By Coralee Oakes
Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development
As the nation celebrates Sports Day in Canada, I hope this weekend finds you getting into the spirit-lacing up your skates, getting out your cross-country skis, practising yoga or whatever your preference.
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of marking a premier sporting event for the North, the 2015 Canada Winter Games, by announcing $275,000 in funding for northern sport on top of our $11.12-million contribution.
Today, while sport is front and centre on the national stage, I want to take this opportunity to talk about what our investment is doing for B.C. families now. The 2015 Games are much more than a two-week event. Already they are benefiting families and residents of the North and will continue to do so for years to come.
We are funding several programs to maximize the impact of the 2015 Games for everyone. In addition to test events and support for up-and-coming high performance athletes, our Northern Sport Strategy aims to give everyone in the North access to sport programs.
Does it work? You bet it does. With our partners, Pacific Sport Northern BC and ViaSport, we are striving to bring sport opportunities to even the most remote communities. So far, we've reached over 30 communities - like Francois Lake, Tachet, Kitwanga, Port Edward, and the Tlazten and Yekooche First Nations - training trainers and purchasing equipment so that opportunities are now and will continue to be accessible in the future.
We're funding participation programs that give kids in communities all over the North the chance to test-drive different sports-everything from skating to biathlon to curling to horseback riding-with certified coaches and trainers and the proper equipment.
And it's having results. I know of one group in Burns Lake, for example, that had a huge hit with a horseback-riding program for a group of 10-to-13-year-olds. Caring for the animals brought out the softer, compassionate sides of the kids and the entire dynamic changed. At the same time, the kids developed valuable new skills.
There are social benefits as well. I know of another group of kids in one of our programs from two different communities who weren't hitting it off to begin with, but who-over one lunchtime in a park-spontaneously made up their own original little game and played it all together. The connection was established, and it changed everything. It was the turning point for the group.
These programs are about sports and skill-building of course, but they're also about social connections, creating trust and building self-confidence. These are some of the side benefits of sport programs that we don't often hear about, but that are vital to the lives of kids growing up in the North.
We're now just over a year away from the opening of the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George. The Games will bring northern B.C. national exposure and publicity on a scale unlike any it has received before.
The economic impact alone will be substantial, expected to exceed $70 million. That means jobs for families in the North and income for local businesses.
But it's truly wonderful to be able to report that we don't have to wait to see rewards. The legacies of the 2015 Games have already started and they will have impact long after the Games are finished.
Happy Sports Day, B.C.!