How to help new Canadians access the great outdoors


Hearing a loon call at night is an experience that you might associate with being inherently Canadian. However, for new Canadians, including refugees and immigrants, accessing this part of our national identity may be easier said than done. According to Parks Canada, new Canadians are underrepresented amongst visitors to national parks, as they often lack the knowledge and the resources to escape the city limits.

If you want to share your love of the great outdoors with new Canadians, here are four ways that you can help.

1. Lend your cottage to a new Canadian family

Cottaging is a unique part of the Canadian culture, which is perhaps why we want to share the experience with new arrivals to the country. Whether you decide to offer your family cottage free-of-charge or as a subsidized rental, or invite a refugee family to join you for the weekend, it would undoubtedly be a life-changing experience.

Alternately, if your cottage is fully booked for the season, consider rallying your cottage community together to raise money to sponsor a cottage rental or a family—or even a sleepaway camp takeover.

2. Approach your kid’s (or grandkid’s) camp about making room for refugees

Attending a summer camp may be a tradition for thousands of Canadian children—but for refugees, it can be cost prohibitive. That’s why the Canadian Camping Association has challenged summer camps to reserve and donate spots for new arrivals, including Syrian refugees.

If your child or grandchild attends a summer camp in Ontario, contact them to see if they would offer room to refugees. If so, they can be connected with the Ontario Camping Association, who match them with families in need.

3. Donate to organizations like Outward Bound

Outward Bound helps outdoor newbies develop self-confidence and skills through their experiential wilderness programs. In addition to programming for high school aged youth, it also offers custom programs for new Canadians. You can donate directly to these programs—or, if you work with refugees, you can contact Outward Bound to set up a tailored group program.

Another option is Plein Air Intercultural. Each year, the Quebec-based organization introduces hundreds of immigrants to hiking, skiing, canoeing, and camping. Through its sponsorship program, you can donate to help low-income immigrants in Montreal experience these activities for the first time.

4. Volunteer with a like-minded organization

Often, practical challenges such as a lack transportation or outdoor equipment is what acts as a barrier to new Canadians accessing the outdoors. Parkbus is one organization working to combat this challenge for all Canadians, particularly minorities. It offers express service from Toronto to Ontario parks destinations—including day trips—and this year, will start service in other provinces as well. In partnership with Ontario Parks, Parkbus also offer learn to camp programs and affordable gear rentals. If you’re interested in getting involved, the organization is looking for volunteers to help support their programs.

In Alberta, the Nature as a Second Language program introduces newcomers to the outdoors through special events, including its Free Fishing Weekends. To volunteer with the program, interest parties can email nature.language@gov.ab.ca.

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