Statement on Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Statement on Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Outward Bound Canada’s vision is for a healthy, resilient society formed through lasting connections to self, others and the natural world. Our purpose is to cultivate resilience, leadership, connections and compassion through inspiring and challenging journeys of discovery in the natural world. As a charity, we strive to increase access to empowering educational adventures in nature for people from all backgrounds. However, we recognize we cannot achieve this without addressing systemic oppression.

We acknowledge that access to nature, including wilderness expeditionary programs, excludes those without privilege. Those who are: Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC), are Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual (2SLGBTQIA+), non-binary, female-identifying, newcomer, refugee, low-income, have certain religious affiliations, spiritual practices, and people with disabilities continue to face economic, accessibility and social barriers that prevent them from accessing the natural world, including to pursue recreational activities and education, as well as careers in the outdoor industry. The outdoor industry is an exclusive and unsafe space for many people due to the widespread and ongoing systemic racism and discrimination of marginalized communities.

Over our 50-year history, we have had many successes working with various communities through our programs. However, we recognize that we are a part of the ongoing impacts of bias, racism, discrimination and systems of oppression that perpetuate inequities if we are not actively working to correct them. As a predominantly white-led nonprofit organization, we have participated in and perpetuated these systems. We have much work to do to better understand, identify, address and take accountability for the issues that impede the inclusion and representation of marginalized communities.

In addition, the land that our programs take place upon, Turtle Island and beyond, continues to be stewarded by Indigenous people and has been since time immemorial. Through the delivery of our programs, we benefit from our interactions with stolen land. For those of us who are settlers, we recognize that we were, and continue to be, actively involved in this process of colonization that results in stolen lands and the continued marginalization of Indigenous People. We recognize that to remain silent and uneducated on social movements is to be complicit. We must actively extend beyond our current way of being to correct historical and ongoing abuse for reconciliation.

To do this work, we must live up to our values of growth, integrity and belonging. We need to embrace vulnerability and positive risk-taking and embark on purposeful journeys that redefine our perceptions of what is possible. We must commit to advancing justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in our organization, through our programs and in the outdoor community and society. We must make space for, listen to and amplify the voices of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, and other equity-deserving communities. By embracing a diversity of thinking, lived experiences, and voices, we can create a sense of belonging for everyone.

This journey will not have a final destination; our learning and growth will come through challenges, opportunities, mistakes, failures and successes along the way. We are committed to openness and transparency as we continue doing this work.

Progress we’ve made:

  • OBC signed up for The 50 – 30 Challenge: Your Diversity Advantage program. The 50 – 30 Challenge is an initiative between the Government of Canada, businesses and diversity organizations. The program aims to challenge Canadian organizations to increase the representation and inclusion of diverse groups within their workplace while highlighting the benefits of giving all Canadians a seat at the table. The 50 – 30 Challenge asks that organizations aspire to two goals:

Gender parity (“50%” women and/or non-binary people) on Canadian board(s) and/or senior management; and

Significant representation (“30%”) on Canadian board(s) and senior management of other equity-deserving groups: Racialized, Black, and/or People of Colour (“Visible Minorities”), People with disabilities (including invisible and episodic disabilities), 2SLGBTQ+ and/or gender and sexually diverse individuals, and Aboriginal and/or Indigenous Peoples. The program and participants recognize Aboriginal and/or Indigenous Peoples, including those that identify as First Nation Peoples, Métis Nation, and Inuit, as founding Peoples of Canada and underrepresented in economic influence and leadership positions.

  • In 2021, all full-time administrative staff participated in 5 pieces of training delivered by an external organization to educate the organization through ongoing sessions covering the following topics:
    Interrupting Bias: An Anti-Bias Approach for the Workplace
    The Identity Factor: Understanding Privilege and Social Location
    Bias and Discrimination: The Interpersonal Impact
    Action, Allyship, and Tools for Change
    Anti-Bias Hiring practices: Putting Ideas into Action
  • According to a demographic survey of students, in 2021, 38% of the student body identified as  2SLGBTQ+. OBC launched, for the first time, 2 affinity courses for 2SLGBTQ+ community participants from 14 to 29 years old, one in the Rocky Mountains and one in Ontario. 92% of these students felt satisfied or that the course exceeded their expectations, according to post-course surveys.
  • In 2021, an Indigenous Advisory Committee was formed to provide strategic leadership and support to OBC staff as they design and implement Outward Bound programs for Indigenous youth and leadership training for Indigenous outdoor instructors. Led by Jeff Horvath, one of our Board members, the committee is composed of at least 50% membership from First Nations, Métis, or Inuit communities.

Goals of the Indigenous Advisory Committee:

      • Provide guidance and advice to OBC staff as they create a cohesive strategy for OBC’s programs for Indigenous youth
      • Recruitment: help OBC connect with the individual youth and groups who will most benefit from Outward Bound programs
      • Provide a leadership role in identifying new sources of funding for OBC Indigenous programs
      • Give advice and counsel to OBC staff to help ensure that our courses for Indigenous youth are conducted in a culturally appropriate and respectful manner in the context of the 94 calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
  • From January to March 2022, the Operations and People team evaluated and completely re-structured our hiring process to reduce barriers to applying and working for OBC and remove bias in the hiring process. This includes creating a Youth Advisor position to include youth in decision-making processes, including the hiring of leadership positions within OBC.
  • In spring 2022, Outward Bound’s Training Academy for Outdoor Professionals will launch to recruit and train a new generation of outdoor leaders in Canada through classroom and expedition-based training at no cost to participants. This initiative aims to increase employment in the outdoor leadership sector and drive a more diverse candidate pool to ensure Canada’s outdoor leaders better represent Canada’s diversity.