Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Government of Canada it is an honour for me to present to the House the result of the efforts, commitment and co-operation of the sport community throughout our country of various federal departments and agencies, of provincial-territorial governments and of private and public sector organizations that influence the world of sport in Canada.
The proposed bill, an act to promote physical activity and sport that would replace the Fitness and Amateur Sport Act, deals with sport that does much to unite our society.
Physical activity and sport are a tradition in Canada. All of us have, at one time, enjoyed playing hockey with the neighbours, challenging colleagues on a tennis court or cycling through some lesser known parts of the country.
In Canada, physical activity and sport are a family affair. Every parent remembers the first time a daughter skated or a son rode his bicycle. Sport is a passion which is transmitted from one generation to the next and which we can enjoy throughout our lives.
In Canada, we are passionate about physical activity and sport. From coast to coast to coast Canadians celebrated the success of our athletes at the winter Olympics and Paralympics in Salt Lake City. They celebrated again today as parliament officially honoured our medalists.
Our national memory is full of sports heroes whose achievements and victories have inspired our dreams. Maurice Richard, Mark Tewkesbury, Myriam Bédard, Elvis Stojko and Sylvie Fréchette are only some of our country's idols who have made their mark in sport in Canada and have gone down in history. Within my riding of Simcoe North, we are especially proud of the accomplishments of Brian Orser.
In Canada, physical activity and sport also prepare for life. Each morning, thousands of young girls and boys get up with one purpose in mind: to give the best of themselves in the pool, on the soccer field or on the ski slopes.
In practicing their sports, they learn about discipline, team spirit and the quest for excellence. They learn about the importance of health and balance. Sport and physical activity prevent delinquency and crime, form thousands of volunteers from coast to coast to coast, and bring together Canadians from all walks of life by eliminating barriers and differences.
Far more than a past time, sport and physical activity are tools for living a full life in Canada. Close to 10 million Canadians regularly take part in sport activities. However is that enough? We believe we can do more. We believe we can do much better.
The existing Fitness and Amateur Sport Act dates from 1961. It has become necessary to rethink the role of Canada's sports system in line with the new issues and circumstances. Like many other countries, Canada must amend its legislation to adapt to a new reality and to effectively reflect and strengthen the important role that the Government of Canada plays in fostering, promoting and developing physical activity and sport in Canada.
Starting with the title, very few countries refer to amateur sport in their modernized legislation. This concept is increasingly ambiguous since professional athletes compete in the Olympics and amateur athletes collect fees at some competitions.
Times have changed. Our habits have changed as well and not necessarily for the better. According to a study recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal , obesity among boys increased by 92% between 1981 and 1996. Among girls it increased by 57%.
The Canadian health system estimates that 25% of Canadian children are overweight. It is estimated that young children between 2 and 11 years of age spend on average 19 hours a week in front of the TV set. From 1992 to 1998, the sports participation rate of young people aged 15 and over has decreased, falling from 45% to 34%.
Socio-economic or cultural barriers still prevent some groups in our society from fully developing by participating in sports. I refer to aboriginals, handicapped people, women and visible minorities.
As we can see, physical inactivity is dangerously gaining ground. For public health the impact is disastrous, incurring $2.1 billion per year on direct health care costs. Still worse, physical inactivity is estimated to be a contributing factor to the death of more than 21,000 Canadians every year. We must act now before it is too late. We must act now for tomorrow.
The sports community had expectations and we had to meet them. Two years ago, my predecessor, now the citizenship and immigration minister, launched an extensive consultation process in order to improve the sports experience of all Canadians in partnership with the whole sports community.
Sports associations, athletes, coaches, volunteers and administrators, federal, provincial and territorial governments as well as municipalities, all have taken part in discussions across the country. The consultations led to a national summit held a year ago and finally to a new Canadian sports policy.
The new Canadian sport policy gives expression to the vision shared by all sports stakeholders who participated in the consultations. It defines what we want to accomplish over the next 10 years in the world of sport with clear objectives.
At the same time last year, the Government of Canada recognized the needs of the sport community by providing an additional $10 million over three years to the Sport Canada budget.
Today, proud of all the work we have accomplished thus far, the Government of Canada is proposing another component in our strategy to promote sport activity in our country.
Following the Canadian sports policy that inspired us, on last April 10, I introduced the physical activity and sport legislation. This bill, which rreplaces the Fitness and Amateur Sport Act, enshrines our new sports policy. It provides us with new legislation focused on the participation of every Canadian in sports.
With the new bill we are acting on the initiatives and consultations of the past several years. With the new bill we are moving from words to deeds. The bill officially recognizes that sport is an investment for our society.
To invest in sport is to invest in the health and welfare of Canadians. To invest in sport is to invest in the development of our communities.
This is why a preamble was added to the bill showing that the commitment of the Government of Canada ito physical activity and sport was to be seen as an investment in the betterment of all Canadians and not as an expenditure. Any investment in physical activity and sport contributes to the quality of life and translates into long term health care savings.
Let us not forget that in our country over 378,000 jobs are directly linked to sport. Thousands of men and women work in ski centres, arenas, fitness centres, golf clubs and many more sport establishments. They are our neighbours, our friends, community leaders. Altogether, the sports industry contributes overs $8.9 billion to our country's gross domestic product.
The bill seeks to increase participation in sport by all Canadians whatever their sex, physical or mental capabilities, their age or the colour of their skin. Regularly, week after week throughout the year, we want all our fellow citizens to engage in physical activity.
In pursuit of this objective, governments, associations and sport organizations must talk together. They must better co-ordinate their efforts so that all Canadians have the easiest possible access to the sport facilities in all our communities. This is one of the priorities of the bill. By making our sport infrastructure and resources accessible, we enable our people to practice sport.
The bill also reaffirms another priority of the Government of Canada to continue to support the pursuit of excellence in sport. Our athletes have the talent and capacity to succeed nationally and internationally. The result of the most recent Olympic and Paralympic Games are ample proof of this, but we can better guide their development. We can better co-ordinate our resources. We can improve our programs. We can strengthen the training provided to coaches. We want to encourage others to become partners in our efforts: various levels of governments, sport organizations and especially the private sector.
The bill gives us the means to encourage our business people to help fund development in sport because we must open up to new forms of co-operation. We must devise new ways of working together if we want to achieve our objectives.
More than ever before in Canada sport is everybody's business. We recognize that the task is daunting, but this bill will allow us to meet the challenge. Its modern and up-to-date measures put us at long last on an equal footing with other industrialized countries. Finally, this bill establishes a new organization responding to the sport community's requests.
Over the past decade, Canada's sport system has frequently faced litigation and court cases. Unfortunately the arbitration procedures already in place were limited. A fair effective solution was needed. The bill therefore calls for the creation of the sport dispute resolution centre of Canada.
The centre is an independent organization that will deal in a non-partisan way with any contentious issue related to sport. It will provide fairer access to dispute resolution and might be used as an alternative to litigation.
For the first time ever, the sport community will be able to rely on a national arbitration and mediation service. This centre is a tangible measure, a response tailored to meet the needs of the sport community and the challenges the sporting world is facing today.
This innovative bill is the vision of all who help make Canada a great country for sport. It opens up the future and brings hope. For our children there is the hope of growing up while exploring various sports, the hope of having fun while learning. For young athletes there is the hope of being able to develop their potential to the fullest, of being more successful in their studies, the hope of achieving their dreams.
For our volunteers, there is the hope of broadening their life experience, of learning and growing while contributing their time. For our coaches, there is the hope of getting better, of having a stimulating career and of seeing our athletes succeed.
For all Canadians there is the hope of living an active, healthy life, the hope of enhancing our quality of life and our society's well-being.
This bill is the commitment of the Government of Canada to the future of sport in our country.
It provides a renewed legal framework in keeping with the new reality. It updates our goals and priorities. It reaffirms our values and principles. It reflects the cultural richness and diversity of our country.
I am very proud to submit this bill to the approval of the House for a healthy and sport-loving Canada.