In the spring of 2015, we conducted a province-wide survey to learn how parks and recreation affect the quality of life in Saskatchewan. Surveys of this kind have been conducted in provinces across Canada, however we had no similar or recent data for Saskatchewan. We needed to get some new baseline data in order to determine how the public in our province perceives the parks and recreation sector, and its impact on their way of life. Following this project, we identified a need for a follow-up survey.
In the fall of 2016, we held our Annual General Meeting in Regina. At that time, a number of conversations and sessions on current issues and trends in recreation got us to thinking that there were questions that had not been asked in our survey of Quality of Life in Saskatchewan, and that there were some gaps in our knowledge of the people we serve.
It has been a challenge for the sector to acquire statistics on Indigenous and newcomer participation in recreation, not just in Saskatchewan but across Canada. We’ve also come to recognize that our sector does not have much, if any, data on the parks and recreation experiences of people who identify as LGBT. This lack of data exists in spite of anecdotal evidence which has identified serious inequities in our province.
To address this gap in our knowledge and the inequities that create barriers to participation in recreation, we conducted an online survey in January 2017 through InSightrix’s OnTopic service. We wanted to learn how issues of inactivity, discrimination and harassment and accessibility in recreation affect the people of Saskatchewan, including (but not limited to) those who are newcomers to our Province, First Nations and Métis, LGBT, or those who identified themselves as a visible minority. A stratified sample of 803 respondents over the age of 18 from across the province was contacted and asked about their level of agreement with a series of questions.
Unfortunately, we did not receive any responses to our survey from newcomers to our Province, so it remains a challenge for us to identify and address the experience of newcomers in the sector. However, a healthy number of all other groups responded (with no less than 25 respondents from each category of respondent), and we gained some hard data on the challenges certain groups in our province face in participating in a healthy lifestyle.
Tough Questions, Challenging Answers
Affordability of an Active Lifestyle
We know that Saskatchewan needs to be more active, and we have the data to prove it. However, what is even more troubling is that people in the lowest income brackets also report the lowest levels of physical activity in the province. People who make less than $30,000/year are more than twice as likely to consider themselves not active at all (14%) than the average (6%).
Discrimination and Harassment
Is discrimination in Saskatchewan’s recreation sector a problem? It depends who you ask. 70% of those surveyed say they have not experienced discrimination or harassment while participating in recreation. On the surface, that seems like a statistic that trends towards the positive. However, 14% of our respondents overall indicate that they have experienced discrimination or harassment.
When we examined that number a little more closely, we found that 40% of those surveyed who identify as LGBT agreed that they have experienced discrimination or harassment in a recreational setting. Furthermore, nearly half of all LGBT respondents disagree (44%) that recreation is available to anyone who wants to participate in Saskatchewan. Another concerning statistic is that 21% of Indigenous people surveyed agree they have experienced discrimination and harassment, while another 18% would neither confirm or deny whether they had been harassed or discriminated against. It is clear from our data is that discrimination and harassment in recreation are a reality for a large number of Saskatchewan’s LGBT and Indigenous peoples.
Support For Gender Minorities in Question
Saskatchewan is very divided on the issue of whether or not recreation facilities should offer “Gender Neutral” washrooms and change rooms. 31% agree that facilities should include gender neutral options, but 40% disagree and 29% have no opinion on the issue.
80% of LGBT respondents agree that facilities should have gender neutral washrooms and change rooms. However, nearly half of the overall number of respondents with incomes between $60,000/year to just under $120,000/year and $120,000+/year do not agree that facilities should have gender neutral washrooms (47% and 51%, respectively).
What Happens Next?
With these questions answered, new questions arise, however based on what we learned, we believe the challenges we identified can become opportunities.
Our recent research into the experiences of Indigenous and LGBT people in the Province has raised new questions about the barriers to participation that many face in this Province, and it still remains a challenge to acquire data on the experiences of newcomers to Saskatchewan. More work needs to be done, and addressing the issues facing these populations will require time, and a commitment to research and analysis. It will also require the development and implementation of effective policy and action plans to address these inequities in our communities. Thankfully, the Interprovincial Sport and Recreation Council and the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association have developed a helpful guideline for this shared purpose: The Framework for Recreation in Canada 2015: Pathways to Wellbeing. Together Canada in general and Saskatchewan in particular can move forward in reflection, discussion and the development of action for the changes we need in Saskatchewan.
For the time being, you can read the complete summary of our new research – Surveying the Field 2017 – on our website, and subscribe to our newsletter as we continue to identify new trends and issues affecting the parks and recreation sector in Saskatchewan.
To read the full results of our Surveying the Field 2017 survey, visit https://www.spra.sk.ca/publications/surveying-the-field/
This article previously appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of DIRECTION magazine.