Mi’kmaw Physical Activity Leadership Program: A Nova Scotia success story

August 05th 2015

The Mi’kmaw Physical Activity Leadership Program was introduced at the inception of Thrive! The program is cost shared between the province and Mi’kmaw communities. Like the Municipal Physical Activity Leadership Program, the goal is to help the communities hire physical activity strategy coordinators to engage their communities in the development and implementation of comprehensive physical activity strategies aimed at making physical activity the easy choice for residents, with the potential for improved health.

Today, nine of the 13 Mi’kmaw communities in Nova Scotia have joined the program. As a result, many new partnerships have been formed and new programs and policies have been put in place to support increased physical activity in these communities. In May 2015, the coordinators presented their program at the National Aboriginal Physical Activity Conference in Membertou. As a result, other regions from across the country have requested further information about this program which is seen as a national leader in the Aboriginal physical activity field.

At the same time as the physical activity coordinator was starting in Eskasoni, the Surf Association of Nova Scotia was looking to increase participation by Aboriginal youth. Together, they approached Richmond County Recreation and formed a three way partnership to create a program. The program really took off in the second year with the addition of a junior life saving element to ensure youth had the necessary water safety skills. Thirty youth attended regularly from Eskasoni.

Some of those youth will be mentored this summer to become leaders in coming years. The goal will be to have trained surf instructors and lifeguards from Mi'kmaw communities who can instruct the program and also help increase water safety communities. This year, with a physical activity coordinator in all five Mi'kmaw communities in Cape Breton, the program will be open to youth from Wagmatcook, Waycobah, Chapel Island and Membertou, as well as Eskasoni.  

The surf program illustrates the wonderful partnership potential of the Mi’kmaw Physical Activity Leadership Program. It contributes to Thrive’s goal of increasing options for physical activity outdoors. It provides youth with leadership opportunities, increases water safety, and gets youth involved in an activity they can continue into adulthood.