Sports and Reconciliation

Tansi Nîtôtemtik,

Today Team ReconciliAction will continue our evaluation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action with two calls regarding sports and reconciliation. The first Call to Action we will be discussing is #88, as follows:

  1. We call upon all levels of government to take action to ensure long-term Aboriginal athlete development and growth, and continued support for the North American Indigenous Games, including funding to host the games and for provincial and territorial team preparation and travel. 

What are the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG)? NAIG is a multi-sport event and cultural celebration where Indigenous athletes from across North America aged 13-19 participate in self-determined sports and cultural activities. The games have been held intermittently since 1990, and the first NAIG was held in Edmonton, Alberta in 1990. [1] Unfortunately, the 2020 NAIG was postponed due to the COVID pandemic. 

As per the NAIG, the vision of this event is to “improve the quality of life for Indigenous Peoples by supporting self-determined sports and cultural activities which encourage equal access to participation in the social / cultural / spiritual fabric of the community in which they reside and which respects Indigenous distinctiveness.” [2] The sports involved in NAIG range from badminton to wrestling, and typically host thousands of participants each time. 

March 9

(Image credit: NAIG,

So, has the federal government prioritized funding for NAIG? In 2017, Toronto hosted the NAIG. 88 days prior to the games, the federal government announced its commitment to provide $18.9 million over five years, and ongoing funding of $5.5 million to support Indigenous youth through sport for every four years following those five years. [3] A central theme of the 2017 games was TRC Call to Action #88, with a focus on the role sport plays in reconciliation. [4] Based on these efforts, Team ReconciliAction is awarding an “A” grade to this Call to Action.

The next Call to Action up to bat (sports pun intended) is Call to Action #89, which is as follows:

  1. We call upon the federal government to amend the Physical Activity and Sport Act to support reconciliation by ensuring that policies to promote physical activity as a fundamental element of health and well-being, reduce barriers to sports participation, increase the pursuit of excellence in sport, and build capacity in the Canadian sport system, are inclusive of Aboriginal peoples.

The Physical Activity and Sport Act is federal legislation that has five main objectives regarding  physical activity and sport as follows:

  • to promote physical activity as a fundamental element of health and well-being;
  • to encourage all Canadians to improve their health by integrating physical activity into their daily lives; and
  • to assist in reducing barriers faced by all Canadians that prevent them from being active 
  • to increase participation in the practice of sport and support the pursuit of excellence in sport; and
  • to build capacity in the Canadian sport system.[5]

While sport is already a part of many Indigenous cultures, barriers exist to Indigenous participation in sport/physical activity due to cost, cultural insensitivity, racism, distance, and lack of sport infrastructure in Indigenous communities. [6] Call to Action #89 recognizes these barriers and the need for action to address them. 

The federal government reports that dialogue has begun with some stakeholders regarding Call to Action 89. [7] However, there is minimal progress made regarding this Call to Action despite its relative simplicity. As a result, we are assigning a grade of “D” to the progress made thus far. It’s time to see some action towards making sport and physical activity more inclusive for Indigenous peoples.

88 and 89

Thanks for reading. Let us know what you think of these grades in the comments below!


Until next time, 


Team ReconciliAction YEG


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1North American Indigenous Games, “NAIG History”, online: North American Indigenous Games <>. 


3Government of Canada, “ Investing in the health and well-being of Indigenous youth through the power of sport” (April 19, 2017) online: <>. 

4North American Indigenous Games, “About Team 88”, online: <>. 

5Physical Activity and Sport Act, SC 2003, c 2, <>. [PASA]

6Canadian Heritage, “Sport Canada’s Policy On Aboriginal Peoples’ Participation In Sport” (May 2005) online (pdf): <>.

7Government of Canada, “Delivering on Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action: Sports and reconciliation” (Sept 5, 2019) <>.


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