A career spanning nearly 60 years commenced with a B.Arch at McGill. Subsequently, Peter Oberlander achieved many Canadian firsts, obtaining both a Master of City Planning and PhD in Regional Planning from Harvard. Having launched Canada’s first professional School of Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia, he initiated Ottawa’s Ministry of State for Urban Affairs as its inaugural Secretary (Deputy Minister). UBC awarded Peter Oberlander an Honorary Doctorate in 1998 for lifetime service, acknowledging his distinguished academic career of teaching and research in architecture and planning. He lectured at many universities in Canada and abroad, including Canadian Studies at Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
Community service paralleled his academic career, including election to the Vancouver School Board, serving as its Chairman during the ‘sixties’ and chairing Vancouver’s Town Planning Commission during the strategic anti-freeway debate.
As the first Canadian, he served as President of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, the American Society of Planning Officials, and the Alumni Council of the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University. Oberlander’s engagement with the United Nations and its Centre for Human Settlements spans more than 30 years, including Habitat l – 1976, Habitat ll – 1996, and continuing with WUF 3 - 2006. His role in Habitat l resulted in his appointment as Senior Advisor and Special Assistant to the Secretary General from 1995-1997 for the City Summit in Istanbul; recently he served as Senior Ministerial Advisor to the Hon. Stephen Owen, and currently as Senior Advisor to Canada’s Commissioner General for WUF3 - 2006.
Between 1980 and 1990, he served on the Canadian Delegations to the annual meetings of the UN Commission on Human Settlements and consulted on a variety of UN housing and development projects including planning Nigeria’s new national capital, and founding Ghana’s Institute for Community Planning at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi.
Peter advised the People’s Republic of China on Land Use Policy, and is Board member of the International Centre for Sustainable Cities.
Peter Oberlander was invested Member of the Order of Canada (Urban Affairs) in 1995, and promoted to the rank of Officer (Urban Affairs & Housing) in 2002 with the citation:
“He is an important advocate of sustainable urbanization - the process of improving the quality of our cities while promoting their sustainable growth. Widely respected by governments and international organizations, he served in the mid-1990s as a Senior Advisor for the United Nations Commission on Human Settlements, and for the Environment Ministerial Meeting of the 1997 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Toronto. Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia and Adjunct Professor at Simon Fraser University, he continues to teach and raise awareness of the necessity of maintaining the quality and integrity of the environment we live in.”