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Our Background

A registered charity working in Canada since 1969, Outward Bound Canada (OBC) empowers youth for the future
through experiential adventures in nature. At a time when unending screen time, climate concerns, and global events
have critically impacted youth mental health, OBC’s programs are more vital than ever. Through our adventure-oriented approach, participants engage in hands-on experiences that celebrate diversity and promote personal growth.

This unique blend of challenge and support fosters resilience, teamwork, and self-belief, equipping youth to connect with nature and navigate today’s world. We check phones at the door and focus on community building, connection, and skill building. Fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for nature is another focus of the OBC experience, with environmental issues and concerns woven into the programs, ranging from Leave No Trace camping and service projects to discussions about larger global challenges.

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Unforgettable outdoor journeys, lasting transformation

We offer a range of programs, from fully-funded to co-pay, to allow individual youth and schools & groups of all
financial backgrounds to participate. Open summer and spring programs provide youth with transformative experiences that go far beyond a typical summer camp. Financial assistance, based on need and a “pay what you can” approach, thanks to the generous support of our donor community, makes our programs accessible to all youth. But democratizing outdoor education isn’t our only goal: we want to transform the outdoor sector in Canada to reflect the rich diversity of its population.

The OBC Training Academy for Outdoor Professionals is a free, professional program, funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program, that equips people from equity- deserving groups with the skills they need to become future outdoor leaders and create a more diverse and inclusive sector in Canada. Learn more about our programs.

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2020: Shaping the future through challenge

The last decade has been a time of change for OBC, both in terms of organizational direction and external forces. In early 2020, we decided to rededicate ourselves to serving youth. This meant we had to say a sad goodbye to many of our life-changing adult programs, such as Women of Courage and our Veterans programs. Like many organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic was a major challenge for OBC. However, as a charity dedicated to building resilience in youth and with over half a century of world-leading risk management process, we successfully adapted to be among the first outdoor recreation organizations to be able to safely serve youth again once restrictions were lifted in 2021.

This period also saw the crystallization of OBC’s efforts to reconcile itself with its colonial past and to live an ethos of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in all its activities. In 2024, OBC formalized its internal conversations about this subject and others by striking the JEDI Access Committee, an employee-led committee that seeks to…. This included the launch of the Outward Bound Canada Training Academy for Outdoor Professionals in 2022 to break down barriers and provide diverse individuals with the skills they need to succeed in the outdoor workforce. Funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program as an investment in the outdoor sector’s economic recovery, the Training Academy provides fully-funded outdoor leadership training through immersive workshops, outdoor journeys, virtual learning, mentorship and certifications.

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1969: A vision takes root in Canada

The story of Outward Bound Canada (OBC) is one of remarkable growth and adaptation. Inspired by the vision of the founder of the Outward Bound movement, Kurt Hahn, three pioneers – Art Rogers, Mike Perry and John Hasell – established the Outward Bound Mountain School (OBMS) in Western Canada in 1969. Shortly afterwards, Bob Pieh founded the Canadian Outward Bound Wilderness School (COBWebS) in Eastern Canada. Both schools flourished, offering transformative journeys through various wilderness programs.

But the road was not without its challenges. Increasing competition and the economic recession forced us to adapt, so OBC merged its operations across the country into one unified organization. This change led us to focus on a more mobile and adaptable program model, offering expeditions that were not limited to overnight stays in base centers. At that time, we also recognized the growing need for accessibility and established urban centers in Vancouver and Toronto to make the Outward Bound experience accessible to a greater number of participants. Our bold moves have proven successful. We operate centers in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Atlantic Canada and have added accessible urban programs to our wilderness offerings. This rich history and our ongoing commitment to adaptation ensures that we will continue to offer transformative experiences for generations to come.

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1941: The beginning of a global movement

The global Outward Bound movement was born in 1941 in the middle of the Second World War. Visionary educator Kurt Hahn and his co-founder Marina Ewald designed an outdoor education program that would take participants beyond their comfort zone and develop their leadership skills, believing that education should go beyond the classroom. Inspired by the power of expeditions to build resilience and character, this pioneering 28-day course in Aberdyfi, Wales became the catalyst for a worldwide movement.

As workplaces, educational institutions, and governments recognize the importance of social, emotional, and environmental learning for a successful future, Outward Bound is poised to play a key role in tackling the environmental crisis and keep shaping the future over the next 50 years and beyond.

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