I am incredibly excited to be joining the SLSG team and I look forward to connecting with so many of you in the near future. With Fall around the corner, it’s a good time to pause and reflect on the past few months, re-energize, and prepare both mentally and physically to face September head on, mask and all.
When I think back to my New Year’s Eve celebrations on December 31, 2019, I certainly did not foresee 2020 unfolding the way it has. In addition to the global COVID-19 pandemic, police brutality and acts of racism and violence in the U.S., while not new, have revitalized the conversation around racism in America and elsewhere. Closer to home, a report from the Ontario Human Rights Commission released earlier this month confirms that Black people are disproportionately arrested, charged, and subjected to the use of force by Toronto police.[i] Similarly, the CBC reported at the end of last month that Black people and other people of colour have made up 83% of reported COVID-19 cases in Toronto despite making up only half of Toronto's population.[ii]
Though these recent reports focus primarily on Toronto, they allow us to consider the social inequality that persists in all of our communities. In practising human rights law, I hear too many stories from individuals who have experienced discrimination in our society on the basis of race, disability, sexual orientation, religion, and other grounds—individuals who have been stigmatised, forgotten, and even blatantly mistreated when attempting to access goods and services, in housing, at their workplace, or even in a sporting context. I see the physical and emotional toll that can result from acts of discrimination, especially when the discrimination is ongoing and institutionalised. No one, and I mean no one, likes to feel ignored, misunderstood, devalued, or excluded.
For the Canadian sport community, now is an opportune time for reflection, and personal and collective growth. What has this year taught us so far? What can we learn from each other? How are our athletes feeling? How are our parents, coaches, and employees feeling? What can and should we do to move the needle forward on matters of diversity and inclusion in the Canadian sport system? And why is it important to do so?
Sport has always been a huge part of my life. My involvement with organized sport started at a young age, and over the years I’ve participated as an athlete, coach, referee, administrator, lawyer, and fan. I’ve come to understand that sport, like the law, can play a role in directing behaviours, raising awareness, facilitating change, and laying the foundations for a more sophisticated and advanced society. As Wilfried Lemke, former Special Advisor to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Sport for Development and Peace says, “Sport has a crucial role to play to improve the lives of people around the world. Sport builds bridges between individuals and across communities, providing a fertile ground for sowing the seeds of development and peace.”
I believe organizations need to take on the responsibility of addressing and eliminating all forms of discrimination. All of us in the sports community must engage in conversations around equity, diversity, and inclusion. Some of these conversations have already begun. My role at the SLSG will be to work with you to facilitate dialogue, educate, train, learn, and grow in this area. We can help you develop the policies, programs, and practices you need to create and sustain environments that are diverse, inclusive, and leave people with a strong sense of pride in themselves and their organizations.
If we can create environments open and accessible to all where various cultures, experiences, and viewpoints are respected and valued, we’ll be letting anyone involved in any of our sports organizations know and feel that they belong in that space.
Diversity. Inclusion. Belonging. We’ll dive into these terms and ideas in the days to come. For now, I want to leave you with an analogy I heard recently, which has a few iterations floating around, but goes something like this:
“Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, and belonging is having that voice be heard.”
Your comments will make this a conversation and not a monologue. I welcome any feedback you may wish to share.
[i] Ontario Human Right Commission, A Disparate Impact: Second interim report on the inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service. See http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/disparate-impact-second-interim-report-inquiry-racial-profiling-and-racial-discrimination-black
[ii] CBC News, July 30, 2020. “Black people and other people of colour make up 83% of reported COVID-19 cases in Toronto”. See https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-covid-19-data-1.5669091?fbclid=IwAR2-aLbvRwQRWH-CY5AF8D29Y2FC36loXfHUquBjeABY4Q3PaTwyIzOHLkw