These Toronto hiking groups are creating inclusive spaces for Black people in nature – blogTO

These Toronto hiking groups are creating inclusive spaces for Black people in nature – blogTO

October 10, 2021 0 By

Black Canadian Hikers and Let’s Hike TO share one thing in common: they’ve created spaces for Black people and other people of colour to feel safe and included in their love for the outdoors. 

Both of these groups are breaking down stereotypes about what it means to be a Black person in nature, saying a lack of representation exists in the hiking community. 

Shyrai Sutherland pictured with the Rocky Mountains in Alberta in 2015.  Photo by: Shyrai Sutherland

Shyrai Sutherland, the creator of Black Canadian Hikers, fell in love with hiking in 2015 when she went to work near the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. 

After returning to Toronto, she asked some of her friends and family if they wanted to go on hikes together, but most of them responded with “that’s a white person thing.” 

Sutherland was determined to change that narrative. She sat on the idea of creating Black Canadian Hikers for a few years. 

“I never knew any Black hikers at the time, I wanted to see other people out on the trails who look like me too,” said Sutherland. 

Black Canadian Hikers group on a trip to Cedarvale Ravine. Photo by: Shyrai Sutherland

In the summer of 2020, events related to the Black Lives Matter movement are what prompted Sutherland to start hosting hikes for Black people in Toronto. 

“I wanted people to feel like they can be part of a community in the outdoors, to not fear going outside because of the violence we were seeing,” said Sutherland. 

Black Canadian Hikers on one of the first few hikes they went on near Toronto. Photo by: Shyrai Sutherland

Black Canadian Hikers had their first hike in July 2020 with seven people and since then they’ve grown, with 20 to 30 people now joining their trips throughout Toronto and the GTA. 

Similar to Sutherland, Camara Chambers, the creator of Let’s Hike TO, also fell in love with the outdoors after she was invited by a colleague to join a hiking club in the city. 

“Every time I went on hikes with this group, I’d look around and simply didn’t see anybody who looked like me, I was usually the only Black person,” said Chambers.