All people need nature. Research has consistently shown that nature connection is essential for people’s health, happiness and well-being. All people have a fundamental right to experience nature’s benefits. And yet, long-standing and ongoing systems of racism, inequity, and injustice prevent many from accessing and feeling welcome in the outdoors.
At Pine, we are working to recognize and dismantle our complicity in these systems that perpetuate oppression and exclusion. We are also working to understand the histories of the land that we are privileged to learn and play upon, pay respect to its caretakers who have lived here since time immemorial, and realize our responsibility to reconciliation.
We are committed to engaging with a decolonial lens and elevating diversity, equity and inclusion in our relations and in the work that we do. Over the past year, since our last progress report, we have taken steps to live this commitment more deeply, including:
Fostering leadership capable of inspiring transformational change across the organization.
In 2021, we invested in deep learning opportunities for Pine’s leadership team, including a 3 week racial equity training for Pine’s Board of Directors and Senior Management, and a 12 week individual coaching program for Pine’s Executive Director and Director of Operations. These trainings focused on understanding the impact of leaders’ awareness, empathy and identity on organizational culture and equity outcomes. Evidence suggests that cultural change is most effective when it is championed by senior leadership. Building Pine leadership’s capacity to implement anti-racist practices will inspire transformational change across the organization.
Carrying our learnings and values of reconciliation forward in our work and relationships at programs.
Much of Pine’s curriculum comes from ancient skills and knowledge found across the globe. At times, it also comes from specific cultures. We are engaged in a years-long process of identifying and removing programming that once felt appropriate but that we now deem to be appropriative, and of finding new ways of engaging with a decolonial lens within our programs. Applying learnings from seasonal staff trainings and building on past efforts, Pine Instructors have been incorporating teachings about the history of the land, cultural histories, and Indigenous-Settler relations into programming, in age-appropriate ways. Some examples include using the Indigenous names of places, reading stories authored by and about Indigenous peoples, sharing gratitude for the land and the people who have tended to it for generations, and teaching ways of respecting and caring for the land as part of our Treaty responsibilities. Engaging children in learning about the history of colonization is an important step to dismantling colonial systems of oppression that continue to be present in the education system and outdoor industry.
Addressing barriers that prevent many people from accessing and feeling welcomed to our programs.
To live out our vision, we must do more to reach people in underserved communities, explore new ways of promoting equitable access to our programs, and create a safe and welcoming environment to those who join us. Doing so is a long and complicated process, one that must be grounded in a deep understanding of the existing barriers, open communication, and true partnership with those people we seek to serve. However, we have been taking immediate action where possible, including expanding Pine’s Bursary Fund to provide more families with financial assistance, supporting families to purchase outdoor gear, and improving accommodations for participants with disabilities. We have also been building relationships with schools and community groups that work with underserved Toronto communities. Together, we are exploring opportunities to co-create nature connection programming that meets each community’s unique needs.
Continuing to confront hard truths about the lack of diversity in our community and the long road ahead of us
Despite our efforts, diversity information collected from staff and participants during the second year of our monitoring system appear to support first-year results: we are a predominantly white-led and white-serving organization. Relatively few in our community identify as having a disability, are newcomers to Canada, or have limited income.
These findings serve as a reminder: meaningful and sustainable change will not happen overnight. The barriers that prevent many from accessing our programs and experiencing nature’s benefits are numerous, complicated, and deeply ingrained in systems that continue to plague our organization and society today.
As we reflect back over the past year, we discover new learnings in both our accomplishments and mistakes. It’s in holding these learnings that we continue forward and set goals for the coming year. As important contributions to a gradual, sustainable shift in culture, much of the work we’ve outlined within this report will continue in the coming year and well beyond. In 2022/23, we plan to build upon this work in a number of ways. These include:
- Working towards formalizing a partnership with a school or community-based organization to provide nature connection programming to people in underserved communities.
- Continuing to address barriers to participation and finding new ways to make our programs more accessible, such as providing gear and transportation support, expanding Pine’s bursary fund, and improving accommodations.
- Implementing a third phase of our broader anti-racism training program, to continue to provide opportunities for staff to expand their understanding of anti-racism and decolonization.
- Continuing to revise our curriculum to intentionally integrate education and activities that build awareness of Indigenous Peoples’ histories, cultures and teachings into our programming.
We have a long journey ahead of us to achieve our vision of a Pine community that finds strength in diversity and helps to connect all people with nature. We are committing ourselves to walking this path over the long term. We thank you for joining us.