Canada's Sports Hall of Fame Canadian History and Society: Through the Lens of Sport Virtual Museum of Canada

Home | Cultural and Racial Diversity | Newcomers to Canada

Mini-Documentary Newcomers to Canada


Video Transcript

[Narrator - George Reed, images behind George Reed of Canada's athletes at the 1908 Olympic Games, Sam Langford, Asahi Baseball team, the Toronto St. Pats hockey team, early curlers and lacrosse team, curling in the mountains, ice skating, rowing, golf, football, lacrosse team, croquet, Parliament Buildings, immigrants coming off boats in 1880's, numerous images of towns with wagons and buggies]

In Canada, we have a sporting culture that is rich with our unique experience, values, and stories our sporting landscape has been forged in part due to the inclusion of many newcomers to Canada, who brought with them many different national, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. Throughout the 1800s, Canadian sport reflected the cultural heritage shared by a descendance of French and British Colonies along with the Indigenous Nations. These European newcomers brought with them a wide variety of sports from France and the British Isles, including curling, ice skating, rowing, golf, and rugby football. Cultural exchanges with Canada's First Nations also popularized indigenous sports, such as lacrosse. British culture and the Protestant faith were powerful cultural forces in Canada at the time of Confederation in 1867. However to encourage national growth, government policies towards immigrants became more diverse in the late 1800's.

[Images of people at a train stations, plowing with horses and oxen, Ukrainian settlers, settlers playing accordion. Images of swimmers, boxers and team photos]

In the first decade of the twentieth century, Canada's population grew dramatically following an immigration boom that encouraged agricultural settlements in the western provinces. Eastern Europeans were welcomed to Canada in an unprecedented numbers at this time because of their valued expertise as farmers in their homeland. Building new communities across the western prairies, they often played team sports and held annual sport days that reflected shared experiences as pioneers and encouraged integration with other recently arrived newcomers.

[Images of skiiers from Scandinavia and ski jumping, image of three founders of Canada's first ski club]

While they arrived in smaller numbers during this immigration boom, Scandinavians brought with them Nordic sports perfectly suited to the Canadian climate. Early in the twentieth century, the Nordic sports of cross country skiing and ski jumping became popular. In 1911, three Norwegians helped to form Canada's first ski club in Camrose, Alberta.

[Images of Japanese Canadians building railroad and working life, Asahi baseball team photos courtesy of Nikkei National Museum]

Immigrants from Asia first began to arrive in Canada in significant numbers in the 1800's. Dreaming of future prosperity as they laboured to build Canada's first transcontinental railway in the mountains of British Columbia, however the social environment in Canada was not always welcoming and newcomers from Asia often struggled with racist immigration policies that persisted into the twentieth century. Asian immigrants turned to sports for empowerment in their struggles to build new homes and communities. On the Powell Street Grounds in Vancouver, Japanese-Canadians established their own club and formed the Asahi Baseball Team in 1914. The Asahi Team entered local league play and won city championships often leading Canadian-born players in the 1920's and 1930's. Their incredible feat became a powerful symbol of inclusion reflecting a vision of the better life Japanese immigrants were determined to achieve in their new homeland.

[Images of immigrants arriving in Canada, Ukrainians working and of downtown Toronto in the early 1900's]

During this era, immigrants from Italy, Ukraine, and Jewish communities across Europe also began to establish sports clubs across Canada that reflected their distinct cultural identities. In 1925, the Ukrainian Club was formed in Toronto well embracing immigrant culture to build a uniform national sporting culture. The Ukrainian Sports Club is one example of how immigrants helped forged Canada's uniquely multicultural identity through sports.

[Images of Canadian citizenship ceremonies, images of Alex Baumann, and Ellen Burka]

By 1971, Canada had adapted a multicultural policy which gave all nationalities more equal opportunities to immigrate to Canada. In the late twentieth century, newcomers from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean began to make new homes in Canada in unprecedented numbers. Many immigrants have competed in sports at the highest level in Canada and used their expertise as a powerful avenue for integration and advancement.

[Images of Otto and Maria Jelinek pairs skating]

Originally from Czechoslovakia, Otto Jelinek used his athletic skills to become a Canadian skating champion representing Canada at the 1964 Olympic Winter Games. His accomplishments in the world of sports empowered him to make other important contributions to Canada as both a prominent business person and a member of parliament.

[Announcer introducing Daniel Igali - Olympic Champion gold medallist, footage of Daniel Igali as he receives his gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Winter Games, he receives medal and cries, images of Daniel Igali carrying Canadian flag, flowers and showing his Olympic gold medal]

Daniel Igali, a Nigerian-born Canadian and Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler used his sporting success in the late 1990's and early 2000's as a platform to promote positive change in developing countries. Igali's athletic accomplishments made him an inspiring advocate for improving the educational opportunities available to young people in Nigeria.

[Images of Phil Edwards, action footage of athletes running, baseball action, action footage of Lennox Lewis boxing, images of Harry Jerome running and holding running shoes, footage of Canadian flag flying in background behind George Reed]

Canada's sporting landscape has often reflected the hopes, struggles, and everyday experiences of immigrants from around the world. Many newcomers to Canada turned to sports to maintain their own sense of cultural identity. They have also used sports as a platform for integration and their athletic accomplishments often expressed a shared sense of Canadian identity. Their efforts and experiences have enriched and expanded Canadian sports beyond measure, a growing testament to our nation's uniquely multicultural heritage.

Previous Next