The Canada Games is a large multi-sport event that invites athletes and teams from all over Canada to come together and participate in a friendly sports competition. The 2019 Canada Winter Games are expecting over 3600 athletes to take part in 19 different sports. The event is currently happening now until March 3rd in Red Deer, Atla.

In December 2018, the Canada Games board adopted a new gender inclusion policy. David Patternson, President and CEO of Canada Games stated…

“The CGC recognizes that sex and gender are not the same thing, and that individuals are born with different combinations of sex and gender as part of their identity,” the policy states. “This policy aims to set the conditions by which the CGC and its Host Societies will create a safe and welcoming environment for transgender or intersex participants at the Canada Games.”

Patterson stated that the policy was adopted following a year of research and inspiration from other Canadian sports organizations that have adopted trans-inclusive policies. Including U-Sports and Ringette Canada. The Canada Games have taken place since 1967 with over 100,000 athletes having participated, including Canadian Olympians such as Sidney Crosby, Hayley Wickenheiser, Catriona Le May Doan and Andre De Grasse. The games serve as a stepping stone for athletes, coaches, and officials who are looking to step up onto the international level. Patterson hopes that the policy will serve as a similar stepping stone.

 “As we make changes to how we do sport, we’re hoping that those changes become a catalyst to where that change happens at [other sports] events as well,” Patterson said.

The Canada Games have long strove for equality and integration in sport. The event achieved gender equality, that is equal male and female participants in the 1980s and is the only multi-sport event that includes able-bodied, para and Special Olympic athletes. Patterson and the Canada Games board believes that this policy will help them achieve that goal.

“We’re in a good place in Red Deer where if an athlete identifies as trans, or identifies as non-binary, we’ll be able to make sure they can have a good experience here. Everything is built around the athlete’s best interest, and the athlete’s experience here at the Games,” he said. “As with any other athlete here, when they have a need, we should be the ones doing the accommodating, not the other way around.”

At the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, the Canada House included gender inclusive signage and messages to help spread the message that all athletes are welcome, accepted and respected. Similar signage is also part of the 2019 Canada Winter Games. The signs read…

“Within these walls, you are welcomed, accepted and respected,” it reads. “Here, no matter who you are or where you come from, you are at home, regardless of your sex, sexual orientation, race, marital or family status, gender identity or expression, sex characteristics, age, colour, disability, political or religious belief or non-belief. All that we ask is that you be ethical, excellent and inclusive in all you do.”

By Dirk Smith