Sports get inclusive in Manitoba

A familiar song rang throughout Winnipeg’s Bell MTS Place on Saturday—but with a twist.

With an enthusiastic public looking on, an Indigenous children’s choir sang O Canada in Ojibwe. They sang while wearing Manitoba Moose jerseys stylized with Indigenous imagery.

Something similar happened the previous night, when the Strong Warrior Girls Anishinaabe Singers sang the anthem. It was the first time anyone had sung the anthem in Ojibwe at a professional sporting event.

The theme of inclusion continued all night as the Moose took on the Laval Rocket while wearing the same jersey.

The designer who created the revamped Moose logo said this is personal for her.
It took graphic designer Leticia Spence around one month to finish the project, she said. RYAN JOB
“I’m really doing this for my family,” said Leticia Spence, 29. “Most people in First Nations communities—there’s a huge hockey culture over there…It was important for me.”

It’s all part of a larger trend in Winnipeg to make sports more welcoming.

The Winnipeg Newcomer Sport Academy has been hosting sports nights for new Canadians since 2016.

“It just creates community, right?” said program coordinator Michael Kananoja. “These kids need to be able to meet other kids from the area and create friendships.”

Besides obvious ones like money, other barriers like transportation can keep new Canadians from participating in sports, Kananoja said. The Academy buses kids in for their activities.

Parents can also benefit from sports—with 87 per cent of newcomer parents saying volunteering or watching their kids play sports helps them feel more connected to their communities, according to non-profit Community Foundations of Canada.

As for the Moose players, goaltender Eric Comrie said he was honoured to wear the special jersey.

The Winnipeg Newcomer Sport Academy has been holding two sports nights a week for newcomers since 2016. Sports are important to create community for the newly arrived kids, says program coordinator Michael Kananoja.
Fans at the Manitoba Moose game heard a familiar sound on Saturday: O Canada, but in Ojibwe. Moose players also wore a special Indigenous-inspired jersey.
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Sports can offer serious benefits to newcomers, according to Community Foundations of Canada. But getting involved isn't always simple. What's keeping some newcomers out, and what are they missing out on?
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This weekend the O Canada was sung in Ojibwe at a professional sporting event for this first time. For many Indigenous people, that's a great source of pride.