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Sport policy in Canada




Lucie Thibault, Brock University


Jean Harvey, University of Ottawa

Research Centre for Sport in Canadian Society
University of Ottawa

University of Ottawa Press


List of Figures

Figure 1.1  

Sport Canada’s Contributions to Sport 1985–2013 (CA$)

Figure 1.2  

Canadian Sport Policy 2012 Policy Framework

Figure 2.1  

Mechanisms for Federal-Provincial/Territorial Government Collaboration

Figure 6.1  

Canadian Sport Participation Levels and Medals Won in Olympic Games


List of Tables

Table 1.1  

Sport Canada Legislation and Policies

Table 1.2  

Canadian Ministers/Secretary of State for Sport 1976–2013

Table 1.3  

Sport-Related Publications by the Government of Canada and Other Organizations 1985–2012

Table 1.4  

Sport Canada’s Contributions to Sport Since 1985

Table 2.1  

Provincial/Territorial Government Units Responsible for Sport, Recreation and Physical Activity

Table 2.2  

Federal-Provincial/Territorial Agreements Relating to Sport and Physical Activity

Table 2.3  

Areas of Responsibility on a Program-by-Program Basis

Table 2.4  

Government of Canada Financial Contributions for Generic Bilateral Agreements (CA$) 2002–2011

Table 2.5  

Government of Canada Financial Contributions for Aboriginal Bilateral Agreements (CA$) 2006–2011

Table 4.1  

Canada’s Paralympic and Olympic Medal Standings 2000–2012

Table 4.2  

Stakeholders and Descriptions

Table 4.3  

Sport Funding and Accountability Framework (CA$)

Table 4.4  

Sport Funding and Accountability Framework IV Summer NSO Assessment Weighting Grid

Table 4.5  

Sport Funding and Accountability Framework Ranking and Sport Canada Funding for Summer Sport NSOs

Table 4.6  

Sport Funding and Accountability Framework Ranking and Sport Canada Funding for Winter Sport NSOs

Table 5.1  

Sport Canada Funding to Athletes and Canadian Sport Centres/Institutes from 2000–2012 (CA$)

Table 8.1  

Major International Multi-Sport Games Hosted by Canada




Athlete Assistance Program


Amateur Athletic Union of Canada


American Broadcasting Company


Aboriginal Sport Circle


Athlete(s) with a disability


British Association of Sports Medicine


Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity


Coaching Association of Canada


Canadian Dollars

CAN Fund  

Canadian Athletes Now Fund


Canadian Broadcasting Corporation


Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport


Chief Executive Officer


Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute


Children’s Fitness Tax Credit


Commonwealth Games Canada


Commonwealth Games Canada International Development through Sport


Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat


Canadian Institutes of Health Research


Canadian Olympic Association


Canadian Olympic Committee


Calgary Olympic Development Association


Canadian Olympic Foundation


Cerebral Palsy International Sport and Recreation Association


Canadian Paralympic Committee


Canadian Sport for Life


Canadian Sport Centre


Commonwealth Sport Development Program


Canadian Sport Institute


Canadian Sport Policy


Canadian Television Network


Deputy Minister Working Group


Fuelling Athlete and Coaching Excellence


Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada


Fédération internationale de football association


Fédération internationale de natation


Fédération internationale du sport universitaire


Federal-Provincial/Territorial Sport Committee


General Social Survey


Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome


International Association of Athletics Federation


International Blind Sport Association


International Development through Sport


International Sport Federation


International Intergovernmental Consultative Group on Anti-Doping in Sport


International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability


International Olympic Committee


International Organizations of Sports for the Disabled


International Paralympic Committee


Indigenous Sport Development Officer


Interprovincial Sport and Recreation Council


International Wheelchair and Amputee Sport Association


International Working Group on Women and Sport


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered persons


Long-Term Athlete Development


Monitoring and Evaluation


Multi-Sport/Service Organization


North American Indigenous Games


National Fitness Council


National Football League


Non-Government Organization


National Olympic Committee


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council


National Sport Organization


Northwest Territories


Ontario Council for Agencies Serving Immigrants


Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games


Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages


Own the Podium


Pan American Games Society


Federal-Provincial/Territorial Physical Activity and Recreation Committee


Physical Activity and Sport Monitor


Physically Active Youth


Promoting Life-Skills in Aboriginal Groups


Provincial Sport Organization


Provincial/Territorial Aboriginal Sport Bodies


Road to Excellence


Right to Play


Sport Canada Research Initiative


Sport for Development and Peace


Sport Funding and Accountability Framework


Sport, Physical Activity, and Recreation Committee


Sport Programs in Inner City Neighbourhoods


Sport Participation Research Initiative


Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

UK Sport

United Kingdom Sport


United Nations


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization


United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace


United States of America


Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

VANOC 2010  

Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games


Women’s Amateur Athletic Federation


World Anti-Doping Agency


Women Organizing Activities for Women


World War II


Young Men’s Christian Association


Young Women’s Christian Association



The editors and authors would like to acknowledge public servants from all levels of government involved in sport as well as leaders of various national, provincial and local non-profit sport organizations for their availability and their willingness to answer our questions about the policies that affect them and their organizations. We would especially like to recognize the assistance of Sport Canada and, in particular, Dan Smith, Joanne Kay, David McCrindle and Steve Findlay for their answers to our questions and their suggestions. The views expressed in this book however, are solely those of the authors.

We would also like to thank the Research Centre for Sport in Canadian Society, University of Ottawa. A number of authors presented versions of their chapters at workshops hosted by the Research Centre. To this end, we wish to thank the workshop participants for their constructive feedback. We would also like to acknowledge the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and Sport Canada’s Sport Participation Research Initiative for the funds which made the research of many chapters included in this book possible.

Finally, we would like to acknowledge the universities and institutions to which we are affiliated. They provide the numerous resources that enable us to carry out our research. In alphabetical order, these are: British Columbia Centre of Excellence in Women’s Health; Brock University; Loughborough University; Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, Government of Canada; Queen’s University; University of British Columbia; University of Michigan; University of Ottawa; University of Toronto; University of Windsor; Western University; and York University.




Lucie Thibault, Brock University and
Jean Harvey, University of Ottawa

The purpose of this book is to provide a comprehensive overview of current Canadian sport policy. More than ever, in order to understand the role and meaning of sport in society, it is important to recognize the inter-relations between the sport system and the state, to realize that numerous sport issues are indeed also public policy issues in which the state has a key role to play. Given the current international trend toward devoting increasingly large sums of money to ‘produce’ Olympic medalists, to what extent should governments support high performance athletes, and through which channels? To what extent should municipalities provide access to sport infrastructures, free of charge or through user fees, to their citizens and community clubs? Should the federal government financially support national sport organizations (NSOs)? At what level? Under which conditions? Should governments establish public administrative bodies to control doping in sport, or should they mandate non-governmental organizations to do so? These are only a few examples of issues that first come to mind when one considers the role government plays in sport.

There have been prominent developments in sport in recent decades that reinforce government’s central role in the field. Canadians remember the success of Canadian athletes at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, as well as the massive investments of the federal government, the province of British Columbia and the city of Vancouver which made the hosting of these games successful. Canadian sport leaders, with funding from the government and sponsorships from the private commercial sector, launched the creation of Own the Podium, an initiative that continues to establish specific performance targets and strategies to achieve these targets for upcoming Summer and Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Greater Toronto Area is preparing to host the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games in 2015. As the lifespan of the 2002 Canadian Sport Policy was about to expire, a new Canadian Sport policy was adopted by sport ministers in June 2012. At the time of this book’s writing, Canada is also preparing to host the Women’s 2015 FIFA (Fédération internationale de football association) World Cup. Meanwhile, public health authorities are growing increasingly concerned over the alarming trend of Canadians’ decreasing participation in sport, and as a result, a renewed vision of the role of community sport, as both a public good and a tool for social and economic development, has emerged as a central issue of the new 2012 Canadian Sport Policy.

The scene itself is rather commonplace: smiling politicians posing in front of media cameras alongside successful athletes in the hope of improving their own political capital; but there are various and more significant reasons why government should be involved in sport. As outlined by Harvey (2008, p. 227), governments perceive “sport as an instrument of social cohesion” whereby people from different backgrounds are brought together through sport’s uniting force. As well, sport is considered “an instrument of economic development” where hosting international events, for example, is believed to contribute to the tourism sector and stimulate infrastructure development (e.g., transportation, technology, accommodations, sport facilities) in communities where events are held. Involvement in sport and sport policy are also considered to be important instruments of “foreign policy” and “international co-operation” (Harvey 2008, p. 227). Specifically, sport has often served as a strategy to foster economic and political relationships and generate goodwill among countries. Given sport’s mass appeal and ability to transcend borders, culture, language, gender, race, religion and socio-economic status, sport may be considered an ideal medium to facilitate exchanges between various nations (Andrews & Grainger, 2007; Miller, Lawrence, McKay, & Rowe, 2001; Wertheim, 2004). Conversely, sport can be used as an instrument of political pressure against foreign governments, as was the case with the international boycott of the former apartheid regime in South Africa. Another reason why governments choose to invest in sport is based on its perceived contribution to “social development and the promotion of social inclusion” (Harvey, 2008, p. 228). Sport’s connection to education and health and to the general well-being of individuals and communities would suggest that it serves an important function in society; however, as pointed out by Bloom, Gagnon and Hughes (2006, p. ii), “there is little evidence to support the anecdotal claims that high performance sport leads to social benefits such as building national pride, enhancing cultural awareness and encouraging healthy behaviours.” Along similar lines, Grix and Carmichael (2012) have noted:

isolated or (relatively) newly formed states, like Australia and Canada, have sought to use sport as a cornerstone of national identity creation, with the former often describing itself as a “sporting nation”, despite exhibiting many of the problems of other advanced capitalist states, for example high levels of obesity and low mass sport participation. (p. 86)

In light of these issues and motives justifying government involvement and investment in sport, this book aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the multi-faceted public sport policies in Canada, more specifically at the federal level, which we will discuss in greater detail below. In this book, we are exclusively interested in government policies (or public policies) and programs. What do we mean exactly by government policies or public policies and programs? There is currently no consensus in the literature on the definitions of these terms. As Page (2006, p. 210) has stated, “policies can be considered as intentions or actions, or more likely a mix of the two.”

Page (2006) argues that these intentions and actions can be viewed at four levels of abstraction. At the most general level, policy ‘intentions’ take the form of principles or general views about how to run public affairs. For example, in Western democratic countries, until the 1960s, the general view was that government should play a very limited role, if any, in what was then called amateur sports, while countries on the East side of the Iron Curtain were investing massively in their high performance system in order to demonstrate, through the Olympic Games, the superiority of their communist regime. The ‘liberal’ or non-interventionist vision of the state’s role in sport has now overwhelmingly vanished from advanced industrialized countries. Indeed, the question is no longer should government intervene in sport, but rather what are the best policies to support such intervention. At the next level, somewhat more specific intentions take the form of policy ‘lines,’ or strategies about how to manage specific issues or topics. For example, a significant section of Bill C-12 is dedicated to establishing and laying out the operating rules for the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada, which is in charge of mediating disputes within the sport system. Moving, then, to the sphere of actions, “measures are the specific instruments [or tools] that give effect to distinct policy lines” (Page, 2006, p. 211). Among the policy instruments used by governments are, for example, subsidies, exhortation, taxes, regulations, and licensing systems operated by state agencies. Finally, “practices are the behavior of officials normally expected to carry out policy measures” (Page, 2006, p. 211).

Pal’s (2010) definition of public policy is more encompassing than Page’s insofar as it includes inactions as well as intentions and actions. Policies are “a course of action or inaction chosen by public authorities to address a given problem or interrelated set of problems” (Pal, 2010, p. 2). It is important to emphasize Pal’s point that a decision by a government not to act on a specific issue is often, in itself, a policy. Finally, Pal (2010) argues that there is a fine line between programs and policies. Policies are mostly “guides to a range of related actions in a given field” (Pal, 2010, p. 2), while ‘programs’ are the specific courses of action taken in order to fulfill the goals of a policy. In summary, for the purpose of our work, ‘public policies’ are defined as intentions, actions, or inactions by public authorities. Therefore, the chapters included in this book address not only explicit policies, programs and actions taken by government, but also implicit ones.

This book is not the first to be published in the area of sport policy and Canadian government involvement in sport, but the existing literature tends to be limited and, for the most part, dated. In 1987, a book written by Donald Macintosh, Thomas Bedecki, and C.E.S. Franks entitled Sport and Politics in Canada: Federal Government Involvement Since 1961 was published. This book was followed by other works such as: Not Just a Game: Essays in Canadian Sport Sociology (Harvey & Cantelon, 1988), The Game Planners. Transforming Canada’s Sport System (Macintosh & Whitson, 1990), Sport and Canadian Diplomacy (Macintosh & Hawes, 1994), and Taking Sport Seriously: Social Issues in Canadian Sport (Donnelly, 1997, 2000, 2011) as well as numerous book chapters and articles (e.g., Cantelon, 2003; Comeau, 2013; Harvey, 1988, 2002, 2008; Harvey, Thibault, & Rail, 1995; Macintosh, 1996; Semotiuk, 1994; Thibault & Babiak, 2005). These works and others have contributed to our understanding of the nature and scope of the Canadian government’s involvement in amateur sport for a period of more than 50 years. But as noted earlier, given the developments that have taken place during the past decade, almost all of this literature is now outdated.

This book provides the most recent and most comprehensive examination of sport policy in Canada published to date. Questions steering the content of the book include: What roles do various levels of government play in high performance sport and sport participation in Canada? What are the major issues facing sport policy in this country? What are the strengths and weaknesses of Canada’s sport system? and What policies have been developed to guide the actions of government in sport?

Moreover, it brings together contributions from the largest selection of the best Canadian scholars in the field, providing an unprecedented depth and breadth of expertise on the various topics covered. In addition, it examines the most recent developments in Canadian sport policy, including the 2012 Canadian Sport Policy, which is set to cover the next 10 years. As such, this book provides readers with the most relevant and contemporary perspective on sport policy in Canada.

As is the case for all projects of such magnitude, this book is not without its limitations. First, as stated above, although this book focuses predominantly on sport policy at the federal level, some chapters address the involvement of provincial/territorial and local governments. Chapter II, for example, examines the inter-relationships in the sport policies of governments at the federal, the provincial/territorial, and local levels. Despite its comprehensiveness, however, a full account of sport policies at all levels of government was well beyond the scope of this project. To the extent that it focuses on public policies in sport, this book does not deal with the relationships between the state, professional sport and the commercial sport sector, primarily because these relationships are more relevant to industrial and labour policy rather than to sport policy. However, this delimitation does not prevent the authors in this book from making relevant observations on the impact of the private commercial sector on sport, most notably through sponsorship, endorsement and/or the financial support of athletes and non-profit sport organizations as it may relate to their topic. Some readers may notice the absence of a single, overarching framework that might provide a unified point of analysis for all the chapters. One could perceive this as a shortcoming; however, we prefer to see it as a strength in the sense that the absence of such an overarching framework gave the authors the freedom to discuss their areas of expertise in the most effective way, affording them the opportunity to go into greater depth in their policy analysis.

The book’s 13 chapters are organized into three sections: in Section I, the first three chapters of the book give an overview of sport policy in Canada. The first chapter by Lucie Thibault and Jean Harvey provides an historical overview of government involvement covering the period from 1961 to the adoption and implementation of the latest Canadian Sport Policy in 2012. The second chapter by Jean Harvey addresses the various levels of government involved in Canada’s sport system and the bilateral agreements that have been developed to manage collaboration among governments. The third chapter, authored by Bruce Kidd, examines sport, international relations and Canada’s role in sport for development.

In Section II, the major features of the Canadian Sport Policy are discussed. Chapter IV by Lisa Kikulis examines high performance sport and sport excellence in Canada. The following chapter, Chapter V, by Lucie Thibault and Kathy Babiak, highlights programs and services involved in the development and support of athletes. Chapter VI by Peter Donnelly investigates sport participation within Canadian sport and the role governments play in this area.

The third section of the text addresses the various policies within Sport Canada as well as policy issues affecting sport. Chapter VII by Rob Beamish discusses the history of Canada’s policy against doping in sport. The following chapter, Chapter VIII, by Cora McCloy and Lucie Thibault, presents and analyzes Canada’s policy and program for hosting international single sport and multi-sport events. Chapter IX is authored by Janice Forsyth and Vicky Paraschak and covers Canada’s policy on Aboriginal peoples and sport. The following chapter, Chapter X by David Howe, examines Canada’s sport policy for persons with a disability. In Chapter XI, Parissa Safai investigates Canada’s sport policy for girls and women, while in Chapter XII Graham Fraser addresses official languages in Canada’s sport system. In Chapter XIII, Wendy Frisby and Pamela Ponic investigate the issue of inclusion in sport. In the last section of the book, we conclude with a synopsis and closing remarks and address future directions with regard to high performance sport and sport participation in the Canadian context. The book provides a comprehensive analysis of recent developments in Canadian sport policy. It also provides a solid foundation for understanding contemporary issues in Canada’s sport system. We believe the current text fills an important gap in the existing literature on sport policy and provides an important overview of the involvement of both government and non-profit organizations in Canadian sport and the complex nature of the interactions between all sport stakeholders.


Andrews, D.L., & Grainger, A.D. (2007). Sport and globalization. In G. Ritzer (Ed.), The Blackwell companion to globalization (pp. 478–497). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Bloom, M., Gagnon, N., & Hughes, D. (2006). Achieving excellence: Valuing Canada’s participation in high performance sport. Ottawa, ON: Conference Board of Canada. Retrieved from https://www.sportmatters.ca/files/Groups/SMG%20Resources/Reports%20 and%20Surveys/2006-CBOC%20Benefits%20HP%20Sport.pdf

Cantelon, H. (2003). Canadian sport and politics. In J. Crossman (Ed.), Canadian sport sociology (pp. 172–189). Toronto, ON: Thomson Nelson.

Comeau, G.S. (2013). The evolution of Canadian sport policy. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 5(1), 73–93.

Donnelly, P. (Ed.) (1997). Taking sport seriously. Social issues in Canadian sport. Toronto, ON: Thompson Educational Publishing.

Donnelly, P. (Ed.) (2000). Taking sport seriously. Social issues in Canadian sport (2nd ed.). Toronto, ON: Thompson Educational Publishing.

Donnelly, P. (Ed.) (2011). Taking sport seriously. Social issues in Canadian sport (3rd ed.). Toronto, ON: Thompson Educational Publishing.

Grix, J., & Carmichael, F. (2012). Why do governments invest in elite sport? A polemic. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 4(1), 73–90.

Harvey, J. (1988). Sport policy and the welfare state: An outline of the Canadian case. Sociology of Sport Journal, 5(4), 315–329.

Harvey, J. (2002). Sport and citizenship policy: A shift toward a new normative framework for evaluating sport policy in Canada? ISUMA Canadian Journal of Policy Research, 3(1), 160–165.

Harvey, J. (2008). Sport, politics, and policy. In J. Crossman (Ed.), Canadian sport sociology (pp. 221–237). Toronto, ON: Thomson Nelson.

Harvey, J., & Cantelon, H. (Eds.) (1988). Not just a game: Essays in Canadian sport sociology. Ottawa, ON: University of Ottawa Press.

Harvey, J., Thibault, L., & Rail, G. (1995). Neo-corporatism: The political management system in Canadian amateur sport and fitness. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 19(3), 249–265.

Macintosh, D. (1996). Sport and government in Canada. In L. Chalip, A. Johnson, & L. Stachura (Eds.), National sports policies. An international handbook (pp. 39–66). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Macintosh, D., Bedecki, T., & Franks, C.E.S. (1987). Sport and politics in Canada. Federal government involvement since 1961. Montreal, QC & Kingston, ON: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Macintosh, D., & Whitson, D. (1990). The game planners. Transforming Canada’s sport system. Montreal, QC & Kingston, ON: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Macintosh, D., & Hawes, M.K. (1994). Sport and Canadian diplomacy. Montreal, QC & Kingston, ON: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Miller, T., Lawrence, G., McKay, J., & Rowe, D. (2001). Globalization and sport. Playing the world. London: Sage.

Page, E.C. (2006). The origins of policy. In M. Moran, M. Rein, & R.G. Goodin (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of public policy (pp. 207–227). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Pal, L.A. (2010). Beyond policy analysis: Public issue management in turbulent times (4th ed.). Toronto, ON: Nelson Education.

Semotiuk, D. (1994). Restructuring Canada’s national sports system: The legacy of the Dubin inquiry. In R.C. Wilcox (Ed.), Sport in the global village (pp. 365–375). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

Thibault, L., & Babiak, K. (2005). Organizational changes in Canada’s sport system: Toward an athlete-centred approach. European Sport Management Quarterly, 5(2), 105–132.

Wertheim, L.J. (2004, June 14). The whole world is watching. Sports Illustrated, 100(24), 72–86.




The Evolution of Federal Sport
Policy from 1960 to Today

Lucie Thibault, Brock University and
Jean Harvey, University of Ottawa

As noted in the introduction to this book, contemporary analysis of government involvement in ‘amateur’ sport is not only warranted, it is essential given the significant changes that have occurred in Canadian sport and in federal government involvement in sport since the publications of Macintosh and his colleagues as well as others (cf. Cantelon, 2003; Harvey, 1988, 2002, 2008; Harvey & Cantelon, 1988; Macintosh, 1996; Macintosh, Bedecki, & Franks, 1987; Macintosh & Whitson, 1990). For example, since 1987, Canada has hosted two Olympic Winter Games (Calgary 1988 and Vancouver 2010), Ben Johnson was caught using a banned substance in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, and an inquiry investigating the use of banned performance-enhancing substances in Canadian sports (Dubin, 1990) was conducted. In addition, during this time period the sport system was put under close scrutiny as the very purpose and place of government in sport was reassessed (e.g., Sport: The Way Ahead; Mills Report) (Mills, 1998; Minister’s Task Force, 1992). The position of Minister of State for Fitness and Amateur Sport was abolished in 1993, while at the same time, Sport Canada was moved to the newly created Department of Canadian Heritage. Canada hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1994 in Victoria and the Pan Am Games in 1999 in Winnipeg. Under the leadership of the new Secretary of State for Sport, Denis Coderre, an extensive pan-Canadian consultation process involving all major sport stakeholders was undertaken, which culminated in the Report on the National Summit on Sport (Government of Canada, 2001), the Canadian Sport Policy in 2002 (Sport Canada, 2002), and federal legislation in the form of an act to promote physical activity and sport (Bill C-12) in 2003 (Parliament of Canada, 2003). The original Canadian Sport Policy was subsequently renewed in 2012 (Sport Canada, 2012). Bill C-12 and the Canadian Sport Policy are part of a series of laws and policies developed by Sport Canada. Table 1.1 (below) provides a chronological outline of these laws and policies. For the most part, these will be examined in different chapters throughout this book. In the present chapter, we will provide a brief historical overview of federal government involvement in sport, where major features of increased government involvement in our sport system will be outlined.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Canadian government started to consider a more direct involvement in our nation’s sport system. Several events led politicians and bureaucrats down this path. For example, Canada’s lack of gold medal performances in ice hockey during the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Winter Games, meager results at the 1960 Olympic Summer Games combined with poor levels of fitness among Canadians, led to increased pressure on politicians and the federal government to become directly involved in sport and fitness in the early 1960s. Giving further support for government involvement was the Prime Minister at the time, John Diefenbaker (Progressive Conservative government). As a young, aspiring politician who had attended the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin as a spectator and then, as Prime Minister, the Pan American Games in Chicago in 1959, Diefenbaker experienced first-hand the power of sport to enhance national pride, identity and unity (Kidd, 2001; Macintosh et al., 1987). The Government of Canada would soon develop legislation that would secure its involvement for the future. In September 1961, the federal government passed Bill C-131, an Act to Encourage Fitness and Amateur Sport. In the years following Bill C-131, the nature of government involvement was predominantly in the form of grants to provincial governments to ensure the implementation of fitness programs as well as programs to enhance athletic performance in international competitions (Macintosh et al., 1987). In the mid-1960s, the federal government also created the Canada Games–a multi-sport national competition for youth held every two years (alternating between summer and winter games) where athletes represent their provinces and territories. The first games were held in 1967 in Quebec City (Macintosh et al., 1987).

The extent of government involvement took on greater proportion in the late 1960s and 1970s. In his electoral campaign for Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau (Liberal government) made a promise to examine sport. Following his election in 1968, Trudeau honoured this promise and created a task force to examine the state of amateur and professional sport and explore the role of government and national and international sport organizations in promoting and developing Canadian sport (Macintosh et al., 1987). The task force included Nancy Greene,1 a prominent downhill skier who won the inaugural World Cup in 1967 and won gold (giant slalom) and silver (slalom) medals at the 1968 Olympic Winter Games in Grenoble. In 1969, the Report of the Task Force on Sports for Canadians was published (Rae, 1969). Several of the task force recommendations would eventually be implemented by the Ministry of National Health and Welfare through a document presented by then Minister John Munro entitled A Proposed Sports Policy for Canadians (Munro, 1970). Several arm’s-length agencies such as the Coaching Association of Canada, ParticipACTION, Hockey Canada and the National Sport and Recreation Centre were created during the early 1970s to support national sport organizations; office space was subsequently provided to these organizations in Ottawa along with funding to hire one full-time employee (Macintosh, 1996; Macintosh et al., 1987). These government initiatives were well received by national sport organizations.

These initiatives were further sustained with the announcement in 1971 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that the 1976 Summer Olympic Games would be awarded to Montreal. The announcement provided the impetus for the federal government’s emphasis on high performance sport (over the development of mass sport, fitness, or recreation). Several programs were initiated to prepare athletes for the Games. For example, athlete assistance programs (i.e., Game Plan, Game Plan 76) overseen by the Canadian Olympic Association (renamed the Canadian Olympic Committee in 2002) were developed to provide financial support to athletes preparing for the 1972 and 1976 Games. A lottery system (Loto-Canada) was created by the federal government to provide additional funding for the organization of the 1976 Games. National sport organizations benefited from greater federal funding in the years preceding the Games (Macintosh et al., 1987).

From an international perspective, the Montreal Games were considered a success, (particularly when compared to the 1972 Munich Olympic Games); however, from a fiscal perspective the 1976 Games were a financial disaster, with a reported deficit of CA$ 1B to CA$ 1.5B. It would take three decades to pay this deficit off–with funds originating mostly from taxation on tobacco products (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2006). Of note, regarding our athletes’ performances at these Games, Canada would become the first host-nation not to win a gold medal during the Games.

Shortly after the 1976 Montreal Games, the Liberal government created the position of Minister of State for Fitness and Amateur Sport (to work under the aegis of the Ministry of National Health and Welfare), with Iona Campagnolo appointed as its first minister. During her term, Campagnolo undertook a comprehensive review of Canada’s sport and consulted with several stakeholders. In 1979, she released Partners in Pursuit of Excellence–A National Policy on Amateur Sport. Although this document was never tabled in the House of Commons, responsibilities regarding high performance sport would remain in the purview of the federal government while the responsibility for mass sport and recreation would be devolved to provincial and local governments. During Campagnolo’s term, Canada hosted the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton and finished in first place overall, capturing 109 of 395 medals. This victory and Campagnolo’s presence in the Games’ closing ceremonies reaffirmed the involvement of the federal government in high performance sport (Macintosh et al., 1987).

In 1981, the IOC selected Calgary as host-city of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games. As was the case for the 1976 Games, the decision led to several government initiatives to prepare athletes for the event. One of these initiatives included Best Ever ’88, a program wherein national sport organizations would receive federal funding to develop and implement four-year plans to enhance the preparation of their athletes (Macintosh & Whitson, 1990). The 1980s were marked by a high turnover rate in the ministers appointed to the sport portfolio (see Table 1.2 for a complete list of ministers responsible for sport since 1976). The 1980s were also marked by increasing levels of organization and bureaucracy within the Canadian sport system, with the hiring of more paid administrative and technical staff in most national sport organizations and in a number of provincial sport organizations. This led to the increased bureaucratization and professionalization of sport organizations as structures, policies, and systems were established and implemented (Macintosh & Whitson, 1990). But while the Games in Calgary were deemed successful, once again Canadian athletes failed to secure a gold medal for the country. By the 1990s, the increased bureaucratization and professionalization of sport organizations would lead to changes in governance in which paid executives took on greater responsibilities for the development of policies and strategies for their sport in shared leadership with volunteer executives.

The 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul shook the foundation of Canada’s sport system when Ben Johnson’s win in the 100-metre race and his subsequent disqualification a few days later became the biggest story at the Games. The disqualification based on Johnson’s positive drug test eventually resulted in the establishment by the federal government of an inquiry into the use of drugs and banned practices intended to increase athletic performance. This commission led by Justice Charles Dubin resulted in a comprehensive 1990 report entitled Commission of Inquiry Into the Use of Drugs and Banned Practices Intended to Increase Athletic Performance. Dubin’s (1990) critical examination of Canada’s high performance sport led to a new doping policy (Canadian Policy on Penalties for Doping in Sport) and several other reports, many of them also scrutinizing the Canadian government’s (over)emphasis on international results for athletes and recommending an examination and adoption of ‘ethical’ sport practices (e.g., Values and Ethics in Amateur Sport. Morality, Leadership, Education; Sport: The Way Ahead; The Status of the High Performance Athlete in Canada). A list of these documents, including other sport-related documents published by the federal government and national non-profit organizations, is provided in Table 1.3. In addition to the publication of a number of reports, two organizations were created as a result of the Dubin inquiry: Fair Play Canada and the Canadian Centre for Drug-Free Sport. These two organizations eventually merged in 1995 to form the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, n.d.).