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Funding sweeping the Arctic

Chris Puglia
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 08/03) - Sports in both the NWT and Nunavut received a cash infusion last week that is expected to increase participation and accessibility for Northern athletes, coaches and volunteers.

The announcement was made by Paul DeVillers, secretary of state (physical activity and sport).

DeVillers took the time to deliver funding and sign the agreements in person. In two days he and his entourage travelled from Iqaluit to Yellowknife to Whitehorse, a fact that officials like Jake Ootes, GNWT minister of education, culture and employment, said was appreciated.

"We want to get more grassroots participation in sports," said DeVillers.

"All the studies show that the more kids are involved in sports the more balanced they are."

Peter Kilabuk, Nunavut's minister of culture, language, elders and youth said that the extra funding will help achieve his government's goal of promoting healthy living.

The funds span two initiatives. The first block of funding, over $1 million, goes to the Pan-Territorial Sport Strategy. Over $1 million in additional funding will be matched by the territorial governments. The funds will be paid out over the next three years.

The funds will focus on nine elements of development. Included in the nine is decreasing barriers to sport for girls and women.

As well the money will address developing aboriginal coaching and sport resources.

That includes creating coach training and competency testing for traditional sports such as dog mushing, Inuit games, Dene games and snowshoeing.

The announcement included $105,000 committed to the Canadian Badminton Association ($40,000) and the Canadian Table Tennis Association ($65,000).

Terry Young, president of the Nunavut Table Tennis Association, said the money is important to get more people involved.

"We're just starting our program," he said. "The money will help bring coaches to the North and set up clinics throughout Nunavut."

Approximately $12,000 of the badminton funding will go to the NWT.

The funds will be used to hire a badminton development officer.

Ron Graf said the position will help develop badminton in smaller communities.

Graf is the former president of the NWT Badminton Association and is the current vice-president of Canadian Badminton Association.

"We're going to do as much as we can focusing on getting to some of the schools outside of Yellowknife and some of the clubs," said Graf.

The goal of the initiative is to increase the number of aboriginal youth involved in badminton.

The initiative will also help to develop a training program for high performance athletes in time for the 2007 Canada Winter Games.

An additional $1.2 million has also been allocated to national sport organizations and some of the money is expected to filter down to territorial sport organizations.

That money, DeVillers said, reaffirms the federal government's belief that all Canadians should have equal access to sport.

-- with files from Neils Christensen