The first Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Anti-Racism Week took place a year ago. It marked a new beginning for the Sport and Recreation sectors to come together and stand up against racism in our systems and in our spaces. Sport has such a positive impact on so many youth, so it’s important to make sure that those friendships and the life skills learned on the field can be experienced by everyone. Racism is one more way to cut people out, leave them behind, and make sport something that’s only for some. Sometimes racism looks and sounds like athletes or spectators yelling slurs at opponents, or coaches refusing to coach athletes who look a certain way. But this can also look and sound like organizations and institutions being happy with the status quo and not putting any time or effort into changing how they operate.
One year ago, Sport Nova Scotia held its first BIPOC Engagement Session. It was a closed space, lead by racialized folks, for racialized folks. Those who attended were encouraged to speak openly about barriers they and their communities face, along with offering suggestions around how to create change. The themes which came out weren’t overly surprising to anyone in that room; cost, transportation, facility availability, representation, communication, etc. However, the fact that meeting took place was an important step in generating momentum for change. In the following months, there were two follow-up events, one of which was a closed space for racialized women only, trying to tackle the unique realities of some intersecting identities. The goal of all the meetings were the same: generate good conversations, make meaningful connections, and try to move the needle forward.
In June of this year, Sport Nova Scotia, supported by partners from Canadian Sport Institute Atlantic and the Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism & Heritage (government), embarked on creating an Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Accessibility (EDIA) Strategic Plan for the entire sport sector in Nova Scotia. The plan, aimed to be released in early 2024, will look to address equity-related issues when it comes race, gender, sexual orientation, indigeneity, disability and more. While it may not be specific to anti-racism, many of the roots of this plan can be tied back to the significant contributions from that room at the Zatzman Sportsplex, nearly a year ago today, where a group of racialized community leaders came out and shared their vision of what better looks like.
The work isn’t done, and the work won’t be done for a while. We all share the responsibility of creating actively anti-racist spaces. Whether it’s an athlete, coach, official, staff, volunteer, parent, or spectator, everyone has a role to play in combatting racism in our sport spaces. Part of the goal of Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Anti-Racism Week is to build stronger anti-racism allyship at all levels of our systems and institutions. Public campaigns, educational resources and community engagements are extremely important, but ultimately is it up to you and me to do this work every day.