Canadian Sports Programs Too Slow Re Inclusivity

By Ben Hamill - June 24 2020
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Canadian Sports Programs Too Slow Re Inclusivity

Canada hasn’t done nearly enough to ensure the inclusion and empowerment of the country’s Indigenous athletes in sports. So say those who participated in a recent online discussion panel hosted by CBC Sports in collaboration with CBC Indigenous. It’s now been five years since Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) first recommended that sports become more inclusive of and accessible by Indigenous athletes, and according to the experts who had participated in the panel discussions, the TRC’s goal remains far from achieved or reached.

But achieving any of the 94 “calls to action” made by the TRC back in 2015, will according to the experts, require a complete shift in the way the Canadians sports world thinks about sport. Mohawk Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller is of the opinion that Canadians typically view sport as a recreational pastime, when instead, to those who live in the Indigenous world, it’s so much more than just R&R, and right up there with suicide prevention and the building of leadership and community. The capacity of sports to build communities was according to Horn-Miller why the TRC had focused specifically on sport in the first place.

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More Must Be Done, Says Panel

Several Olympic and pro-athletes participated in the online discussions, including:

  • Serene Porter, who is the executive director of partnerships and marketing with the North American Indigenous Games (2021).
  • Trina Pauls, who is a 4th generation Arctic Winter Games participant and athlete. Pauls is from the Tahltan and Tlingit Nations.
  • Spencer O’Brien, Olympic snowboarder of the Haida and Kwakwaka’wakw Nations.
  • Waneek Horn-Miller.
  • Dr. Lynn Lavallée, indigenous sport, health and fitness instructor at Ryerson University. Dr. Lavallée is of the Anishinaabe/Métis Nations.

The panel focused specifically on the progress made with regard to calls Nos. 87 to 91, as released by the TRC in 2015. They are:

  • The availability of funding for community based as well as pro-sports initiatives.
  • The providing of education on the history of specifically Indigenous athletes.
  • The development of policies focused on cultural awareness as well as anti-racism training initiatives.

From Tragedy To Triumph

Horn-Miller’s story is one as poignantly relevant to the cause as any. The Olympian spent months on the very frontlines of the 1990 Oka Crisis as she fought for equality. Only 14 at the time, she was stabbed in the chest by a soldier’s bayonet and describes her development as an athlete as that which ultimately became the cornerstone in the complete rebuilding of her confidence in the face of severe and crippling discrimination.

She would eventually go on to win a gold medal at Pan-Am 1999 and in 2000 co-captained Canada’s first ever women’s water polo team in that year’s Olympic Games.

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