Victoria, BC – More Indigenous athletes and coaches from around British Columbia will be able to represent their communities and compete at the 2020 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Halifax, thanks to funding from the Province.
“Every athlete should be able to experience the benefits of sport and the thrill of competing. But between travel and registration fees, competitions can be expensive,” said Premier John Horgan. “These costs shouldn’t hold families back from sending their kids to the Games. We wish the athletes on Team BC the very best and we look forward to seeing you compete in 2020.”
B.C. is boosting Indigenous athlete participation in the Games with $1.46 million in funding to offset costs for more than 500 athletes, coaches, chaperones and mission staff from B.C. Without this funding, fees would need to be increased and participation on Team BC would be out of reach for many families. Reducing barriers to participation in sport remains a priority for both the provincial government and the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council (I∙SPARC), the provincial organization that oversees B.C.’s participation in the NAIG.
“We want to level the playing field and give every young athlete in B.C. the chance to be physically active, connect with their peers and compete in the sport of their choice,” said Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary for Sport and Multiculturalism. “Supporting Indigenous athlete development is one way our government is creating new opportunities for kids to get involved in sport and advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in B.C.”
The funding will be administered by I·SPARC. Its Team BC program provides an opportunity for Indigenous athletes to experience a major international sport competition and to share and celebrate their cultural heritages with other youth. The investment responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action No. 88 that calls on all levels of government to support the Games, including funding for provincial team preparation and travel.
This support is one of the ways the B.C. government is helping make life more affordable for people, while giving kids the opportunity to get into sport, regardless of their household income.
“As we prepare to launch our province wide Team BC selection processes, we gratefully acknowledge the Province for this investment,” said Rick Brant, executive director, I·SPARC. “Through the Province’s continued support, we are having a direct and positive impact on reducing barriers for Indigenous athletes to compete at this unique international celebration of youth excellence in sport. We look forward to the 2020 Games where Team BC will defend its overall team title.”
The North American Indigenous Games is a multi-sport competition and cultural festival. Spread over eight days, the event includes 17 sports and is expected to draw more than 5,000 Indigenous youth from approximately 750 First Nations.
I·SPARC works with First Nations, Métis Chartered Communities, Friendship Centres, schools and other sport and health-sector stakeholders to deliver community-based programs. These programs promote having an active lifestyle and support transformative change in the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples, families and communities in B.C.
“I’m very fortunate and happy to have been chosen for Team BC for Toronto 2017 and Regina 2014,” said Mike Maresca, a Team BC alumnus and box lacrosse medallist. “Toronto was especially important to me as it gave me a chance to meet my favourite players and inspirations as they’re from that area. Travelling to new places, meeting new people, creating new friendships, and getting to play the game I love are all memories I’m grateful for and will cherish. I appreciate all the support and funding in place to make this experience possible. Good luck to future athletes and be courageous.”
- The 2020 North American Indigenous Games will be hosted in the Mi’kmaq Nation in Halifax July 12-18, 2020.
- The 2017 Games were held in Toronto. Team BC placed first with 176 total medals (65 gold, 57 silver, 48 bronze) winning the overall Team Title for the second Games in a row.
- The Province recently announced a historic investment of $2.5 million in KidSport. This funding will help increase participation by children who are often under-represented in sport, including Indigenous children, children from lower-income families, children and youth with disabilities, girls and newcomers to Canada.