Talk to Us!

Banff and area

Community Profile:

The Bow Valley Literacy Program, along with its parent organization, the Bow Valley Learning Council, serves the communities of Banff and Canmore (with a combined population of over 21,000) as well as the MD of Bighorn, Kananaskis, and Lake Louise. Located in the Rocky Mountains, this is an active community, with people coming from all over the world to hike, bike, canoe, climb, ski or simply take in the spectacular scenery.

Tourism is the main industry in the Bow Valley, and hotels, restaurants, shops, and galleries abound. The prospect of employment attracts people from around Canada as well as many new Canadians, temporary foreign workers, and people with working holiday visas. Many agencies and volunteer organizations work hard to make sure that we have an inclusive, welcoming community. Community meals, sporting events, and free or low-cost recreation opportunities take place regularly.



Community name: Banff, Canmore, Dead Man’s Flats, Exshaw, Harvey Heights, Kananaskis, Lac des Arcs, Morely, and Lake Louise.

English Language Learner Support Services:

The main focus of the Bow Valley Literacy Program is to create learning partnerships between volunteer tutors and literacy learners or English language learners. Work schedules, limited child care options, and other factors make it difficult for some learners to attend classes; therefore, the flexibility offered by one-on-one learning partnerships is invaluable. The BVLP has a thriving volunteer tutoring program; we supported 37 learning partnerships in the 2014–15 year.

Drop-in groups and classes are another way in which we meet the needs of those who may not be able to sign up for a class. The BVLP offers a weekly conversation group in Canmore; the Bow Valley Learning Council offers one in Banff; and the Banff Language School provides a low-cost evening option. These groups provide opportunities for learners to gain confidence, supplement other learning, and develop networking skills.

The Town of Banff offers evening English Language Learning classes and Bow Valley College offers ELL and LINC classes, along with CLB (Canadian Language Benchmarks) testing and placement. The BVLP hosts weekly consultations with learners to make sure that they are aware of all the learning opportunities they have access to—as time, immigration status, and the demands of daily life allow.


Community Challenges:

Our community is very spread out, making it difficult for individuals in smaller, more remote areas to access learning opportunities. Staffing shortages, a lack of affordable child care, and transportation costs are further obstacles.

BVLP services are in high demand and it is a challenge to recruit and train volunteers at a rate that meets the need.

While there are excellent supports for beginner and intermediate learners, there are fewer options for (ESL) literacy learners or advanced learners who want to develop greater fluency in writing and speaking.

Community Support:

Our community has a great network of support for learners and service providers, including the following:

  • Banff, Canmore, and MD of Bighorn libraries
  • Bow Valley College
  • Bow Valley Immigration Partnership
  • Bow Valley Settlement Services
  • Community Learning Network
  • FCSS Banff and Canmore
  • Innovation and Advanced Education Alberta
  • Job Resource Centre
  • Parent Link
  • Soroptimists International – Banff National Park Chapter
  • Temporary Foreign Worker Support Services – Bow Valley
  • YWCA Banff

Local Contact:

Bow Valley Literacy Program
Deb Penninga, Coordinator