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Eliminating Obstacles Faced by Marginalized Communities in Sports

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In response to newcomer communities’ experiences of racism in sports groups, the Anti-Racism in Sport Campaign (ARISC) was started. 

The campaign hosted by Immigration Partnership Winnipeg is to increase, promote, and engage in discussion on anti-racism in sports and eliminate racism and discrimination experienced by First Nations, Metis, Inuit, Black, racialized, and religious minority communities participating in sports here in Winnipeg. 

Over the weekend, the campaign held its Access and Inclusion to Sport Conference, inviting the community and campaign partners for workshops, presentations, and discussions on ensuring sports in Winnipeg are accessible and inclusive for everyone. The conference tackled discussions concerning various minority groups who face barriers when looking to participate in sports. This included addressing the lack of representation in coaches and administration, including sports and recreation opportunities for people with disabilities, sporting experiences of women and girls, 2SLGBTQIA+ awareness and inclusion in sport, creating welcoming and culturally safe places in sport for newcomers, and Indigenous access and inclusion to the sport.

First on the agenda was a workshop to address the need for more representation in coaches and administration presented by the ARISC Youth Advisory Council. The workshop engaged with attending organizations and participants in identifying First Nations, Metis, Inuit, Black, or racialized individuals within their coaches and administrators, barriers for representation, the supports their organization offers and whether First Nations, Metis, Inuit, Black, or racialized folks were involved and engaged with decision making within their organization. 

Ushashi Orunima, one of the presenters, believes having youth and younger generations lead these conversations on inclusion is vital.

“Especially for the newer generation, we’re exposed to different groups, cultures, and religions. I think that inherently helps us learn about different types of people and what their values are. Because of that reason, the younger generation knows a lot more and are very much more informed than previous generations.”

The Youth Advisory Council ended its workshop with tangible recommendations organizations can incorporate into their policy and practices. A few examples are:

Short Term

Provide training to coaches and administration members on anti-racism/anti-racism literacy topics. Education will create a safer space for racialized folks. 

Medium Term

Develop and implement recruitment strategies aimed at underrepresented groups in coaching and administrative positions. 

Long Term

Implementing real, zero-tolerance policies (i.e., all incidents of racism will be addressed) can make a real difference. Implementing expectations of zero tolerance, etc. and following through and ensuring the policies are used, reflected upon, and regularly updated. 

Understanding intersectionality is necessary to remove the barriers individuals experience when entering sports. What are the cultural or social hurdles? Are services accessible for individuals of all physical capabilities? Are coaches and administration educated on inclusive language and practices? Are there services or resources available for low-income families to participate? These are just some of the questions addressed at the conference’s panels and questions sporting organizations need to be actively thinking about and engaging in. For Leah Ferguson, Program Manager at Canadian Women & Sport, one of the significant challenges they’re trying to overcome is having female athletes recognized on the same level as their male counterparts and that women in sport encompass a diverse range of people. 

“Our organization has made a heavy commitment to intersectionality, so really owning that women and girls in sport are not white women and girls but all women and girls. What does that mean for our programs, and how are we going to change things for the better? It’s been really amazing to see the changes in some of our programs. We have programs in northern Canada and diverse facilitators from all over Canada, which is amazing, and really allowing that change to happen to our organization.”

For individuals with disabilities, it’s also a challenge to be seen and respected as athletes. Peter Tonge, a community advocate, and Shawna Joynt, Interim President of Manitoba Deaf Sport Association, spoke on promoting sports and recreation opportunities for people with disabilities and the barriers to participation. According to Tonge, the cost of equipment and specialized coaching are just some of the obstacles for those with disabilities. He and others continue to advocate for inclusive spaces as the benefits are endless. 

“Sport not only brings community which is great, but it also brings physical awareness and fitness. What I discovered as a disabled person is that as I do more sports and become more fit, I become more capable in all the other areas of my life.”

Tonge adds every time we see success when incorporating those with disabilities within our organizations, we need to celebrate and highlight them. 

“Then it becomes the norm instead of the exception. Disability isn’t an exception, although it may sometimes be seen that way. Disability should be expected, and if we can get our organizations to start thinking about that as they’re planning and hiring, then those barriers will go away.”

Barriers to participation in sports continue to permeate our society, whether that’s discrimination based on someone’s ethnicity, gender, or sexuality, lack of education around non-gendered language or having spaces open to individuals emotionally and physically and, most importantly, safe. This conference and the Anti-Racism in Sport Campaign are stepping stones toward inclusion and accessibility. Removing the barriers we see will take a concerted effort from everyone. 

If your organization is looking to take tangible action on inclusion and accessibility, visit

– Ryan Funk, U Multicultural

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