The First Nations Education Council’s Inter-school Games is a major sports competition which, every year, brings together several hundred youths between the ages of 10 and 18 from different communities across Quebec and features four sports disciplines: floor hockey, volleyball, basketball and track and field. Every year, the Games welcome more than 45 teams that compete in some 170 events, and for five consecutive days, hundreds of people—students, parents, volunteers and school staff—rally in a single location. The event also has a social and a prevention component: Recreational activities (opening night, awards ceremony, mini powwow, etc.) are scheduled to give participants and their chaperones an opportunity to socialize with members from other communities, and the FNEC’s Educational Services Sector organizes awareness-raising activities to promote healthy lifestyle habits and provide youths with academic and vocational information, including on science and technology.
Schools can leverage the event’s popularity by using the Games as a positive incentive for students to obey rules regarding, for instance, attendance, marks or behaviour. This not only structures the students’ participation in the Games, but also motivates them to renew their commitment to their studies. As such, this year-end event becomes at once a reward for students as well as a concrete measure to promote perseverance in school.
A study led by the FNEC in 2008 revealed that most member communities did not have sports and recreation policies in place and that half did not have programs either. Fast forward to today, and communities still lack the necessary resources for such programs, whether in terms of infrastructure, installations, equipment or qualified personnel. Several communities have no pool, athletics track or gymnasium, and young people living in remote communities far from urban centres have few opportunities to participate in organized sports activities. According to the FNEC, the Inter-school Games have a positive impact on the academic trajectory and well-being of students, and can furthermore make a difference in the communities themselves by encouraging its members to create initiatives. The immense sense of pride felt by participants (students, parents, volunteers, school staff) can also turn into a source of motivation that extends beyond the school’s walls and become a veritable lever for social change. However, before policies on sports and recreation can be adopted and programs can be developed by the communities, it is first necessary to communicate the value of physical activity and believe in its benefits. The Inter-school Games is an excellent means of stimulating the progressive instauration of a culture of physical activity in the communities.