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Evidence of meeting #35 for Canadian Heritage in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was sport.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Henry Storgaard  Chief Executive Officer / Secretary General, Canadian Paralympic Committee
Peter Montopoli  General Secretary, Canadian Soccer Association
Lane MacAdam  Director, Sport Excellence, Sport Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage
Graham Brown  Chief Executive Officer, Rugby Canada
Chris Jones  Senior Leader, Sport Matters Group
Pierre Lafontaine  Chief Executive Officer, Swimming Canada

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Did anybody else want to add to that at all?

12:40 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer / Secretary General, Canadian Paralympic Committee

Henry Storgaard

From my perspective, the Paralympics and the Pan Am Games in Toronto provide a huge opportunity for us to ensure that accessibility to all facilities are first-class and that legacy opportunities go beyond facilities into more volunteers, more athletes, more coaches, all of these things we have our eye on and are working on in partnership with the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games secretariat and organizing committee.

12:40 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Swimming Canada

Pierre Lafontaine

I call them the 7-Eleven sports hubs. I think when you build facilities in local communities, families don't have to ship their good kids away to go and train all over the country. They can dream at home, sleeping in their own beds and so on. I think that's a huge strength in these infrastructure concepts in local communities.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Thank you.

Mr. Storgaard, you mentioned accessibility to the facility. Are we also thinking of accessibility by ensuring that there's good public transit that's available so that people of all abilities will be able to access those facilities we're building? Because right now we don't have that in Scarborough.

12:40 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer / Secretary General, Canadian Paralympic Committee

Henry Storgaard

That's absolutely right. It's not only the facility that has to be accessible but accessing it. You can imagine a wheelchair team trying to get to a facility. It involves special transportation requirements. All of this will be built into the Toronto and southern Ontario environment and environs. That will be a great legacy for people with a disability.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Thank you.

Mr. MacAdam, is anything being planned for accessible transit to, for example, the Scarborough facility?

12:40 p.m.

Director, Sport Excellence, Sport Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage

Lane MacAdam

My understanding is the Scarborough facility is actually being built way beyond the code requirements in terms of accessibility, taking into account experience from the local sport Paralympic community. There are certain widths of doorways that are minimum code, but they're going beyond that and hoping to attract some national team programming.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

I meant access to the facility, not in the facility.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

Thank you, Ms. Sitsabaiesan.

Mr. Hillyer.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Hillyer Conservative Lethbridge, AB

During your comments, Mr. Storgaard, you said that we're not going to London for a hug, but to win. I thought that was nice, and I'm happy to hear it.

Mr. Lafontaine, you talked about the fact that Canada has the right attitude towards winning, not a Kumbaya mentality where we're just having fun here. I agree with that sentiment, not just at the Olympic level, but even at the kids' level. It's good for kids to know that winning isn't everything, but it matters. Otherwise, what are we doing?

However, I wonder how to guard against, especially at the young ages, even at eight, nine, and ten years old, the type of coaching we unfortunately see too often, and this is in community leagues. It's not like triple A, where players have to try out to get there, but everyone gets on the team. Hockey coaches are pulling kids off after one shift up the ice, and that's their shift for the period. I've seen coaches, for all intents and purposes, benching their poor players during practices so they can focus on their good players. I can see their idea of developing star players so they can go somewhere.

How can we maintain this attitude of doing it for a win and not for a hug and doing it with the right attitude towards winning without missing the mark?

12:40 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Swimming Canada

Pierre Lafontaine

I think that in the last few years there's been a lot of work done in coaching education. We can't change every one of those coaches. Some of them have been coaching for a long time. There is the long-term athlete development model we've had now for ten years. Again, I think it's Sport Canada that took the lead by saying to every sport that if it's going to be sponsored by Sport Canada, it needs to put this into place.

I do think there have been some great strides forward in making sure it's not just about winning, that it's about creating an environment where every kid wins, and if there's a good one, there's also a pathway for that kid to be great.

12:45 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer / Secretary General, Canadian Paralympic Committee

Henry Storgaard

In the Paralympic community we operate at both ends of the spectrum.

Our mandate is to field the Canadian Paralympic team going to the Paralympic Games, and to bring the best of the best to that arena. The coaches at that level of course are very elite, and are very focused on gold medal performance.

At the other end of the spectrum, we're just trying to get children with disabilities out into the playground. Certainly the messaging there is to encourage recreation, to encourage sport, and to give them an opportunity to create friends on the playing field. It's a completely different system.

I understand exactly what you're saying. We're working, I think collectively, our hardest to ensure that those volunteer recreational coaches are conveying the right messages in the right tone, and providing the right support for our children.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Hillyer Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Lafontaine, you talked about having a national vision of Canada being the fittest country in the world, and there's no reason not only to have that vision but also to obtain that goal.

As you know, Conservatives often are concerned about cost. Besides the power that would have for national unity and a sense of national pride, could you talk about the impact such a mentality or such—I don't want to call it a policy—such a vision could have on the health care crisis? We're not talking about that very much, but if something isn't done about our health care system, we're going to run out of money.

12:45 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Swimming Canada

Pierre Lafontaine

I'll respond quickly, but then I'll pass it on to Chris, who has a lot more statistics on that.

I can tell you that the investment in fitness today will help us tomorrow in the health care program. There's no question. Research has been done. We all know it. But more than anything, I think it's the mental health that sports bring to people, the building of confidence.

We're not really about the sports business. We're about the people business, creating leaders. That's the business we're in. With all the skills that are learned through our medium, which happens to be.... I would say it's similar to a spelling bee, when these kids stand up and they build their confidence. Our medium is sport, and I think that's what we're about.

Somebody's going to say to me, “Yes, but it's going to cost us more for new hips and new knees”, to which I would say, “Then start swimming. It doesn't really affect the hips and the knees.”

12:45 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

12:45 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Swimming Canada

Pierre Lafontaine

More than anything, though, the offshoot of a great vision, I think, is pride. You can't put a price on pride. You can't put a price on what it does to families. I'm not sure we even know the long-term positive effect of fitness when we have people who are 60 and 70 years old learning new skills and feeling great about themselves.

So we are about building people through our sports.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

That's it, Mr. Hillyer. Five minutes can go pretty fast.

Mr. Dubé.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

There is another issue I would like to discuss. It has to do with what Mr. Brown said about supporting athletes after the games. In my opinion, that's very important. In fact, athletes face the same prejudices as artists. We all see athletes of the Sydney Crosby or Tiger Woods calibre taking advantage of sponsorships coming out of their ears and making a lot of money in their respective sport. In reality, that is not the case for most athletes, even if they compete at a professional level like some of the athletes you work with.

I was wondering how that support is provided. Are things going well? Could we do more to ensure that, once athletes have represented our country abroad, we do not turn our backs on them? They do not necessarily come back from the games with the same income as certain star athletes we see. You understand what I mean.

12:50 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Rugby Canada

Graham Brown

I know I speak for rugby, but I do play other sports and am involved in other sports. I think there's a strong commitment in the sport community to ensure education. We always encourage our athletes to go to university or college. While they're going, we provide support mechanisms.

Rugby has two sides. On our men's side, a number of our athletes are professional and they go on, but they don't make very much money by North American standards. On the female side, there's a strong encouragement to be involved in the community. We have a centralized program in the city of Victoria and the city of Langford. We encourage our athletes there to engage with the community, to do things that are their passion, that may be in fact their vocation after they're done playing the sport of rugby.

The reality is that it's just really working with the athlete and knowing what they're trying to achieve. In some cases—and this is probably hard for an athlete to hear—it's also working with the athlete to let them know when they should probably leave the sport and focus on their career. Some athletes tend to stay involved in the sport too long, which does in fact hamper their ability to re-engage in their career path.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

My other question is for everyone. It's about an issue that was brought up by your colleagues last week. Several people have talked about female athletes who have been very successful.

Mr. Montopoli, you talked about that when the women's soccer team was discussed. Women are very successful in rugby and at the Paralympic Games. Ms. Petitclerc is a good example.

It seems to me that Canada is one of the world leaders in terms of female participation in sports. Generally speaking, what are you doing to ensure that we stay on top in terms of that?

12:50 p.m.

Senior Leader, Sport Matters Group

Chris Jones

Maybe I could just make a couple of observations on behalf of one of my members, the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport.

I think what they would tell you, probably, is that while access to the sport at the intake level is getting better and better all the time, there continues to be an issue around representation in the governance and on the boards of directors and those kinds of things, where perhaps not enough women are present, and hence there aren't as many role models or people that the women and young girls can look to.

I think that is something she continues to work on and is seeking to augment, because there is still work to be done in that area.

12:50 p.m.

General Secretary, Canadian Soccer Association

Peter Montopoli

Maybe I can just add this on the Canadian Soccer Association, where our players, once they graduate from our national team program, can enter into coaching programs. Some have been very successful in broadcasting careers. There are some members from the Oakville soccer club who are now female broadcasters on the national platform. Also, from a FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 perspective, which we are hosting, we'll be introducing women in coaching programs, women in leadership positions, and additional referee programs for women within our sport.

Also, we have implemented a new governance model whereby we have just selected three new women to our board of directors, which falls in with what Chris was just mentioning, additional enhancements in governance. I think, from a sporting perspective, all sports are looking at this. From our soccer perspective, we're looking forward from a female side, as we are world leaders in the sport.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

Finally, Mr. Gill.

June 5th, 2012 / 12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I also want to thank the witnesses for being here with us today.

I understand we have altogether 150 athletes and about 40 coaches who will be attending these Paralympic Games. I'm wondering if you can tell us how many different competitions Canadian athletes will be participating in at the Paralympics.

12:50 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer / Secretary General, Canadian Paralympic Committee

Henry Storgaard

At the Paralympics, I don't have that available right off my tongue right now.

Well...It's 12. Right. Sorry, I apologize; I thought you meant every level and classification.