Multiculturalism and Federal Sport Policy in Canada – Critical Response

Through all of my experience studying policy one thing is clear: policy making, sport or otherwise, is a balancing act. Through its policy making, Sport Canada has highlighted four main priorities: excellence, participation, capacity, and interaction. “Which of these priorities is most important?” is a debate that has existed in the Canadian sport landscape for a long time. Some believe that developing elite athletes to compete for national programs should be Sport Canada’s focus. Others believe that increasing participation and improving the health of the nation should be the main priority. When the concept of multiculturalism became part of this debate the waters got even murkier.

Multiculturalism is a notion that has constantly been evolving in Canada. At one point the only immigrants entering Canada came from Europe, particularly from Western European countries with some knowledge of English or French. Now there are people from all corners of the globe, especially Asia, entering Canada and becoming new citizens. This article highlights some of the difficulties that Sport Canada has to face in this constantly changing environment.

The reading mentions that Canada’s increased multiculturalism can be viewed as an asset, as these new citizens bring knowledge of many different sports with them to Canada. Ironically hockey, a sport traditionally played by white men, with a history of exclusion, is referenced as the sport with the strongest multiculturalism policies. It seems that hockey is one of the few elements of Canadian culture that immigrants have assimilated to. This is not only evident when looking at Hockey Canada’s planner, but also CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, which offers broadcasts in Punjabi.

After reading about the difficulties being faced by Canadian sport policy makers I have come to a conclusion that would improve the process. The Department of Canadian Heritage, Health Canada, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada should pool their resources and generate an effective, multicultural sport policy. Perhaps a portion of the immigration process should focus on sport and health. If the Department of Citizenship and Immigration is able to collect and record this information from all incoming immigrants it will greatly assist the other departments in their efforts. Policy is the infrastructure of any organization so, like any other piece of infrastructure, it must be constantly evaluated and corrected to meet the needs of a constantly changing population. By working with other federal departments Sport Canada can improve their multicultural policies and improve the Canadian sport landscape for the better.

Frisby, W., Thibault, L., & Cureton, K. (2014). Multiculturalism and Federal sport policy in Canada. In I. Henry & L.M. Ko (Eds.). Routledge handbook of sport policy (pp. 106-116). NY: Routledge.

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