The Intercultural Outdoor Recreation Program brings people together from near and far through fun, accessible outdoor activities all year round. We invite new Canadians and all Montrealers to join us to try hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, camping, winter sports and more!
A Brief History of Our Program
The Intercultural Outdoor Recreation Program started in 2010 when Adrienne Blattel created it with the Milton Park Recreation Association, and the Montreal House of Friendship, two inner-city community centres and non-profit organizations in Montreal.
Ever since an initial canoe-camping weekend in 2010, the program has grown in scope and size. Each year, around 500 people from dozens of different countries participate in approximately 75 outings. In 2022, Robin Montagu joined the team.
We strive to offer activities that are accessible to new Canadians even if they do not have a car, specialized outdoor gear, prior experience, or a big budget. We design outings that foster intercultural understanding, promote the integration of new Canadians, and make outdoor recreation more accessible in Montreal. Activities including hiking, biking, kayaking, canoeing, camping, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skating, nature appreciation and outdoor language exchanges.
Adrienne Blattel, Founder and Coordinator
Adrienne Blattel just loves being outside! She’s originally from Ottawa, Ontario and has lived in Montreal since 2002. Adrienne grew up cross-country skiing with her dad in Gatineau Park and canoeing at summer camp. Her first summer jobs involved instructing whitewater kayaking and leading multi-day bicycle tours.
Adrienne’s time abroad inspired her current work with new Canadians: as a member of a kayaking club in Mâcon, France, and a hiking club in Kotor, Montenegro, she experienced first-hand how outdoor recreation can bring people together across cultures.
Adrienne has a Masters in Environmental Studies from York University. From 2002 until 2010, she worked as a community development program director with the Quebec-Labrador Foundation, while leading numerous kayaking outings with a local Montreal club on weekends.
Adrienne founded the Intercultural Outdoor Recreation Program early in 2010 with the Milton Park Recreation Association and the Montreal House of Friendship. Adrienne is the staff member responsible for the program. In 2017, Adrienne won an outdoor entrepreneur award from Mountain Equipment Co-op. Hiking up Mount Royal countless times with program participants has allowed Adrienne to connect even more deeply with nature and has fostered a newfound passion for plants, trees and urban nature.
My name is Robin Montagu. I am from Normandy in France where I grew up. Having always been passionate about nature, physical activity and psychology, I decided to seek an expertise in these fields and to study them. Today, I am a graduate in intervention and management of physical activities and in psychology.
I had the chance to practice and teach a multitude of physical activities in France and abroad. Having a very versatile and multi-sport training, I have both supervised various sports, but above all outdoor physical activities in which I have specialized over the years, namely: hiking, snorkelling, climbing and scuba diving.
My sports activities have allowed me to explore nature in and outside Europe: diving in Egypt, hiking in New Zealand, paragliding in Lebanon, and crossing the Australian desert. I had the chance to climb mountains and volcanoes, to encounter some of the world’s most beautiful hikes and to dive in different seas around the world… These experiences have also, from a psychological point of view, made me reflect, throughout my travels, on the place of the individual in society and in nature. After a break due to the global pandemic, I decided to continue my journey and in 2021 I arrived in Quebec where, for the first time, I wanted to stay. I discovered a new daily life first, and then new activities (cross-country skiing with Adrienne).
I started as a participant myself, then, out of enthusiasm for the project, I offered to volunteer with ARMP. Over time, the idea of creating a position as assistant program coordinator emerged. It resulted from a sincere friendship with Adrienne, but also from the desire to help newcomers discover the outdoors and to create interactions between them. Convinced that sport is a major ally in these missions and armed with my past academic, professional and personal experiences, it is with great joy that I joined Plein air intercultural in June 2022.
Media and Awards
The Intercultural Outdoor Recreation Program has appeared in many articles and interviews, including Urbania, Géo Plein Air, CBC, Radio-Canada, Radio-Canada International, 24Heures, Espaces, the Montreal Gazette, Le Voir, Green Teacher, Pathways (The Ontario Journal of Outdoor Education), and more. In 2022, our program, as part of the Milton-Park Recreation Association, was awarded the Lucien-Paquet Award by the Fédération québécoise des centres communautaires de loisir. In 2017, Mountain Equiment Co-op’s Outdoor Nation Program honoured our program with an Outdoor Entrepreneur award. In the winter of 2018, Canadian Tire featured us in a short video associated with its winter Olympics campaign. Here is a list of major interviews and articles:
“Long Lake and Lake Montauban Loop in the Portneuf Regional Park: New Immigrant Experiences of a First Canoe Trip”. Chapter by Adrienne Blattel in Paddling Pathways, pages 118-128, edited by Henderson & Blenkinsop, YNWP, 2022.
“Le plein air crée des ponts entre les cultures et la nature”. Podcast interview with Capitale Plein air Balado on February 9th, 2022. https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-v5cyv-11a1eee
“Le plein air: un terreau fertile à l’intégration des nouveaux arrivants”. Article by Nathalie Schneider, Centdegrés, September 2nd, 2021. https://centdegres.ca/ressources/le-plein-air-un-terreau-fertile-a-l-integration-des-nouveaux-arrivants
“Apprendre le ski de fond… en ligne”. Report by Fanny Bussières, Radio Canada, February 2nd, 2021. https://ici.radio-canada.ca/premiere/emissions/l-heure-du-monde/segments/reportage/341674/ski-sport-hiver-virtuel-plain-air
“Jouer dehors : est-ce que c’est un privilège ?” Par Laïma A. Gérald, Urbania, February 1st, 2021. https://urbania.ca/article/jouer-dehors-est-ce-que-cest-un-privilege
“Plein air interculturel : Portrait d’un organisme engagé”. By Dominique Caron, Revue Rando Québec, winter 2021.
“Suggestions of Outdoor Activities” on CBC Radio Noon, January 15th 2021, minute 32. https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-102-radio-noon-quebec/clip/15818987-fatbikes-walking-path-roof-loads-suggestions-outdoor-activities
“Le plein air comme outil de rapprochement interculturel”. Presentation given by Adrienne Blattel for RÉSEAU, October 27th, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBd0DNcuMSA&feature=youtu.be
“Le plein air pour les nouveaux arrivants,” par Marie Tison. Published online by La Presse +, February 3, 2020. This article won first prize for short articles about provincial or national topics by the Conseil québécois du loisir. https://www.lapresse.ca/voyage/plein-air/202002/03/01-5259358-le-plein-air-pour-les-nouveaux-arrivants.php?fbclid=IwAR0BtmJ0gAurN9u2Uw489i2-bObsEIjKFd1B7JnQlYBIganw_zLkq2GP12k
Interview about our program and intercultural camping during Près de chez vous on Radio Canada, July 28th, 2019 at 6:36 p.m. https://ici.radio-canada.ca/premiere/emissions/pres-de-chez-vous/episodes/439176/audio-fil-du-dimanche-28-juillet-2019
“Le camping comme outil d’intégration des immigrants dans la société canadienne”, par Samir Benjafer, Radio Canada International, 29 juillet 2019. https://www.rcinet.ca/fr/2019/07/29/le-camping-comme-outil-dintegration-des-immigrants-dans-la-societe-canadienne/
“L’intégration par le plein air”, dans l’infolettre Horizon Plein air, 3 avril 2019. https://kino-quebec.wixsite.com/bulletin-cdppa/single-post/2019/04/03/L%E2%80%99int%C3%A9gration-par-le-plein-air
“Sur leurs skis ou en raquettes, des immigrants découvrent les plaisirs de l’hiver”, by Myriam Fimbry. Published online by Radio-Canada, February 3, 2019. https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1150369/immigrants-plaisirs-hiver-skis-raquettes-outils-integration?fbclid=IwAR1ET-8otlzfslabYmnrCFLinDe6wMCrCvIUAn38pMt01KByPKDXQy75h8c
“Randonnée plein air et échanges linguistiques : un Mont-Royal communautaire” by Mali Navia. Published online in Urbania, July 13, 2018. https://urbania.ca/article/randonnee-plein-air-et-echanges-linguistiques-un-mont-royal-communautaire/
“Le plein air comme outil d’intégration culturelle”. Interview with Adrienne Blattel on Les Éclaireurs, Radio-Canada, Tuesday June 26, 2018, at 7:33 p.m. https://ici.radio-canada.ca/premiere/emissions/les-eclaireurs/segments/entrevue/77820/adrienne-blattel-integration-nouveaux-arrivants-immigration-plein-air
“Initier les nouveaux Québécois à la nature” in Géo Plein Air, May 3, 2018. https://www.pressreader.com/canada/g%C3%A9o-plein-air/20180503/282355450367552
“‘Discovering Montreal by Bike”. Interview with Adrienne Blattel and participant Laura Wenzel on All in a Weekend, CBC Radio, Sunday April 29, 2018, at 8:15 am. http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/all-in-a-weekend-montreal/segment/15540917
“Apprendre son nouveau pays par l’hiver et faire sien l’hiver de son nouveau pays”. Interview with Radio Canada International. February 1, 2018. http://www.rcinet.ca/fr/2018/02/01/apprendre-son-nouveau-pays-par-lhiver-et-faire-sien-lhiver-de-son-nouveau-pays/
“Apprivoiser l’hiver québécois au Mont-Royal” by Nadia Lemieux. In 24heures, January 22, 2018, page 3. http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2018/01/22/apprivoiser-lhiver-quebecois-au-mont-royal
“Plein air multiculturel : Mon pays n’est pas un pays, c’est divers” by Guillaume St-Pierre. In Espaces, December 19, 2017. https://www.espaces.ca/articles/actualites/2647-plein-air-multiculturel-mon-pays-ce-nest-pas-un-pays-cest-divers
Chronique plein air with Adrienne Blattel, Radio-Canada, June 27, 2016. The interview begins at 13 minutes, 55 seconds. http://medias-balado.radio-canada.ca/diffusion/2016/06/balado/src/CBF/le1518-20160627-1755.mp3
“Taming Winter: New Immigrants Try Skating”. C’est la Vie, CBC Radio, February 20, 2015, with Amanda Klang and Bernard St-Laurent. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/taming-winter-new-quebecers-try-skating-1.2964618
“Immigrants Learn to Enjoy Winter and Make Friends” by Lynn Desjardins, Radio Canada International (English version), February 2, 2015. http://www.rcinet.ca/en/2015/02/02/immigrants-learn-to-enjoy-winter-and-make-friends/
“Montreal Diary: Helping New Immigrants Embrace Winter”, by Catherine Muir, Montreal Gazette, January 29, 2015. http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/montreal-diary-helping-new-immigrants-embrace-winter
“New Country, New Home, New Nature”, Adrienne Blattel in Green Teacher: Education for Planet Earth. July 31, 2013. Excerpt: http://greenteacher.com/new-country-new-home-new-nature/
“Branching Out: Involving New Canadians in Outdoor Recreation”, Adrienne Blattel in Pathways, the Ontario Journal of Outdoor Education. Winter 2013, 25(2), pages 14-15. https://www.coeo.org/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/Digital_Pathways/Pathways_25_2.pdf
“Winter Classes for Immigrants”, interview on CBC Radio, All in a Weekend, January 15, 2012. http://www.cbc.ca/allinaweekend/2012/01/15/sweating-it-out-in-the-cold-instead-of-hiding-from-winter/
“Apprécier l’hiver : de néophytes à passionnés de l’hiver!” by Iris Gagnon-Paradis, Le Voir, January 6, 2011. https://voir.ca/voir-la-vie/art-de-vivre/2011/01/06/apprecier-lhiver-de-neophytes-a-passionnes-de-lhiver/
“Using Outdoor Recreation to Foster Intercultural Understanding and the Integration of New Immigrants in Montreal”, Adrienne Blattel in Pathways, the Ontario Journal of Outdoor Education. Summer 2011, 23(4), pages 10-13. https://www.coeo.org/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/Digital_Pathways/Pathways_23_4.pdf
So far, I have not found another program in which immigrants are welcome in such warm, welcoming and respectful way.
– Carlos Rojas, Mexico
The activity is super friendly! It promotes the people to be open and relaxed.
– Participant, Colombia, Hiking and French-English Conversation
Montreal is multi-culture city with very beautiful and long winters. Learning how to do winter activities and meet people from different countries are the best ways to integrate into life in Montreal. During this activity, we had fun together. Joy is the best motivation to repeat an activity. I didn’t know how to, where, and when to ski. In this activity I got all these. Winter is not a monster or obstacle for enjoying the life. Just need to know what lifestyle matches best. Thanks to this activity, we explore more about it.
– Participant, Iran
It was an opportunity to break out of isolation and participate in a social activity, creating a sense of self-worth. In terms of health and social company, the benefits are immense. The simple act of trudging in the deep snow with others is an ennobling, spiritual experience.
– Participant from India
I have gained a lot from conversations with people originally from Latin America and the Arab countries, among other places. In learning Spanish and Arab in Montreal, these interactions at the same time have helped me gain a wider and deeper knowledge of peoples and cultures in those regions of the world. My interest in learning more foreign languages is greatly enhanced by the opportunity to meet immigrants through these walks and to know about their past and present lives. Sharing of common problems as immigrants helps a lot in breaking isolation and in gaining confidence.
– Participant, Hiking and French-English Conversation
Thanks, Adrienne, for an incredible hike yesterday! There’s something about your hikes, and outdoor activities in general, that are so re-energizing (probably because for once I’m not in coordinating mode, but leave that in your very capable hands!), but also just the people you bring together… authentic, sincere, and genuine people, who seem sincerely interested in who you are as a person, not an employee. Always feel re-energized and able to tackle on the problems and challenges we all face; the health benefits, both psychological, physical, but most importantly, physiological and mental,of being out in nature (with friends) cannot be understated, and I really thank you for organized such fun outings.
– Marian Pinsky, Montréal
Blattel, Adrienne. The Participation of Montreal Immigrants in Outdoor Recreation. Survey Results, 2011. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7oEyvKqafm_OXBLSUxsa1h1aXM/view