The NWTRPA’s strategic goal number one is:
“Continue to transform the NWTRPA and influence change in the recreation sector through a commitment to decolonization, reconciliation, and racial equity.”
Actions the NWTRPA identified within its 2023-2026 Strategic Plan that fall under this Strategic Goal #1 are:
Establish and implement a multi-year plan and capacity to review and update NWTRPA governance, management, operations, and offerings through a reconciliation, decolonization, and racial equity lens, with an initial focus on:
- Adopting/implementing Racial Equity Plan
- The Walking Challenge
- Employee handbook
- Board proceedings and processes
- Staff recruitment and retention
Also supports GOAL #6
Provide onboarding and ongoing professional development for staff and Board members about decolonization, reconciliation and racial equity, and their relationship to recreation in the NWT
Also supports GOAL #6
Develop/sustain reciprocal relationships with Indigenous governments/organizations that respect community priorities and ways of working
Engage with Indigenous governments and organizations and a broad cross-section of stakeholders to develop a culturally appropriate definition of recreation
Also supports GOAL #2
Develop or support resources or initiatives that explore the relationship between colonialism and recreation in the NWT
Advocate for action on decolonization, reconciliation, and racial equity within the recreation sector in the NWT and Canada
“We envision a territory where everyone has access to recreation programs and spaces that foster healthy individuals and families, strong cultures, and vibrant communities.”
– NWTRPA Vision
As recreation leaders, we are asking ourselves what we can do to combat racism generally, and anti-Black racism specifically, in our sector and communities. We are asking ourselves how we can honour the adage of truth before reconciliation and engage in decolonizing our sector.
We cannot understand recreation and parks, past and present, without considering racism and colonialism. Prejudice and discrimination are woven into the fabric of our sector and the first step in combating racism in recreation and parks is acknowledging that fact.
NWTRPA’s Commitment to Reconciliation & Decolonization:
The NWTRPA is committed to reconciliation, decolonization and racial equity. We have undertaken many initiatives to meet this commitment and both of our recent strategic plans (2018-21 and 2023-26) include goals that align with these commitments. Please see below for a timeline of our journey:
The NWTRPA formally initiated our reconciliation and decolonization journey. The Board of Directors formed a working group to explore how the organization might best engage in the 94 calls to action listed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (TRC) report. At our 2016 annual general assembly, the NWTRPA membership voted to endorse the TRC Calls to Action and adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as a framework for future activities.
The Board and staff participated in training facilitated by Dene Nahjo, a Sǫ̀mba K’è/Yellowknife based Indigenous leadership organization, resulting in a shared understanding and definition of decolonization: Decolonization is about transformation and the dismantling of an unjust system. It is about revealing and owning the harms of the past, raising awareness about inequities of the present, but most importantly, about remaking social and political systems in order to truly respect the rights and well-being of Indigenous peoples.
The theme and program of the 2017 NWTRPA and Youth Conference, held in Inuuvik/Inuvik, was focused on decolonization. Notably, the keynote presentation was about recreation at residential schools in the Inuvik region.
The NWTRPA completed a Strategic Plan (2018-2021) with a primary goal to work with intention to advance decolonization and reconciliation through their work, workplaces, and relationships. The organization’s strategic plan included developing a program review process to guide and determine if NWTRPA program content, services, and delivery are in line with their commitment to decolonization and reconciliation. In 2018, in partnership with Dr. Crystal Gail Fraser, a Gwichyà Gwich’in historian at the University of Alberta, the NWTRPA initiated a research project called “How I Survived”: Recreation at Northern Residential Schools. The purpose of the project is to gather stories from survivors in order to document and understand how recreation was a part of the residential school, hostel, and day school experience, as well as the significance of recreation for students. This project is guided by an advisory committee of survivors and intergenerational survivors.
The NWTRPA advocated the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA) to include TRC and UNDRIP into their strategic outlook.
Released a statement on racism in recreation and parks.
The NWTRPA awards program was reviewed with the support of Bushkids (an on-the-Land learning initiative based in Yellowknife) and a committee composed of staff, board, and past award recipients. The committee was to provide recommendations on the awards program and on the review process. The NWTRPA is working to implement the recommendations and have updated the terminology, nominations form, criteria, the selection committee composition, and provided options for the physical award and recognition.
The NWTRPA Board of Directors also approved a territorial land acknowledgement for the NWTRPA website, and they implemented a “respect of the land” as the first agenda item for all Board meetings.
The Board of Directors also posted a statement of solidarity with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc.
The NWTRPA announced a temporary name change of the annual walking challenge. Jennie Vandermeer Consulting was hired in May 2022 to complete a review of the Program with guidance from and advisory committee. Jennie Vandermeer is Sahtúgot'ı̨nę Dene from Délı̨nę, NWT and has extensive experience working with communities across the NWT specializing in the decolonization of policy, programs and services through the acknowledgement and incorporation of Indigenous culture and knowledge.
In an effort to implement ethical space principles, a board meeting was hosted on the Land.
The NWTRPA also posted another statement about National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The number one goal in the NWTRPA’s 2023-26 Strategic Plan is decolonization, reconciliation, and racial equity: Continue to transform the NWTRPA through a commitment to decolonization, reconciliation, and racial equity.
The NWTRPA Board of Directors approved a Racial Equity Plan, a diversity statement for job descriptions, and reviewed and updated the Human Resources Parameters policy with a racial equity lens.
Since 2017 training on decolonization, reconciliation, and racial equity for Board and staff has remained a priority. Topics of subsequent sessions have included: MMIWG2S, anti-racism, facilitated book clubs, ethical space, creating colonial constellations presentation, and UNDRIP.
The organization has also prioritized participating in on the land and cultural activities such as dog sledding, visiting Dechinta’s Łiwe Camp, and learning to clean ptarmigan.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of resources related to Anti-racism, Reconciliation & Decolonization relevant to our sector. If you have a suggestion to include, please let us know.
National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Reports include a number of historical and modern report, as well as the final report and call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
TRC 95 Calls to Action
It is important to note that though there are specific calls related to Sports & Reconciliation (#87-91) many other Calls can be interpreted and engaged with across many different sectors.
The Recreation Facilities Association of Nova Scotia developed an Anti-Racism and Discrimination Policy for Recreational Facilities and the Anti-Racism Charter in Recreation.
The National Recreation and Parks Association (United States) published this report on Racial Equity in Parks and Recreation in 2015.
The Canadian Recreation and Parks Association has committed to A Journey to Address Systemic Racism and Discrimination.
Parks for All is an Action Plan for Canada’s Park Community created in partnership by the CPRA and the Canadian Parks Council. It’s vision is to support an active and diverse parks community that cultivates shared goals, mutual respect, and collective action.
The NWT Aboriginal Sports Circle continues to champion and support Indigenous Games in the NWT, as well as access to sport opportunities for Indigenous youth.
Hotıì ts’eeda is a research support unit hosted by the Tłı̨chǫ Government and governed primarily by Northwest Territories (NWT) Indigenous Governments. Hotıì ts’eeda connects NWT organizations, and communities with researchers and funding to achieve health research and training goals. It is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Chloe Dragon-Smith’s Jane Glassco Fellowship policy paper ‘Creating Ethical Spaces: Opportunities to Connect with Land for Life and Learning in the NWT’ presents opportunities to expand and integrate on-the-Land learning into daily life in the NWT, though her work with Ethical Spaces is transferable to many aspects of working within recreation and on the land programming in the NWT.