The Hockey Cares project promotes real reconciliation through a positive cultural exchange, building lasting relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Based on a common love of hockey, it is a life-changing encounter for many of the youth who will experience another culture first-hand. Supported by Experiences Canada and many other donors and sponsors, the project also focuses on exposing (in particular) Indigenous youth from northern Canada to post-secondary opportunities and support systems.
This project is about learning from one another, playing together and exposing (in particular) Indigenous youth from northern Canada to post-secondary opportunities and support systems.
Hockey Cares is a project of True North Aid, with the mission of connecting youth through a shared love of hockey. Hockey Cares was founded by Sue Heddle of Oakville ON. Since 2017, we have coordinated an exchange with Oakville and Attawapiskat bantam hockey teams.
Attawapiskat youth travel to Oakville in July, and the Oakville youth fly up to Attawapiskat in November to learn from their new friends, play hockey, and experience a new culture. All travel for the youth has been generously covered by Experiences Canada since 2017.
Why Bantam-aged players?
Age 13-15 is important because they’re in, or about to enter, high school. We want all players to see how important it is to complete high school. Only 4 out of 10 Indigenous youth finish high school, compared to 9 out of 10 non-Indigenous youth. At this age, suicide can also become an urgent and wide-spread problem for Indigenous youth. While there is much variation between different communities, average suicide rates are horrifying – five to seven times higher in First Nations youth, and eleven times higher in Inuit youth, when compared with non-Aboriginal Canadian youth.
By introducing Indigenous youth to the opportunities available to them in the Canadian ‘south’, they can see what possibilities are available to them. Many of them live in very remote areas in the Canadian North – and may never even see the world outside of their community. The Hockey Cares Project works with leaders at colleges and universities to not only show Indigenous youth the opportunities available to them, but also the support networks that already exist, especially provided by Indigenous people living in places like Oakville and the Greater Toronto area.
Our hope is that youth will return to Attawapiskat and enrich their community.
Hockey Cares is not just for Indigenous youth but also for non-Indigenous youth and their families. Hockey Cares is very much about ‘Reconciliation’ The long and tragic history of colonization in Canada often noted and remembered, heads shake sadly…and then nothing happens. “Raising awareness” can only go so far. “Raising awareness” by itself can’t stop suicides or provide clean drinking water.
We suggest that the problem for many well-meaning non-Indigenous people is that these issues are too abstract and mediated. Undrinkable water? Squalid shelter? Suicide epidemics? Rampant hopelessness? These all seem like someone else’s problems – the television or computer screen seems to distance us from them. If you’re a non-Indigenous person reading this, ask yourself – how many actual flesh-and-blood Indigenous people can you count as friends? Merely know socially? Do you have any friends among Indigenous people living in remote communities?
The Hockey Cares Project takes one small step toward changing this reality. Sometimes the simplest and most obvious options are the most effective. Maybe meeting a real live person actually affected by issues in an isolated community – forming friendships with them through the shared common love of hockey – can change things for the better. Maybe it will bring about lasting, real awareness in non-Indigenous people about the day-to-day challenges Indigenous people in Canada face. Maybe this will help win over new allies in young people, moving beyond ‘awareness’ and into a fight for justice for Indigenous people.
In short – maybe your donation can help bring about real reconciliation between Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. We believe that making connections with youth can be part of the process of reconciliation.