National Indigenous team to compete for first time at Canadian women's under-18 event

OTTAWA — A national Indigenous team will compete for the first time ever at the Canadian women's under-18 tackle football championship later this summer.

Football Canada announced Wednesday the squad will join teams from Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Ontario (two), Manitoba and Quebec from July 23-29 in the Canadian capital.

"We look forward to this year’s championship as we continue to grow football for women and girls,” said Shannon Donovan, Football Canada's executive director. "The participation of an Indigenous team through the leadership provided by Chief Kevin Hart and our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee led by Jason Lafferty is enriching."

Hart, a member of the Manitoba Football Hall of Fame, has spent the last two years attempting to unite football and Indigenous culture in one team.

"With the tournament taking place on unceded Anishinaabe Algonquin Territory and the Capital of Canada, Ottawa, it is fitting for Football Canada to take this major step toward Indigenous inclusion,” Hart said. "By participating in this grassroots effort, Football Canada has acknowledged our unique history in this country and started the journey towards answering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's Calls to Action.

"We thank them for this opportunity."

Added Football Canada president Jim Mullin: "When we launched our Indigenous brand in 2021, one of the first people I talked with was Chief Hart. He shared his passion for football and the impact it could have on indigenous communities. We are thrilled we can take the next step with him to get us closer to our shared Truth and Reconciliation goals."

The tournament will begin with seeding games July 23, after which teams will be allocated to two pools based upon results and previous rankings. Alberta, the defending champion, and Saskatchewan will kick the event off to determine the first seed.

New Brunswick will take on Quebec, Ontario (Red) squares off against Manitoba with Ontario (Black) meeting the national Indigenous squad in other opening-day contests.

Semifinal games will be played July 26 to determine which teams will meet for the gold medal July 29, the final day of competition. A more detailed event schedule will be distributed closer to the start of competition.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2023.

The Canadian Press