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New Project Provides Sport Leadership Opportunities for First Nations Youth in Canada

October 6, 2023 

A new pilot project is providing fun and healthy physical activities for First Nations youth in Alberta, Canada and helping them to become volunteer leaders in their communities. The FNHC Sports and Recreation Pilot Project launched August 25 led by the First Nations Health Consortium in partnership with NHL Street, HEROs Hockey, Rocks and Rings and Rock Solid Productions Inc. during the annual Youth Tee Pee Summit in St Albert, Alberta. It focuses on two programs: NHL Street Hockey, an affordable, neighborhood-based model that gives kids an opportunity to learn and play, and Egg Farmers Rocks and Rings Floor Curling, which combines curling and educational games. 

There are close to 260,000 Indigenous people in Alberta, making up 6.5% of the population in addition to 45 First Nations and Inuit and Métis people. Close to half of the Indigenous population is under the age of 25. For Indigenous peoples, being physically active has been part of their culture for thousands of years through a traditional active lifestyle consisting of fishing, hunting, canoeing and food gathering.

Research shows that First Nations people living on reserves were significantly more likely to be physically inactive than those living off-reserve. On reserve, girls and women were found to be less active than men and boys with 73% compared to 56%. The decrease in activity levels and overall diet changes has led to Indigenous peoples being more prone to chronic illnesses, resulting in decreased life expectancy. Over 75% of First Nations adults will be diagnosed with type II diabetes and nearly 40% will develop multiple chronic conditions compared to just 13% of the general Canadian population.

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The First Nations Health Consortium is an Alberta-wide non-profit developed to improve access to health, social and educational services and supporting First Nations and Inuit Children throughout the province. The new pilot project will provide youth with an opportunity to become volunteer leaders in their communities by helping them deliver one or both of the new programs available, NHL Street Hockey and Rocks and Rings Floor Curling. The Consortium will work with each Nation in Alberta interested in implementing the project in their community, covering the cost of the equipment and ultimately bridging financial and access barriers that many face.

“Young people in this room, we can’t do this without you. This program is built to allow you to show the leaders that you could be. We know you can’t be leaders without something to lead. This is your chance to take this back to your community, be those leaders and we will be there to support you and assist you. We are so excited to be able to work with you,” said Kevin Hodgson, Executive Director of HEROS Hockey who spoke at the summit. 

NHL Street is a youth league designed for kids ages 6 to 16 and their families. The program intends to break down barriers of accessibility and affordability for hockey sessions and workshops. The Rocks and Rings program is presented by Curling Canada and Egg farmers. It is Canada’s acclaimed elementary school program that connects students with curling and wheelchair curling with interactive physical education programs and classroom resources.

Those interested will need to meet the project's criteria, be located in Alberta and have a volunteer youth leader and leadership approval. Proposals can be submitted to [email protected].

Penticton Herald (Alberta Native News) 


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