Truth, Reconciliation, and Sport
Jason Peters is the Chief Executive Officer of Aboriginal Sport and Recreation New Brunswick. He was also Chef de Mission of Team NB at the 2017 North America Indigenous Games.
Two major happenings have changed the Indigenous landscape within Canada: 1) the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and 2) the overall demographics within the context of Indigenous peoples. These same two happenings have also had an effect on sport and Indigenous peoples.
Are you a coach that’s starting a sport program within an Indigenous community? Do you coach Indigenous athletes? Here are for tips to help with your coaching journey.
Tip #1: Sports and Reconciliation
On June 2nd, 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) introduced the terms “truth” and “reconciliation” to Canadians. Canada and the world took notice of the residential school issue that plagued many First Nation, Inuit and Metis peoples for nearly one hundred years. The TRC listed 94 calls to action to, among others, child welfare, language and culture, health, justice, and reconciliation. The TRC also made the following recommendations pertaining to sport; I’d like to particularly single out call to action 90(iii).
87. We call upon all levels of government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, sports halls of fame, and other relevant organizations, to provide public education that tells the national story of Aboriginal athletes in history.
88. We call upon all levels of government to take action to ensure long-term Aboriginal athlete development and growth, and continued support for the North American Indigenous Games, including funding to host the games and for provincial and territorial team preparation and travel.
89. We call upon the federal government to amend the Physical Activity and Sport Act to support reconciliation by ensuring that policies to promote physical activity as a fundamental element of health and well-being, reduce barriers to sports participation, increase the pursuit of excellence in sport, and build capacity in the Canadian sport system, are inclusive of Aboriginal peoples.
90. We call upon the federal government to ensure that national sports policies, programs, and initiatives are inclusive of Aboriginal peoples, including, but not limited to, establishing:
i. In collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, stable funding for, and access to, community sports programs that reflect the diverse cultures and traditional sporting activities of Aboriginal peoples.
ii. An elite athlete development program for Aboriginal athletes.
iii. Programs for coaches, trainers, and sports officials that are culturally relevant for Aboriginal peoples.
iv. Anti-racism awareness and training programs.
Tip #2 – Engage Young Aboriginals
Did you know the Aboriginal population is the fastest growing demographic within Canada? The majority of the Aboriginal population is under 25 years of age, and with the decrease in population in some regions of Canada, it is vitally important to engage with the Indigenous community earlier rather than later. The benefits of this engagement can and will assist in boosting the number of youth participating in sport or recreation programs.
Tip #3 – Relationship Building
Relationship building is a big part of working with Indigenous communities and their youth. This takes time; after all, there is a 500-year old relationship that hasn’t been the most positive. As a coach, you need to be present within the community by getting to know community members (Elders, Chief, and Council). In addition to playing the role of a coach within Indigenous communities, your job description may also include trainer, manager, fundraiser, bus driver, team physician, cheerleader, and mentor for our youth. Just like any other coaching opportunity, you will find it extremely rewarding!
Tip #4 – Keep Learning
Don’t get overwhelmed, there is help out there! The Coaching Association of Canada and the Provincial or Territorial Coaching Aboriginal Sport Bodies offer a National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) workshop that assists coaches who working in Indigenous communities. The Aboriginal Coaching Module is a professional development training tool for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal coaches who coach Aboriginal athletes, as they become certified through the NCCP. The CAC also offers other valuable resources as part of its Aboriginal Coaching Program.