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Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility

Making Canada's Parks and Protected Areas the Most Inclusive in the World

In November 2019, federal, provincial, and territorial park leaders met as part of the CPCIL Parks Leaders Development program to discuss the barriers and opportunities for stronger accessibility and inclusion in parks.  It was evident that each jurisdiction has varying approaches to accessibility and inclusion standards in both internal and outward-facing processes, and that each face complex challenges. Participants identified the need for stronger collaboration and commitment across all levels of parks organizations.

There was consensus that formalizing a common position or approach on accessibility and inclusion would be of value to the CPC and its member organizations. It would be an important step towards recognizing that all human beings, regardless of their backgrounds and abilities, benefit from healthy parks and natural places and the quality of life they provide.

What is Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Accessibility?

  • Equity is the fair, impartial, a respectful treatment of all people. Often conflated with “equality” (meaning sameness), equity seeks to promote opportunities that correct social disadvantages and encourage barrier-free environments. If equality is an outcome, then equity is the process needed to get there.  
  • Diversity is the composition of a variety of racial, sexual, gender, class, abled, and other social identities within the demographics of a space, community, or institution. 
  • Inclusion is the creation of a healthy environment where everyone feels welcome, safe, respected, and able to fully participate in an institution. Additionally, it is the condition where everyone’s unique identities and differences are accepted and celebrated. It is important to remember that while an inclusive group is always diverse; a diverse group may not always be inclusive.  
  • Accessibility involves designing systems and creating environments that optimise access for all people, regardless of circumstance or ability. It may also mean offering accommodations so that persons with disabilities are able to fully participate.  

Inclusion Self-Assessment

A capstone team of the Spring, 2019 Park Leaders Development Program, curated a series of videos and developed reflective questions to help park leaders broaden their understanding of barriers and to better prepare them to assess and address inclusion. Over time, CPCIL plans to gather more videos on a variety of topics to broaden the conversation about inclusion and equity in parks.

Indigenous Perspectives
This video, with Willy Ermine, explores what ethical space is, and how it requires new ways of thinking about knowledge.
Adaptive Experiences
This video from Power to Be Society profiles the importance of adaptive recreation for people with differing learning styles, conditions, and illness to be able to experience nature exploration and also be supported in growth and development.
Race and Hiring
Consider your approach to inclusive hiring by watching a video by the Nature Conservancy of Yosemite Park Ranger Shelton Johnson sharing his thoughts on the importance of getting kids from all backgrounds out into nature and exposed to science.
LGBTQ++ Language
This video provides an introduction to the LGBTQ+ community and an overview of how to use inclusive language when speaking to – or about – people in the LGBTQ+ community.

Canadian Park Agency Inclusion & Accessibility Programs

Member agencies of the Canadian Parks Council are committed to increasing inclusion. Public information and programs are listed below, where available.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Northwest Territories

Nova Scotia: Learn to Camp


Prince Edward Island



Other Park Inclusion Programs

The parks community includes anyone and everyone who cares about Nature and parks in Canada. It is inclusive, open, and self-defined. Parks for All means working together to realize shared goals through a variety of perspectives, resulting in distinct practices and individual responsibilities. As humans, our worldview shapes how we see, learn, speak, and hear – how we interact with each other, with other species, and with the land.

The parks community is built on the acceptance of this truth.

Though our perspectives in the community may vary, we are all Nature, and that connects us. We all benefit from healthy parks and natural areas and the quality of life they provide.

Parkbus connects city dwellers with nature through accessible transportation options. Founded in 2010, we operate bus services to National and Provincial Parks from major cities across Canada. We also operate community nature and outdoor programs such as ActiveDays and NatureLink. In British Columbia, Parkbus programs are run by BEST, a non-profit charitable organization with a long history promoting sustainable transportation. Our free shuttles, as well as NatureLink and Activedays programs are run by Transportation Options, an Ontario-based non-profit organization dedicated to fostering sustainable tourism and transportation. The rest of our programs are run by Parkbus Inc., headquatered at the Center for Social Innovation in Toronto.

NRPA works to ensure that all people have access to the benefits of local parks and recreation. To achieve this, NRPA has made a formal commitment to the Partnership for Inclusive Health’s Commit to Inclusion initiative. We’re calling our pledge Parks for Inclusion.

Parks for Inclusion supports built environment enhancements, model policy development, and best practices for program implementation to increase access to health opportunities for the following populations:

  • Those with physical and cognitive disabilities
  • The LGBTQ community
  • Racial and ethnic minorities and new Americans

Our goal is that Parks for Inclusion will improve access to health opportunities in parks and recreation for 2 million people by September 30, 2020.

The mission of the Office of Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion (RDI) is to champion for an organizational culture that is increasingly inclusive and participatory, which values the diverse ideas, experience and background of every individual, and empowers an innovative, flexible and resilient NPS to engage the opportunities and challenges of the future. The Office of RDI works collaboratively with NPS stakeholders to embed these best practices into the organization and provide the support needed to ensure their implementation. The National Park Service defines relevancy, diversity, and inclusion as:

Relevancy is achieved when all Americans are able to establish a personal connection to the National Park Service parks and programs and find meaning and value in the mission of the National Park Service.
Diversity represents the practice of actively incorporating people of different backgrounds, perspectives, thoughts and beliefs throughout the organization to ensure that NPS is advantaged by the best thinking possible. Diversity represents the wide range of visible and invisible differences and similarities that make each of us unique.
Inclusion is the practice of intentionally building a culture that is flexible, values diverse ideas, and embraces the meaningful participation of all.

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, & Decolonization Research Project

In 2021, CPCIL began working on a research project assessing EDID within parks and protected areas, although still in the works, you can learn more about this project and it’s journey by visiting its page here.  

Inclusive and Accessible Organizations

Looking for Organizations working in  the space of making parks and natural spaces more inclusive, equitable, and accessible? Look no further! Below you’ll find some of our favourite inclusive groups, networks, and organizations.

Accessibility Organizations

The Power to Be Society is a non-profit organization based in Victoria and Vancouver. Their core belief is that everyone belongs in nature and their primary goal is to ensure that nature can be a safe and accessible place for everyone. Power to Be Society works to remove cognitive, physical, social, and financial barriers to the outdoors, while supporting participants to explore who they are and what they are capable of.

CRIS Adaptive Adventures enables outdoor, urban-based experiences for people that require additional support, due to a variety of barriers such as physical, cognitive, or sensory challenges. They facilitate adventures for anyone with any ability through a support system of the right people, experiences, and adaptive equipment. Through their outdoor wilderness recreation programs, Adaptive Adventures promotes independence and assistance with integration to reduce isolation and improve mental well-being.

Rocky Mountain Adaptive (RMA) is a non-profit charity based out of Canmore, Alberta. Their primary aim is to provide individuals with any disability the chance to access all sport and recreational activities in the Canadian Rockies. RMA enables individuals, ranging from children to older adults, with physical, intellectual, cognitive, or developmental impairments to participate in all the unique sporting and adventure activities the Bow Valley has to offer.

The Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) was established in 1988 to raise awareness, change attitudes and fund spinal cord injury research and care. They are working to break down physical barriers that people with disabilities face in the places where they live, work, learn, and play. The RHF mission is to create and deliver innovative solutions to remove barriers and liberate the potential of people with disabilities. Their ultimate vision is an inclusive world where people with disabilities are living to their full potential.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development, and environmental sustainability. Their main goals include mainstreaming tourism in the global agenda, improving tourism competitiveness, promoting sustainable tourism development, advancing tourism’s contribution to poverty reduction and development, fostering knowledge, education and capacity building, and building partnerships. The overarching goal is to create responsible, sustainable, and universally accessible tourism.

Anti-Racism Organizations

BlackAFinSTEM is a group of Black scientists studying topics in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Black AF in STEM are the founders of Black Birders Week, an event created in response to the confrontation of Christian Cooper, a black man who was birding in central park, by a white woman, Amy Cooper.

Colour the Trails is a group for BIPOC & allies interested in outdoor activities including hiking, camping, mountain biking, kayaking, skiing, and snowboarding. They host events around Canada and the US for BIPOC people to enjoy outdoor activities in a safe space. Their weekly Instagram Live “She Said What She Said” features women of colour who are frontrunners in the fields of outdoor adventure, athletics, and activism.

Outdoor Afro is an organization operating across the United States, leading the way for inclusion in outdoor recreation, nature, and conservation for all. They celebrate and inspire Black connections and leadership in nature by connecting thousands of people to outdoor experiences.
Outdoor Afro has many initiatives aimed at furthering their mission, including Leave No Trace and an expedition to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. They also host local meetups around the US. Visit their blog to learn more about topics such as Black Birders Week, ideas for camping in your own backyard, and the experience of training for Mount Kilimanjaro.

Latino Outdoors is a unique, Latinx-led organization working to create a national community of leaders in conservation and outdoor education. They are focusing on expanding and amplifying the Latinx experience in the outdoors by providing greater leadership, mentorship, and professional opportunities. Latino Outdoors serves as a platform for sharing cultural connections and narratives that are often overlooked by the traditional outdoor movement.

The goal of Outdoor Asian is to create a diverse and inclusive community of Asian & Pacific Islanders in the outdoors. Their mission is three-pronged: engage communities with locally-based trips, outings and workshops to inspire individuals and families in the outdoors; create a platform to lift up stories and histories of Asian communities to reflect on the ever-changing relationship to ecology and nature; and connect individuals to a wide-ranging network to create Asian/Pacific Islander leaders in the outdoor recreation and environmental sectors.

Gender Equity Organizations

The Women in Nature Network (WiNN) aims to connect and empower women to achieve sustainable management and conservation of our Earth’s natural resources.

The Women in Nature Network (WiNN) was founded in 2013 by 14 international conservation leaders with decades of experience in nature conservation and natural resource management. WiNN was established to build connections between women around the world to enhance their abilities to manage their natural resources and to protect the natural environment.
WiNN is working to develop a global learning community of women in order to create and support a future generation of environmental leaders.​

Women in Conservation Leadership was founded in 2017 as a branch of the National Wildlife Federation. The program develops, empowers, and champions women leaders within the environmental community by providing networking, skill-building, and training opportunities. Women in Conservation Leadership focuses on increasing intersectional representation of women in leadership and high power positions by identifying female-specific barriers and working to overcome them.

Women for Nature, a branch of Nature Canada, is a collective of women across Canada with a shared passion for nature conservation. Their goal is to save wildlife, protect nature, and inspire young leaders. Through programs such as Young Nature Leaders, Women for Nature Mentorship Initiative, and Biodiversity Conversations, Women for Nature works to educate the public, bring up a new generation of conservation leaders, and support innovation in conservation.

500 women scientists is an international, grass-roots organization conceived in the United States following the 2016 election. With over 20,000 members from over 100 countries, 500 Women Scientists’ goal is to create a more diverse and inclusive group of future leaders in science. Their mission is to serve society by making science open, inclusive, and accessible, and transform society by fighting racism, patriarchy, and oppressive societal norms.

500 Women Scientists has many initiatives dedicated to increasing representation of women of colour in leadership positions and increasing general visibility of women in STEMM fields. Their program, Request a Woman in STEMM, allows members of the media, conference organizers, and the like to more easily identify and include women scientists. Another program, SciMom Journeys, highlights the barriers working mothers or aspiring mothers face in the STEMM field. These are just a few examples of the work being done by this organization dedicated to making science a more accessible field for women.

Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) is a global women’s advocacy organization that promotes and protects human rights, gender equality, and the integrity of the environment. Their mission is to ensure womens’ rights are included in sustainable development principles and are at the forefront of global and national policies. Their priorities involve advocacy and influence, capacity building and training, and knowledge production and outreach.
WEDO acknowledges that negative environmental change often impacts women more directly or severely. Therefore women must be included in decision making, advocacy, and leadership when it comes to environmental sustainability and global environmental change. WEDO aids in this mission by hosting conferences, workshops, empowering women to get involved in environmental sustainability, among a variety of other initiatives.

LGBTQ2S+ Organizations

Get Out and Trek (GOAT) is an outdoor community of LGBTQ+ adventurists. GOAT hosts events and trips for LGBTQ+ people, creating a barrier-free, safe space to explore the outdoors. One of their initiatives is to evaluate the outdoor adventure industry’s LGBTQ+ engagement. They have done this by creating an Outdoor Equality Index (OEI). The OEI is a survey, which organizations can participate in or be nominated to participate in, which indicates their level of engagement with the LGBTQ+ community.
GOAT also provides self-care resources for outdoor adventurists and leaders including virtual tours of parks around the world, self-guided meditation, and live streams of outdoor settings, such as crashing waves in Hawaii and kelp forests in the Channel Islands.

Out for Sustainability originated in 2008 in the United States and has since expanded into Canada. It is an organization dedicated to bridging the gap between queer identity and sustainable values. OUT for Sustainability has multiple initiatives and campaigns to involve the LGBTQ+ community in environmental sustainability and in-person community action. They have organized conferences to discuss the role of the LGBTQ+ community in environmental sustainability and created initiatives such as Plastic Free Pride and Nature is so Gay, a content series examining non-heteronormative species in the natural world. Their initiative, QReady, is a guide tailored for the LGBTQ+ community in case of natural disasters or climate emergency.

Pride Outside is a social media-based organization aimed at providing a safe space for the LGBTQ+ outdoor community. They host events across Canada and the United States for queer people to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, climbing, paddling, and more. Pride Outside in conjunction with the Wilderness Society have created a resource called “LGBT Outdoor Groups”, which maps out LGBTQ outdoor organizations across the world.

Pride Outside Instagram

The Venture Out Project is an organization dedicated to creating safe outdoor experiences for the queer, trans, and LGBTQ+ community. It is run by queer people for queer people. Venture Out also offers ally training programs for organizations or individuals wishing to make existing programs more accessible for the LGBTQ+ community. They provide workshops for people of all experience levels to gain skills and knowledge around creating transgender affirming spaces. In addition, the Venture Out website provides resources for anyone wishing to learn more about gender identity, terms and vocabulary surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, LGBTQ+ organizations, and more.

Inclusion & Accessibility Resources

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