Officials aim to 'change the face of curling' by welcoming greater diversity, inclusion

·3 min read
Members of the curling community unite in a Niagara Falls hotel Thursday at the
Members of the curling community unite in a Niagara Falls hotel Thursday at the

Standing in front of a packed room of curling club managers, coaches, Curling Canada officials and industry leaders in a Niagara Falls hotel, Richard Norman delivered a keynote address years in the making on Thursday morning.

With his voice shaking at times, Norman articulated his desire to bring change to curling — specifically Norman highlighted his work from early 2020 which focused on the experiences of people of colour and their relationship with curling.

Norman had just completed his doctoral thesis deconstructing curling cultures, focusing on race, whiteness and colonialism.

"There was an appetite to do this in the beginning. But that was also in 2020 when everything was so fresh. The murder of George Floyd had just happened and people were galvanized and under lockdown conditions," Norman told CBC Sports.

"I think it's more impressive we're having this now because after two years, it becomes this situation of asking if we still want to have this conversation. Is it really important? Have things really changed? I would say no."

Norman played a crucial role in helping organize a symposium being held this week by Curling Canada titled "Changing the Face of Curling."

"We are having conversations that are unprecedented in curling," Norman said.

In a first of its kind conference, Norman was joined by curling scholars, coaches, curlers and members of the community who partook in panels and conversations about how to collectively grow the sport in Canada by welcoming greater diversity and inclusion.

"The progression over the last couple of years has been astounding. I think people in curling are ready for these conversations. They're taking on a different level of importance and gravity that allows us to do this in this space today," Norman said.

WATCH | Curling ambassador Melvin Lee seeks increased diversity in sport:

Sitting in the audience, Melvin Lee couldn't help but be overrun with emotion as he listened to speakers share their experiences.

"Within my network, I'm the only Korean person who curls. And so yes I'd like to see members of my immediate community curling. I just want to see more diversity, equality and inclusion in curling clubs," he said.

"It's early but I'm heartened by people's ability to listen and ask questions. For a person of colour, these are powerful moments. The fact that they care. I'm very hopeful that this will lead to transformative action."

'It was all white'

Lee says he first got into curling while living in Calgary and watching the 1988 Olympics. While he had a desire to curl, he said he was fearful of what awaited him at the curling clubs.

"I felt intimidated because it was all white. Those first weeks were intimidating. Fortunately through time I developed friends and connections," he said.

"There's so much potential within the curling community."

That potential coupled with this groundbreaking symposium is motivating Curling Canada CEO Katherine Henderson.

Two years ago in a CBC Sports story about the dominant whiteness in the sport Henderson acknowledged something had to be done to change the game and create space for more diversity and inclusion.

"What we want is a sports system in which everyone is welcome and where all perspectives are honoured," she said back then.

"We have a long history about being inclusive but we need to be more intentional about reaching out," she said in an interview in June 2020.

On Thursday, two years after she said that, Henderson reflected on the work they've been doing and the direction the sport is headed.

"I like living at the edge of change," she said.

"And it's been an incredible journey over these past number of years for me. But we have to accept where we are. Digest it. These experiences are painful and I'm so grateful for the people here sharing them with us."

The symposium wraps up on Saturday, with the last two days focusing on next steps and how to put the conversations and testimonies into tangible change in curling clubs across Canada.

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