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Sunday, 24 June 2018

The Sport Canada Institutions: CanoeKayak Canada and Own The Podium

by: Jason Anson

The Mainstream/Whitestream Sport Canada Institutions 

When I think like a Sociologist and I reflect on my own actions, interactions and agreement to the “rules” of the world. I think about the organized institutions of a) CanoeKayak Canada and b) Sport Canada, a department of the Federal Government. Both institutions operate with structures, boundaries and rules. What many might not know is that Canada operates with two sports streams based on race. This Canadian sports system is known academically as the “Double Helix” which includes an a) Indigenous stream and b) a Mainstream one, also referred to as “whitestream”. When I reflect on my own personal experiences with both institutions, I feel they fall short of their own mandate and idealism they put forward and do not follow their own rules.

The Institution of CanoeKayak Canada 

My relationship with this institution started in 2012, when I was a canoe and kayak coach living on a remote “aboriginal rez” for a period of 18-months. My goal and purpose was to prepare a group of youth to qualify for the 2014 North American Indigenous Games Canoe Championships and onwards to our own Olympic dreams. That experience resulted in me being one of the “nominees” that year for their “Coach Excellence Awards: Development Award”. The CanoeKayak Canada Development Award “is presented annually to the coach who has clearly demonstrated his or her abilities to develop a club/ sport through the grassroots levels of building a club/ or program - such as an aboriginal paddling or PaddleALL program, or the promotion of the sport through the club.”

By 2015, this relationship would end with a complaint to “The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal between I, Jason Anson (complainant) and CanoeKayak Canada and Own the Podium, Case No. 2015-22176-I”. At the core of my complaint was inclusion for Indigenous youth to be considered and be given a fair/equal opportunity to access CanoeKayak Canada’s “Next Gen Program”. This is an Olympic pathway program initiated by the institute “Own the Podium” and it was not open to the Indigenous stream or anyone outside of a select group of teenagers (predominantly, if not all, white in descent and from the mainstream system). This “Next Gen” program was focusing on the upcoming 2020 and 2024 Olympics. It provides a group of youth advanced training techniques and opportunities for them to stay on the pathway to their goals.

The Institution of Sport Canada 

My relationship with CanoeKayak Canada came to an end, just as the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action” were released in December 2015. In that Report a “Sports and Reconciliation” Calls to Action #87 -91 were released. It was at that time, the same group of elders/parents/youth I was associated with formed the “Indian Residential School Survivors, Offspring and Products” [2016]. I would lobby on their behalf to the federal government department of Sport Canada under the registered lobbying name of “Aboriginal Sports and Reconciliation Consultants Canada” each month for a period of one year throughout 2016 on how their “Sport Canada’s Policy on Aboriginal Peoples’ Participation in Sport” (The aboriginal sport policy released in 2005) were being ignored by the institution of CanoeKayak Canada. The institution ‘Sport Canada’ who funds ‘CanoeKayak Canada’ was going to address the Calls to Action with their proposed solution. Ironically, my efforts in both areas would end with a case example of exclusion from both institutions, Sport Canada and CanoeKayak Canada.

It was these experiences that led me to start studying Sociology in 2017 and discover my own sociological imagination. From my experience and extensive research on the topic, it became clear that both Institutions were not applying the rules equally. One group followed their own set of rules. The Dominant mainstream/whitestream culture does not appear to take the Indigenous stream and culture seriously when it comes to sports. They do this in a way that leaves their actions looking more like forms of Tokenism - which allows them to move their own agenda forward, such as in a series of propaganda-type photo shoots and articles showing continued success. These patterns of events are continuous and can be seen over the past 30 years of the North American Indigenous Games. In my experience, their philosophy/actions/ hidden intent leaves the Indigenous stream and community with broken dreams and at best a recreational experience only, regardless of the rules in place to provide real opportunities.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Introduction to War Canoeology: “Olympics! Meet war canoe racing.” The Mainstream/Whitestream and the Indigenous stream

by Jason Anson

Mainstream/Whitestream War Canoe Racing
In Canada, we have “war canoe” racing in the sport of canoe/kayak and with it come a number of sociological problems. The problems include those of the origin of race, class and culture in society. Over the past decade, despite a) newspaper articles, b)  letters to politicians, c) online petitions and d) the filling a human rights complaint against the institution of CanoeKayak Canada (Formerly known as the Canadian Canoe Association - CCA). This organization disregards the indigenous stream of “war canoe” racing in preference of their own version of “mainstream/whitestream” “war canoe” racing in what academics refer to as the “Double Helix” sport system adopted by the Federal Government of Sport Canada.
Indigenous stream of War Canoe Racing

  • Social Movements - As a result of the Canadian “Indian” residential school system, First Nations people are trying to reconnect with their culture. A symbolic part of their culture is the canoe and specifically the “war canoe” where First Nations people of Canada went to war using these canoes against other tribes pre-colonisation. A small group of Coast Salish families on the west coast of Canada race “Indian War Canoes”.
  • Collective Activities - The mainstream sport of “war canoe” racing is a predominantly white sport in Canada. We know from history that white people didn’t go to war in a canoe and as a result is not part of their cultural makeup. Despite this fact, it didn't stop Hugues Fournel, an Olympic Kayaker from saying “Everybody's screaming and you feel like you are in a war and thats why its called war canoe and it's one of the oldest, oldest races we do in Canada”.
  • Class - The Institution CanoeKayak Canada, which overseas the pathway to the Olympics via the International Canoe Federation, has all the federal money to put them in a class of their own compared to the Indigenous population of Canada. For example they can get CBC news to write articles about their colonial version of the war canoe - such as seen when CBC Nova Scotia journalist Nina Corfu wrote an article called “New $25K war canoe gives Banook paddlers edge in 'very Canadian' sport.  They also get Television attention by putting their Olympians on to make statements such as Hugues Fournel, an Olympic Kayaker said “Every kid, every club, if you’re in a canoe club somewhere in Canada, you’re for sure going to do War Canoe.” The reporter says, that the mainstream/whitestream “war canoe” “is considered the cadillac of canoes, that Fournel and Ontario’s Taylor Potts, a gold medal winner here as a stepping stone at the club level for their success.” Their narrative simply drowns out the Indigenous one on the topic and they see nothing wrong as a result.
  • Power - In the Windspeaker newspaper article called “Olympics! Meet war canoe racing.” by Sam Lakaris in 2003 writes about a Coast Saalish man on Vancouver Island. - “If Derrick George had a wish, it would be to see the sport of war canoe racing added to the Summer Olympics' roster of activities.” When Sam Lakaris writes “For starters, George will have to get the support of the Canadian Canoe Association (CCA). But John Edwards, the CCA's domestic program director, said he knows nothing about George's initiative. "I haven't heard anything about this," he said. "That's all news to us. But we're all the way out here in Ottawa."” he does not mention that the same John Edwards is also a) trying to get his institutions version of the “war canoe” to the Olympics and b) John Edwards sits on the board of directors of the International Canoe Federation which is affiliated with the Olympic committee for the sport of canoe. In 2012, the CCA would be successful in bringing a group of white only participants to demonstrate their own version of the “War Canoe” to the London 2012 Games as seen in the Globe and Mail, leaving the Indigenous peoples of Canada excluded, despite knowing their intent and wishes to bring their own war canoe to the Olympics. John Edwards was in a position of power to reasonably help Derrick George with his dreams, however took his own Institutions interest in lieu forward as seen at the London games at the 2012 Olympics.