More Indigenous athletes and coaches from around British Columbia will be able to represent their communities and compete at the 2020 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Mi’kmaq Nation in Halifax, thanks to funding from the Province.
On June 28, the office of Premier John Horgan announced that it would be boosting Indigenous athlete participation in the Games with $1.46 million in funding to offset costs for more than 500 athletes, coaches, chaperones and mission staff from B.C.
Tyson Touchie, Wya Point Surf Shop owner and assistant coach of the Hesquiaht Storm basketball team, said he had a lot of respect for the decision.
“I always encourage funding for sports. I’m such a big believer in sports for young people,” said Touchie, a Ucluelet First Nation.
His daughter, Jada Touchie, earned a silver medal at the 2017 NAIG in Toronto. Team BC placed first with 176 total medals (65 gold, 57 silver, 48 bronze) winning the overall Team Title for the second Games in a row.
Jada, a 15-year-old student at Ucluelet Secondary School, is aiming to make the under-19 basketball team for the 2020 NAIG in Halifax.
“She puts in the work. We are always training at the beach. It’s our time together,” said Touchie.
He noted that it costs well over $1,000 for Jada to attend ID camps leading up to the NAIG.
Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary for Sport and Multiculturalism, states in the June 28 announcement that the additional funding should help level the playing field.
“Supporting Indigenous athlete development is one way our government is creating new opportunities for kids to get involved in sport and advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in B.C.,” said Kahlon.
The funding will be administered by the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Reconciliation Council (I·SPARC). Its Team BC program provides an opportunity for Indigenous athletes to experience a major international sport competition and to share and celebrate their cultural heritages with other youth.
The investment responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action No. 88 that calls on all levels of government to support the Games, including funding for provincial team preparation and travel.
NAIG is a multi-sport competition and cultural festival. Spread over eight days, the event includes 17 sports and is expected to draw more than 5,000 Indigenous youth from approximately 750 First Nations.