Dal signs charter to combat systemic racism in sports and recreation

- December 12, 2023

L-R: Graham Mounsey, Fawn Logan-Young, Dr. Brenda Merritt, Dr. Barb Hamilton-Hinch (sitting), Anton Berry, and Tim Maloney, director of Dalhousie Athletics. (Nick Pearce photo)
L-R: Graham Mounsey, Fawn Logan-Young, Dr. Brenda Merritt, Dr. Barb Hamilton-Hinch (sitting), Anton Berry, and Tim Maloney, director of Dalhousie Athletics. (Nick Pearce photo)

Dalhousie signalled its commitment to combatting racism in sport and recreation late last month when it signed an anti-racism charter, becoming the first university in Nova Scotia to do so. 

The university offered its support to Recreation Nova Scotia’s charter during a signing on stage at Dalhousie’s Women in Leadership Spotlight Dinner on Nov. 30. 

“It is exciting to be the first university to sign off on the anti-racism charter,” says Dr. Barb Hamilton-Hinch, Dal’s vice-provost of equity and inclusion and an associate professor of recreation and leisure studies. “This reinforces our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion and creating a space where all students, faculty, staff and community can engage in sport and recreation knowing that we are taking a stand against racism.”

The charter provides unifying guidelines for recreation programs to address and combat systemic racism.  

“I think we’re ready to take those first steps in changing our professional practice in recreation, and I think that the opportunity to try to learn a better path forward is quite a unique opportunity,” says Graham Mounsey, the program manager of Recreation Nova Scotia, a province-wide non-profit group.

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A commitment to improve

By signing the charter, Mounsey says Dal has openly acknowledged racism exists. He says this acknowledgement is important because it creates opportunities to learn and a commitment to improve.

“Acknowledging and learning will continue to be a priority, leading to better-informed decisions that lead to more equitable program design," says Mounsey. “This will lead to changes in how we hire staff, which addresses barriers around representation.”

Dalhousie is part of the future of recreation with its Health and Human Performance programs. By signing the charter, Dal is helping build a future that is anti-racist and more equitable for Nova Scotians.

“I think the university has a crucial role in combating racism in recreation. Dal is creating long-term change by embedding it in their practice as an institution,” says Mounsey.

Breaking the cycle

Dr. Karen Gallant, an associate professor and division head of recreation and leisure studies, says the charter highlights Dal’s commitment to anti-racism within the curriculum of the recreation programs, teaching practices and how Dal supports and engages students in recreation.

“The charter aligns well with actions we’ve already been taking related to equity, diversity, and inclusion, but pushes us to go further,” she says.

Research shows that racism acts as a barrier to participation in recreation by discouraging some individuals from using facilities. A survey carried out by Recreation Nova Scotia found that 31.3 per cent of respondents have experienced racism in recreation in subtle ways.

“If you experience racism in a facility, you could well just never go back there. Or you might even say, 'I don't want my kids going there.' Then that just snowballs, and that cycle needs to be broken,” says Mounsey.

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First steps

Organizations struggle with not knowing how to take the first step in combatting racism in recreation, he says. 

“They know that we need to do better in terms of being more inclusive and offering equitable services, but sometimes, maybe don't have the knowledge or the confidence to take the first step for fear of doing things wrong.”

For Fawn Logan-Young, equity and anti-racism coordinator at Recreation Nova Scotia, this acknowledgement of racism and commitment to moving forward is a crucial step in a much longer process.

“It's about culture change,” she says. “It's not something that will happen overnight.” 


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