Discovering Alberta’s Parks with New Immigrants

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only nationwide environmental charity dedicated solely to the protection of our public land and water, which together make up more than 90 per cent of Canada by area. CPAWS Southern Alberta chapter (SA) works to protect Alberta’s parks and wilderness areas, and educate and inspire Albertans to get outside and engage in stewardship. We work with Albertans to establish and protect parks and wilderness areas from Red Deer south to the Alberta border, including well-known areas such as Kananaskis, Castle and Bighorn.

In addition to conservation work, CPAWS SA is a leader in environmental education. We aspire to enhance the lives of Southern Albertans and create a community of knowledgeable, empowered citizens who engage in stewardship and positive environmental action to conserve our local environment. Providing Albertans with valuable experiences in nature helps to achieve this goal. A Nature Canada report released in November shows time spent in nature and being active outdoors are beneficial to health and wellbeing, and helps improve resiliency, academic performance and social skills. The report shows that spending time in nature increases creativity, confidence, value of nature as part of identity, and environmental stewardship.

With the support of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, CPAWS SA works to encourage Albertans to connect with nature through sustainable recreation and to promote stewardship of parks and public lands by those who care for and enjoy them. Part of this work, included interpretive hiking programs for new immigrants. Last year we conducted 30 new immigrant Discover Parks hikes (599 people) which were funded in part by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation. Calgary is the fourth largest centre for newcomers in Canada. With a growing new immigrant population, programs and opportunities to learn about community and conservation are invaluable. Many new immigrants come to Canada with a frame from where they lived. Often this includes ideas such as water is not potable, carnivores are bad, and wilderness is riddled with danger. Education not only dispels many misconceptions, it is a path to understanding and belonging in one’s community, and one’s ecosystem. CPAWS Southern Alberta collaborates with new immigrant groups across the city, including the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association, and the Calgary Chinese Community Service Association, to provide programming to improve language, enhance conservation literacy of this region, develop a sense of place, build community, and share nature and conservation experiences from different countries.