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Playing Together

New Citizens, Sports & Belonging

October 21, 201521 October 2015

Benefits of the arts

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While not related to the arts, this report is an interesting example of research into new citizens’ participation in Canadian life, in the world of sports. The report is based on a survey of 4,157 new citizens residing in urban areas who have participated “in the Institute for Canadian Citizenship’s Cultural Access Pass program”, focus groups in eight Canadian cities, and a literature review of sports organizations’ focus on immigration and diversity. As noted in the report, “since the sample is not a random sample of all new Canadian citizens, a margin of error cannot be calculated and the results are not statistically representative of all new Canadian citizens”. The report indicates that most “new citizens” are not particularly new to Canada, as most survey respondents “have lived in Canada for five to seven years”.

According to the survey, 95% of respondents think that “sports are an important part of Canadian culture”, which the report attributes to two main reasons:

  • “Sports have the ability to generate national pride and a more intense connection to Canada and being Canadian.”
  • “Sports are a natural – or ‘universal’ – connection point between people, helping them feel at home in their new country.”

Common reasons for participating in sports include staying healthy (cited by 95% of survey respondents), becoming or staying fit (90%), having fun (88%), and reducing stress (82%). Two key barriers to sport participation among respondents include cost (cited by 62% of respondents) and a lack of time (52%). The report notes that these barriers are “structural” ones that are shared by many other Canadians.

The report recommends potential strategies for “getting new citizens in the game”, including:

  • Creating “a centralized online information hub on sports in Canada, especially designed for newcomers”.
  • Providing “basic information about sports and recreation infrastructure in the Welcome Package distributed when permanent residents enter Canada”.
  • Providing sports-related information “where newcomers congregate – at settlement organizations, English/French classes, libraries, and community centres”.
  • Recruiting new citizen ambassadors who could spread the word about sporting activities and sports participation opportunities.
  • Letting new citizens “try [attending sports] before they buy [a ticket]”.

The report concludes that sports “have the ability to connect people from different backgrounds and provide safe spaces for them to explore different cultures”.

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