Learning from Learn to Camp: Investigating immigrant integration in Canadian parks




Sullivan, Megan

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While Canada has, in recent years, experienced a significant increase in global immigration in tandem with rising migration to urban centers, visitorship to Canadian parks has been declining. It is thought that this is, in part, due to shifting cultural demographics. In 2011, as part of a larger measured response to these changes, Parks Canada in partnership with the Mountain Equipment Co-op, launched ‘Learn to Camp’. The Learn to Camp program provides participants the opportunity to learn how to plan and enjoy safe and successful camping trips. The program is facilitated through one to two day events, and includes a repository of information online and a mobile app. Participants, primarily new and urban Canadians, are groomed to become independent campers: learning where to camp, what to bring, what to cook, and how to stay safe. This thesis seeks to understand the Learn to Camp program – how it is performed, how it is received, and what, if any, are its impacts on participants, parks, and other stakeholders? In this project, I draw on primary research and literatures from cultural studies of nature to examine Learn to Camp under two frames, highlighting both immediate and long-term program implications. The literatures provided by critical studies of nature demonstrate how Canadian parks carry a limiting nationalist identity embedded within a history of colonial erasures. In my analysis, Learn to Camp appears to reinforce this historical narrative as it prescribes specific ways of ‘knowing’ and ‘being’ in park spaces. Concurrently, interview and questionnaire data indicate that new Canadians have an overwhelmingly positive experience with Learn to Camp. Participants are provided the skills, knowledge, and confidence necessary to become independent campers. Furthermore, participants leave Learn to Camp with a renewed sense of belonging to the Canadian landscape and to Canadian culture. In this project, I am interested in accounting for both the problematic underpinnings and the enjoyment that can be found in acculturating practices, such as Learn to Camp.



immigration, Canada, Parks Canada, Mountain Equipment Co-op, camping