Newcomers Explore Canada’s Sweetest Tradition: Maple Syrup

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 by Credit Valley Conservation

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March 14, 2017 – Canada’s 150th birthday is an opportunity to celebrate our nation’s most cherished traditions. For new Canadians, it’s a chance to discover Canada’s natural and cultural heritage, rich history and diversity. One quintessential Canadian experience is a spring visit to the sugarbush to enjoy maple syrup.

On March 6, a group of 120 women and their young children, all newcomers to Canada, spent one sweet winter morning at the Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival at Terra Cotta Conservation Area. The women were adult students from the Language Instruction for Newcomers (LINC) Program offered by the Afghan Women’s Organization. Eighty per cent were Syrian refugees who arrived in Canada in 2016. Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) staff taught them about the rich history of maple syrup production in Canada.

“We’re proud of the opportunities we offer through our multicultural outreach program and our Maple Syrup Festival,” said Deborah Martin-Downs, CAO of CVC. “Our conservation areas are a great resource where families can connect and have meaningful experiences with nature in Canada. I was honoured to meet so many women from Syria who have been through so much. It was a pleasure for our staff to welcome everyone to Terra Cotta for such a special experience.”

Of the 120 participants, only three per cent had ever tried maple syrup. CVC staff taught the group about maple syrup production through the ages. The women spent time outdoors learning about the First Nations discovery of ‘sweetwater’. They heard about how pioneers harvested maple sap and viewed traditional tools used in sap collection. The tour ended with a stop at Terra Cotta’s sugar shack where they learned how maple syrup is made today. Sampling the freshly made syrup was the best part.

“The trip was the students’ first glimpse into our country’s heritage. I enjoyed exposing my students to this time-honoured Canadian tradition,” said Vitalia D’Souza, LINC Instructor for the Afghan Women’s Organization. “It’s also an opportunity to foster an appreciation for our natural environment.”

The group was joined by members of the CVC Board of Directors and staff.  Councillors Martin Medeiros from Brampton, Bob Inglis from Halton Hills and John Brennan from Erin also participated in the program. Board members, along with Ms. Martin-Downs, spent time with the students and learned more about their backgrounds.

“We have a great partnership with the Afghan Women’s Organization,” said Ashoo Anand, Senior Coordinator for CVC’s Multicultural Outreach Program. “The women loved being outdoors. They took pictures in nature and shared their cultural food with our staff. It was a day to simply enjoy nature and be among friends.”

The Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival is a must for those looking to celebrate Canada 150 with traditional Canadian activities. The festival runs on weekends in March and throughout March break. It is hosted in partnership with Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) and offers four locations across the region.

Visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets online to receive unlimited general admission to all four festival locations. For event hours, schedule of events and prices, visit

CVC has offered new Canadians these kinds of opportunities through its Multicultural Outreach Program since 2009. With generous funding from partnering municipalities, CVC offers free transportation to non-profit groups such as the Afghan Women’s Organization to visit and experience its conservation areas. Transportation is one of the biggest barriers limiting new Canadians’ access to conservation areas.


Caption: Adult students from the Language Instruction for Newcomers (LINC) Program offered by the Afghan Women’s Organization enjoy a day of learning about maple syrup production at Terra Cotta Conservation Area through CVC’s Multicultural Outreach Program.

Caption: Ashoo Anand, Senior Coordinator for CVC’s Multicultural Outreach Program, leads students through the park as they learn about maple syrup through the ages

Caption: Left to right: CAO Deborah Martin-Downs with Councillors John Brennan from Erin, Martin Medeiros from Brampton, Bob Inglis from Halton Hills and  CVC staff Manuel Spiller at the Maple Syrup Festival multicultural program. Board members, along with Ms. Martin-Downs, spent time with the students and learned more about their backgrounds.

Credit Valley Conservation is one of 36 conservation authorities in Ontario. Conservation authorities are provincial/municipal partnerships that manage the natural environment of a watershed, an area of land where the rain and snowmelt drain into a body of water. For more than 60 years, Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) has worked with its partners to build a thriving environment that protects, connects and sustains us. CVC is a member of Conservation Ontario.


Media Contact
Jamie Williams
Specialist, Marketing & Communications
Credit Valley Conservation
905-670-1615 ext. 285

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