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LETTER: Increasing accessibility and equality for outdoor recreation

Editor: We are in a revolutionary time, where people are fighting for equality and for justice. Black people are fighting for their lives to matter, and Indigenous people are still fighting to have equal human rights.

Editor:

We are in a revolutionary time, where people are fighting for equality and for justice. Black people are fighting for their lives to matter, and Indigenous people are still fighting to have equal human rights.

With this in mind, there are so many barriers that marginalized peoples face when trying to access outdoor spaces. These barriers are often related to gender, class and race, which are tied to economic status.

Canmore takes up space in Treaty 7 territory and is neighbouring the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. And yet, though we are in such close proximity to the reserve, I don’t see many resources being used to invite or create more space for Indigenous peoples or other marginalized peoples in our outdoor community. 

By not speaking up and by not acknowledging these barriers inherent in the outdoor industry we, as outdoor recreators, are adding to the problem of discrimination in the outdoors.

Outdoor spaces are generally not as safe for Indigenous, Black and POC folks. How can they be, when a black climber has to worry about being kicked out of a grocery store for wearing a mask during Covid-19? Or when an Indigenous woman has to worry about being one of the thousands of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women if she tries to travel and recreate alone? 

As an outdoor recreator, you may not go outdoors to talk about human rights issues; in fact, you may head outside specifically to avoid those conversations and to escape the politics.

However, being able to "escape" into the outdoors is a privilege. It comes with the ability to completely disengage from issues (such as gender and race) that don’t directly affect you.

So, though you may not be racist, the ability to simply go for a bike ride or just focus on the sport is not shared by a diversity of people, such as LGBTQ2s+ and BIPOC folks, who are still left advocating for their basic human rights and safety while you and I hit the trails.

I urge you to check out the Melanin Base Camp blog. They have some great articles written by BIPOC folks, including a Guide to Outdoor Allyship. 

For those of you still having difficulty seeing the relation to outdoor recreation and diversity issues, I urge you to check out their article called Shut up and Climb, which takes an in-depth look at why climbing (relevant to other sports too) cannot be just be about climbing until the issues of racism are addressed.

There are many other stories and articles written by BIPOC folks that are well worth a read. Please hear their voices and listen to their experiences; give them the time and space they deserve. 

I urge the local sports clubs, gear stores as well as all recreators to learn more about these issues, to amplify BIPOC voices and to take steps to be dismantle racism.

Diversity makes us stronger, and if we are to continue creating a beautiful community of people conserving and recreating in these outdoor spaces, it is vital that we are able to listen to and include one another.

Robin Pollard,

Canmore



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