The Sport Information Resource Centre
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The Sport Information Resource Centre

Research shows that new immigrants to Canada who participate in sport and physical activity increase their social networks, improve their health, and better integrate themselves into Canadian society. These findings highlight the importance of critically evaluating ‘Intro to Sport’ programs and their effectiveness in welcoming newcomers to Canadian sport.

Canadian soccer superstar Alphonso Davies, who plays for FC Bayern Munich and Team Canada, arrived in Canada as a refugee when he was 5 years old. “Refugees need our support to survive, but also access to education and sports, so they can fulfil their potential and truly thrive,” says Davies, who was appointed as a Global Goodwill Ambassador in 2021.

Sport participation can help welcome newcomers to their new country. Sport administrators can create more inclusive and welcoming programs by involving newcomers in program planning and implementation. Partnering with community organizations that have experience supporting newcomers can also be helpful.

“Senior decision-makers in community sport organizations need to create opportunities for program leaders to share their experiences and knowledge. Staff know the barriers and challenges experienced by participants, but those barriers and challenges can persist if insights aren’t filtered up the organizational hierarchy.” – Amina Haggar, a University of Ottawa graduate student, shares insights from her research on the sport experiences of second-generation African Canadian girls.

For community sport organizations, newcomers to Canada are an important source of future participants/members, staff, and volunteers. Taking the time to consider the experiences of newcomers when they walk through your doors or onto your fields – and taking action to make those experiences better – can help build authentic and long-lasting relationships.

Research suggests newcomers to Canada turn to sport and physical activity for many reasons, including expanding one’s social network, improving health and wellness, and integrating into Canadian society. Sport organizations can build on this opportunity to expand their networks and membership through authentic engagement.

Creating inclusive programs and environments is a priority for many organizations, but what does this mean in practice? Inspiring programs such as the Hijabi Ballers, Free Footie and the North Preston Surf Program put the inclusion principles of respect, dignity and openness into action.

Coaches can play an important role in teaching athletes about healthy relationships in and through sport. The Coaching Association of Canada is leading a new project to build the capacity of coaches and other sport system stakeholders to help prevent and address gender-based and teen dating violence. To learn about the project and complete coach and athlete surveys to help develop new training materials, click here. (Note: Surveys available until February 27th.)

For newcomers, informal sport can be an initial (and long-term) source of friendships and social networks that help with settlement, integration and belonging. However, in Sydney, Australia, the commercialization of public outdoor space, whether for rentals or redevelopment, is threatening this type of participation. Learn more in this article from The Conversation.

Immigration is diversifying Canadian communities, and represents an important audience for the Canadian sport and physical activity sector. This video, produced through the Government of Canada’s #ImmigrationMatters initiative, shares the story of how the Charlottetown Skating Club was revived by the enthusastic participation of the Chinese community.

For tips on engaging newcomers to Canada in your community, check out this SIRC blog.