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Sunday, 1 July 2018

#TRC88: Aboriginal paddlers welcome academy. #Olympic dreams, am I a Normal person?

by: Jason Anson

1. Am I a normal person?” 

I felt I was always a normal person until I was 38 years old and diagnosed with a form of Autism known as High-Functioning Asperger’s. Which much to my surprise implied I was anything but normal.

2. How you came to be such a “normal” or “deviant” person, as the case may be. ? 

In 2011, Normal for me was my blog “The Sport Technologist Chronicles” and for me “deviant” was my unique perspective on my second blog introduced in 2013 “Living with Aspergers in Sport: My Evil Twin” post diagnosis. From 2004 to 2010, I developed athletic training software for retail and Olympic teams. By 2011, social media and blogging were a popular pastime for people. I wanted to explore the opportunities for demonstrating my skills as a Sport Technologist and I would develop a Sport Technology Canada Blueprint that helped all Canadian athletes to implement technology in their sport. In a short time, my social media would be extremely popular with more than 25,000 followers including many world sport scientists, sport organizations, coaching professionals and professional athletes. During this experience I came to see first hand how the mainstream and Indigenous sport institutions were treating the Indigenous people of Canada. Much to my surprise, my world would fall apart after being diagnosed with High-Functioning Asperger’s.



3. Have you ever been subject to sanction because you stepped outside of what would be considered normal behaviour? Some examples might include the sanctions directed at effeminate male children, sanctions because you did not fit into normal learning styles, sanctions because you looked or acted differently, etc.). 

In 2012, I would be one of the first to join the new “BC Aboriginal Canoe Committee” which was responsible for the selection process for the North American Indigenous Games. For a period of almost two years, I would participate in all the meetings leading up to the 2014 North American Indigenous Games. Once I started to challenge their practices and philosophy towards First Nations in the sport of canoe and kayak I was ostracized. Despite being on the Board, - they never notified me of scheduled meetings; made decisions without my expertise or participation; minimized my skills and knowledge; and disregarded what I was bringing to the table. I was “put out to pasture" in other words. Through my 5-Day BC Human Rights Tribunal Hearing (Victoria, BC) against the BC Aboriginal Friendship Centre who operates as the “Indigenous Sport and Recreation Council (iSPARC)”. I would learn that CanoeKayakBC Executive Director and iSPARC’s Director of Sport would go on to “gossip” regularly with a B.C. Government employee in the Ministry of Sport and Recreation by downplaying my involvement in the sport of canoe and kayak at the time (2012-2014). That employee would then forward emails and make claims that were a) false about me or b) lacking full information to comprehend the situation - to members of Parliament including the Deputy Minister to the Minister of Sport and Recreation in B.C. Not only were these “gossip” emails obtained under the BC Freedom of Information Act (FOI), The television show “APTN Investigates” Executive Producer would comment after a lengthy investigation that his sources said “"The story I’m getting from the others is that a few insiders spend most of their time, energy and money on protecting their own jobs " from the things I was saying. The APTN investigation sources revealed: “they back up what you’re saying about there not be any emphasis on pursuing excellence and world class competition. The Indigenous games are basically a recreational level athletic event and there is no interest in identifying potential world class Indigenous athletes and then developing them.”

4. In other words, did you ever feel pressure to normalize and, if so, how did you deal with that pressure? 

In past years I had the ability to mimic “normal” behaviours, mannerisms, and attitudes of successful individuals and “fake it” for a period of time. This allowed me to present myself as ‘normal’. I went to Toastmasters to learn how to speak in public, I learned how to dress for success, I learned what was acceptable by certain population groups and behaved accordingly. However, the energy to maintain this facade was immense and would occasionally result in miscommunication; misinterpretation, and anger. On the eve of my Human Rights Tribunal hearing, the Institutions lawyers were reconsidering my entry to coach paddlers to train for the 2017 North American Indigenous Games. However, they wanted assurance that I was going to behave “normally” moving forward by talking directly to my medical professionals. Yet, the Tribunal was not about my medical disabilities, but rather about their retaliation towards me for having a disability. This would lead to the negotiations breaking down and the hearing proceeded as scheduled. I was given an opportunity to “act normal” if I virtually kept quiet and did not question any decision they would make in the future. There was no attempt by the Sport Organization to educate themselves on the needs and characteristics of an Asperger’s Adult, nor were they interested in finding ways to accommodate my unique challenges in order to work with me. Either I conformed totally, kept quiet about my concerns or I was out. The result was --- I was out. I could not be other than who I was - an Asperger’s person who has a has expertise in a select area; dedication to detail, and a tireless attention to ‘getting it right.’


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