Sport Nova Scotia gets $5M to boost inclusion, diversity

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Mark Smith is the director of sport at Sport Nova Scotia. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC - image credit)
Mark Smith is the director of sport at Sport Nova Scotia. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC - image credit)

Mark Smith has made a career for himself as an athlete and coach, but he says he's been working against the odds as a person of colour.

"I am one of a few coaches of colour in this province who really has managed to excel — in spite of a system, not because of a system."

Smith's resumé is long and includes membership in Softball Canada's Hall of Fame and the role of coach to Canada's national women's softball team.

He's also Sport Nova Scotia's director of sport, a role through which he's trying to address the issue of representation by giving kids in Black and Indigenous communities opportunities to play, and mentoring Black and Indigenous men and women to be coaches and leaders in sport.

His budget for that work is about to grow.

On Saturday, the provincial government announced it is giving $5 million to Sport Nova Scotia, which will increase the non-profit organization's budget of $10 million by 50 per cent.

According to the province, $2 million of that will go to the KidSport program, another $2 million will be used to improve access to recreation facilities and equipment, $500,000 will go to the ParaSport program and $500,000 for improving equity in coaching and leadership.

Premier Iain Rankin took to the basketball court following Saturday's announcement.
Premier Iain Rankin took to the basketball court following Saturday's announcement.(Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Sport Nova Scotia says all the money will be filtered through existing programs, and criteria will be reworked to broaden eligibility.

"The ability to expand programs and give more kids from these communities the ability to fully participate in sport is a critical element of expanding the sport system in the province," said Smith.

Cost a major barrier to parasport

At an announcement of the provincial spending on Saturday, Premier Iain Rankin said he's targeting sport because he wants to encourage Nova Scotians to be active.

"Equity needs to be part of that. Equity needs to be a part of everything government does," he added.

Paul Tingley said cost is a major barrier to equity in sport for people with physical disabilities, which is why he welcomed the bump to Sport Nova Scotia's budget.

Paralympic sailor Paul Tingley says making sports accessible to para-athletes requires money to cover equipment and facilities costs, proper training for coaches and welcoming environments.
Paralympic sailor Paul Tingley says making sports accessible to para-athletes requires money to cover equipment and facilities costs, proper training for coaches and welcoming environments. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Tingley, a five-time paralympian in sailing and Sport Nova Scotia's co-ordinator of parasport, said accessible equipment, travel and facilities all add to cost for para-athletes. With more money available, he said he hopes to reach more budding athletes in Nova Scotia.

"Hopefully by doing that you're going to have more people able to show up, take part on the first day and then fall in love with the sport and then continue on for life."

Rankin said this is one-time funding, but if more is requested "we can try to find more resources for them."

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