberance. Some marvel at how Canadian cities can offer up the best features of both
old and new urbanism in one place, and Cameron has contributed an important piece of the explanation for what makes our cities stand apart from, and often above, their counterparts. 
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Anthony Perl, Professor of Urban Studies and Political Science and former Director the Urban Studies Program, Simon Fraser University

In Canada we periodically get planners who are as much leaders and great teachers
as politically astute bureaucrats. Some become celebrities. But they are among the many who were trained to lead, guide and imagine at a time when the issues of Canadian cities began to emerge, and we believed we could plan ourselves a better future.

Peter Oberlander came to Canada from Eastern Europe as a victim of the Second
World War, but he was a global citizen. A student, a professor, a director. Competently trained and organizationally ambitious. Truly working at local, national and global scales - with a core belief in the possibility of creating beautiful, humane and democratic cities. Which Canada largely achieved.
This book is that story - of the man, his times and his achievements. Engaging,
entertaining, with a message of hope.

Gordon Price, former City of Vancouver councillor and Metro Vancouver director, former Director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program and Co- editor of PiceTags ( )

It is no understatement to say that Peter Oberlander is one of only a few people who
can be credited with originating the distinctive approach taken by Vancouver and British
Columbia to urban development and planning. He virtually invented the province’s
planning profession, he was the intellectual godfather of the Agricultural Land Reserve,
and he played a crucial role in the development of Vancouver’s citizen-based approach
to planning. Ken Cameron does us a great service by connecting these dots. More
importantly, however, he reveals the man in full and in his historical context. Self-
assured, optimistic, and brilliant, Oberlander always seemed to be in the right place at
the right time, soaking up the vital ideas of the times and building the networks and
coalitions needed to put them into practice. 

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Zack Taylor, Professor of Political Science, University of Western Ontario

In Showing the Way, Ken Cameron weaves together three themes in a triple helix: the
story of visionary Canadian planner Peter Oberlander; the development of community
and regional planning as a profession in Canada; and the meaning of citizenship in a
world of immigrants and refugees. Peter Oberlander’s lifelong dedication to building
community and a sense of place in his adopted country were forged by his early
experiences in World War II as an Austrian-Jewish refugee, forcibly separated from
family and interned in the UK and Canada. This compelling book draws on Cameron’s

personal knowledge of Oberlander, from student to colleague and friend. He offers
warm and sometimes humorous accounts of their collaborative attempts to influence the
federal and provincial governments to address Canada’s challenges as an urban nation. 

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Nola Kate Seymoar, CEO Emeritus, International Centre for Sustainable Cities and Co-Chair, Vancouver City Planning Commission