Jason Hackworth, a professor of urban geography at the University of Toronto, gave a guest lecture at the University of Michigan recently to pose a provocative question: "Why is there no Detroit in Canada?"

That is, in a nation where industrial decline was often as common as in the American heartland, why don't Canadian cities show the same level of blight and abandonment as we see in Detroit and Flint and in other post-industrial U.S. cities?


But the answer he came up with is frankly discouraging. It points to a big problem on both sides of the border.

The more he looked, the more one big difference between Canada and the United States emerged: It came down to race. Put simply, U.S. cities tend to have large black and other non-white populations and Canadian cities do not.

American cities like Detroit  gained black and other non-white residents in the early to mid 20th Century, sparking a white backlash that devastated those cities.

But Canada, which practiced more restrictive immigration and housing policies, blocked such an influx of non-white residents into their cities. So the relatively few non-white people in Canada could never create the same sort of economic impact as the larger numbers did in American cities.

"There's no chance they ever would be because there is no city in Canada that is a majority non-white city," Hackworth told me. "The biggest difference, it’s indelicate to put it this way, is that there’s no threat to white supremacy in Canada."