‘Things need to change’: Anti-racism in sport campaign launched in Winnipeg

In Winnipeg, several non-profit organizations held a virtual launch of an anti-racism in sport campaign.

The campaign which runs until March 2022, will focus on research and awareness around addressing racism in sport.

The anti-racism in sport campaign is developed by Immigration Partnership Winnipeg (IPW), a non-profit organization designed to make immigrants and newcomers feel at home while promoting inclusion among all minorities.

IPW is one of more than 40 local immigration partnerships located in Canada. The goal of this campaign seeks to address all levels of racism.

Knowledge keeper Clayton Sandy from Sioux Valley Dakota Nation west of Winnipeg was invited to the launch to speak about life as a child and being excluded.

He said he still remembers it vividly because his family was the only First Nation family at the Canadian Armed Forces Base where his father was serving.

“When I look back and think about being excluded from many different things, living in the army base, just seemed like it was an ongoing thing where I became normalized to being excluded,” he said.

He hopes this campaign can help the kids – like his granddaughter – feel more inclusive, which would have a positive impact on them as they get older.

“I’m hoping that today can actually instill in people’s minds that things need to change, that things aren’t the same as they used to be but they’re still a little bit there. That we have a need to move forward and to get our young people, if we want them to grow up and be very productive and be good citizens they have to feel included so I’m hoping that can happen,” he said.

The campaign’s multifaceted approach includes a research project, school presentations, public awareness campaign, and an anti-racism in sport accord.

It also focuses on the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, specifically numbers 89 and 90.

“While so often we judge somebody’s participation in sport on their athletic abilities, what is often left out of the discussion is how racism and discrimination impacts an athlete’s participation to sport and sometimes impedes it from those athletes actually participating in sport. So our public awareness campaign emphasizes that anti-racism action is needed to create a truly equal playing field,” said Jessica Praznik, a project manager at IPW during the launch.

The research project will have focus groups with athletes and community members and collect data on the lived experiences of racism.

“Some of the main themes in our initial exploration include the lack of information in the literature in relation to the overall experiences of Indigenous, black, racialized and religious minority community members in Winnipeg with racism. The presence of racism towards this population at varied levels of sport in Canada, the subtle and overt ways that racism is displayed in sport presently,” said Craig Brown, a research consultant on this campaign.

“Even though initiatives addressing racism in sport exist, racism and discrimination remain very present issues in sport today.”

One of the partners involved is the Manitoba Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Council (MASRC). MASRC is also a non-profit that works with Indigenous communities, organizations and individuals to develop sustainable programs that improve opportunities for community members to participate in sport and recreation.

“We believe that healthy living and an active lifestyle are key to empowering our Indigenous youth and Indigenous communities in Manitoba. A part of that, or a big part of that, is racism that they face in the communities and out of the communities. So through this campaign, we hope to address and build the awareness of racism to help create that positive experience for our indigenous population in sport,” said Cadin Dupasquier, an Indigenous sports consultant with MASRC.

Daria Jorquera Palmer is a former Canadian national team athlete in fencing and is now fulfilling her time as the campaign’s project manager.

She hopes this campaign will inspire other cities and provinces to take on this initiative.

“I think this is where we’re hoping for it to start. We understand that this isn’t just a Winnipeg issue, that this is a worldwide issue. We hope that other provinces and other cities take on this initiative just as we have and we’re hoping that we can increase our funding so that we can continue this, not just for a one year campaign, but for much longer and have it be a sustainability piece in Winnipeg,” she said.

Various sports teams like the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Winnipeg Goldeyes are also partners in this initiative.

Manitoba Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage Cathy Cox hopes the initiative can open up more opportunities for athlete’s to be involved in sports.

“It’s important that we breakdown all barriers to ensure all interested athletes have equal access to sporting activities. There is no place for racism in our province. The campaign from Immigration Partnership Winnipeg provides us with a mechanism through which people are encouraged to open their minds and their hearts. And by increasing awareness, we cultivate an understanding of the range of opportunities that exist for athletes to participate in sport and physical activities here in our province,” she told APTN News.

The project is funded through Canadian Heritage’s anti-racism action program. The campaign received $266,100 in funding from Canadian Heritage along with support in staffing time and resources from their various campaign partners.

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