5 active ways you can help welcome new citizens to Canada

As Canadians, we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive multicultural country. In fact, we were the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy in 1971. Our policy on multiculturalism is fundamental to our belief that all Canadian citizens are equal, all citizens can keep their identities, and they can take pride in their ancestry and find a sense of belonging here.

But despite our official policy, many Canadian newcomers still face a great deal of adversity when they arrive in Canada. It’s never easy to integrate into a new country when you’re also likely facing economic, cultural, language and social challenges when you arrive, among others.

NEW CANADIANS ALSO FACE BIG BARRIERS IN GETTING ACTIVE

  • Time and cost. The most familiar barrier for both new and old Canadians alike, it can be difficult to find the time to get active between work, parenting and life’s responsibilities. Depending on your sport of interest, it can also be costly.
  • Our highly structured sports system. We are lucky that Canada has a highly organized system that supports sport. In fact, Canada received a B in the 2016 Report Card for organized sport participation. But, the highly organized system can actually be difficult to access and unfamiliar to navigate for newcomers.
  • Newness brings nervousness. Another universally human experience, newcomers may not feel confident in their abilities to even consider approaching or trying to learn a new activity.
  • Information doesn’t reach its audience. If you don’t speak the local language it can be difficult to navigate the day-to-day, let alone finding the right information or resources you need to get moving. It can be tough to know where to buy tickets, register in sport programs and read up on the rules before heading to a game.
  • Violence in sports is intimidating. Many new citizens are hesitant about sports that are overly aggressive or violent. Hockey—one of our most iconic national sports—can be a daunting sport for parents to consider putting their kids in, as fighting is allowed in many cases.

As Canada’s population continues to grow, we want to remind ourselves of the opportunity sport and physical activity provides to help ease the difficult transition that Canadian newcomers face. In 2014, The Institute for Canadian Citizenship’s released a national study called Playing together – new citizens, sports & belonging. The report reminds us that, “for new immigrants, sport represents familiar, safe spaces to interact with new people. By playing together, we build connections, community and, ultimately, our country.” And, we know that the ParticipACTION 150 Play List is the perfect tool to get us started.

WHAT WE CAN DO

  • Break the ice! Interact with new immigrants when you meet them. Remember that more meaningful social interactions occur in the stands than at work. Encourage friends and newcomers to sign up for the 150 Play List on our program page.
  • Bring a friend to a team or activity. 69% of newcomers who play sport within the first 3 years believe it helps them learn about Canadian culture.
  • Encourage newcomers to watch a sport. 87% feel more connected to their community watching their kids play or volunteering with the team.
  • Share some local info. Making information available and easy to access is important. In 2017, when the Play List launches, we’re planning to include activity descriptions detailing how to play, where to play, equipment needed, adaptations and more for every activity that will make it onto the ParticipACTION 150 Play List.
  • Plan to visit a ParticipACTION 150 Play List Event in 2017. Come January, we will announce details about community events happening across Canada in celebration of the Play List. Everyone will have the chance to knock off a few activities from the list, at no cost to you.

Being physically active is an essential part of what it means to be Canadian. As we celeberate Canada’s 150th in 2017, we hope that the Play List creates opportunities to bring communities together, welcome new citizens, and get everyone moving a little more.

We hope you take the first step.