ParticipACTION Needs to Step It Up for Canada 150

I am one of those strange outlier millennials that still watches cable TV. Yes, the one with the cord plugged into the wall. So there I am one night watching TV and an ad promoting fitness for Canada’s 150th birthday comes up. Check it:

The first thing I noticed was the lack of colour. Ethnic colour. It’s all white people practicing and showcasing tai chi. Is this how Indian people felt when they first saw yoga studios popping up?

Now, let me be clear, I am not against non-Asians practicing tai chi. In fact, I have been researching meditation recently and there are a lot of non-Asians hungry for spirituality. If traditional Asian philosophies and practices gives them that fulfilment then please by all means let’s share, learn, and thrive together.

What I am against is the seeming lack of effort on the part of the video’s producers to normalize diversity. And, what easier place to do so than Vancouver (where the video was filmed) — a metropolitan region hailed for its diversity. Heck, in 10 minutes the video producers could have pulled dozens of people from a wide range of backgrounds at the beach location the video was filmed at (or perhaps done a little bit more research and moved the location to your local mall just before before opening hours — tons of aunties is doing tai chi there)

One of the biggest shames in all of this is the fact that the ParticipACTION videos are filmed in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday aka Canada 150. Our nation prides itself in heralding multiculturalism, so why the colourless tai chi video? The ParticipACTION Canada 150 campaign is also funded by the Canadian federal government whom I hope would have stringent criteria for diversity. I hope.

If you grew up in Canada during the 90s you might recognize Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod in ads during breaks in your favourite cartoon mornings and afternoons in… (sing it with me now) BodyBreak!

In my opinion, these fitness gems were a bastion of diversity on Canadian television having positive effects on children all across the country. Hal and Joanne believed that fitness and health programs should be designed for all Canadians regardless of physical abilities, sex, or ethnicity. And, the diversity clearly showed in their videos.

You might also recall that BodyBreak was once part of ParticipACTION which is currently running the 150 Play List this year. I have very positive memories of ParticipACTION because of BodyBreak and it’s so unfortunate that Hal and Joanne’s legacy of diversity and inclusion doesn’t seem to be upheld by the same organization today. I really want ParticipACTION to maintain this legacy, so let me extend a helping hand:

Dear ParticipACTION,

The celebrations for Canada 150 are not over yet and you probably have more videos in the works. Give us a shout if you need help adding diversity to your videos. Let Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod’s legacy live on for another 150 years!


Cold Tea Collective

PS. Read up on Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod’s story. It’s wicked good.

“We’ve also used our show in a more subtle way, to help convey the message that no matter what your race, gender or physical limitation, we can all live, work and play together. This is very important to us and we do not do it because it may be considered politically correct. We do it because it’s the right thing to do. That point was driven home when a young Edmonton girl, who is physically challenged, thanked us for having people in wheelchairs in our shows. She finally could see someone like herself on TV and found it inspiring.”

Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod

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