By Mark Colley
Marci Morris still has to have those conversations.
As Ottawa Sport Council executive director, she still finds herself having to explain the importance of inclusive environments in sport. While she has witnessed lots of growth in the 10 years since the council was founded, Morris believes “we still have a lot of learning to do” around the topics of equity, diversity and inclusion in sport.
“I think that there are a lot of people who understand that there needs to be changes,” states Morris. “My concern in a lot of cases is there are people who don’t think they’ve got a problem. Very fortunately for them, they haven’t lived in that, so they don’t get it.
“But we have to start somewhere.”
The Council took a jump forward with its November 2022 Ottawa Sport Summit, focused on creating diverse and inclusive environments in sport.
“It was amazing. There were so many people there who are engaged and really want to make changes,” Morris highlights. “We definitely had more diverse participants than we normally have, so obviously our message is getting out to the community and the community sees us as support for them. That’s very positive.”
The summit was the first step towards creating a practical EDI toolkit for community sport organizations – a project led by INclusion INcorporated alongside the Ottawa Sport Council, with funding from Canadian Tire Jumpstart and the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association.
From the Summit and later community engagement sessions, 10 areas were identified to focus on for the creation of tools and resources. The Council is now collecting feedback from a survey to determine which areas are highest priority and in which format they’d like the tools presented.
“Our goal is to make any sport, or community sport organization, accessible and welcoming to anybody,” Morris underlines.
At the Summit, several speakers shared moments when sport did not feel welcoming to them, which was one of the most powerful parts, Morris indicates.
“It’s one thing for us to get up and preach about inclusivity and equity and diversity,” she adds. “It’s another thing for people who have lived experience to get up and talk.”
The Ottawa Sport Council has long stated its guiding goal is “to create positive experiences in sport, where everyone has the opportunity to participate.”
“We’ve always been doing it. It’s always been something that’s been important to us.
What’s sharper now is the whole focus in the world around EDI,” Morris notes. “It’s very important that we as a sector are working together collectively, not in little silos, and that we’re pulling all the initiatives together.”
– with files from Dan Plouffe
This article is part of the Ottawa Sports Pages’ weekly Inclusion in Sport series. Read more about local sport inclusion initiatives at: OttawaSportsPages.ca/Ottawa-Sports-Pages-Inclusion-In-Sport-Series/.
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