Impact of immigration on sport - Ontario Heritage Trust

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Impact of immigration on sport

The story

Sport is a common language that can break down barriers. It brings people of different backgrounds together, transcends boundaries and provides a means of exchange and understanding.

There exists a uniquely Canadian approach to team and competitive sport, which has its roots in the merging of First Nation, British and French traditions, values and institutions. The influence of immigration on Ontario’s sporting culture has also played an important role in developing and enriching the province’s multicultural landscape.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, when waves of immigrants from Great Britain arrived in what is now Ontario, they contributed their athletic activities and ideals to established First Nation traditions of team sport and athleticism. Officers at military garrisons played sports in their leisure time. Headmasters introduced British games in schools. And sport was organized at trading posts. The games that they brought with them included cricket, golf, football, rugby and curling.

Over the course of the 20th century, immigrants from all regions of the globe brought sports, skills and traditions that have diversified and expanded Ontario’s sporting culture. At the turn of the century, as northern Ontario was opened up for resource extraction, immigrants from Scandinavian countries were recruited to work in the lumber and mining industries, bringing their expertise in sports, including skiing and skating. Immigrants from Mediterranean nations, many of whom arrived in the mid-20th century, held onto their passion for soccer (a.k.a. football). Many South Asian immigrants were devoted to cricket, a sport that has seen steady growth in the province over the past several decades. In 1962, with the ending of the British Empire in the Caribbean, thousands of Caribbean immigrants began arriving in the province. In part, because of this immigration, Ontarians have enjoyed enhanced international success in track and field.

These are just a few examples of how immigration has enriched Ontario’s sport heritage and contributed to a diversity of skilled athletes who have gone on to represent their new home with pride.

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