The Sport Canada Institutions: CanoeKayak Canada and Own The Podium
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” . 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.