Proudly Surrey to Eliminate Barriers to Youth Sports

Felix Kongyuy, a long-time program designer and organizer with at-risk and marginalized youth in Whalley began laying out the practicalities of Proudly Surrey’s signature policy, city-wide barrier-free youth activities. “Every September, when young people return to school, they don’t just encounter the formal curriculum of our school system.

They confront a hidden curriculum that tells them who is destined for success and who is not. In my work, I try to undo the effects of that hidden curriculum that separates students by class, income and parental employment,” stated Kongyuy.

“Surrey, as the municipality with the largest number and proportion of children and youth in Metro Vancouver, has the most comprehensive, robust and diverse program of extra-curricular sports taking place in our parks,” Kongyuy explained, “But even though these parks belong to all of us equally, they are not enjoyed equally.

Some parents can afford the uniform, equipment and travel costs to enroll their kids in sports. And some cannot. Some families have a stay-at-home parent or a parent with flexible work hours who can take time off to volunteer with team sports and attend games. And some do not. Some families have a second or third vehicle and an available daytime driver. And some do not.”

“While we appreciate Tom Gill and Surrey First suddenly adopting our policy of ending community centre facility (but not program) fees after nine years of inaction in office, we want to remind him that there are a bunch of other youth programming ideas, he and his slate need to hurry up and adopt,” stated Stuart Parker, one of Kongyuy’s three council running-mates.

“To keep our kids out of gangs,” he continued, “to ensure true equality of opportunity, to get the best and brightest competing for Surrey and to give all of our children and youth equal access to public facilities, we will begin municipal busing for team sports and begin regulating team sports in our parks to ensure that every team provides free uniforms and equipment, subsidized equally, per-capita by our city budget.

We had a budget surplus in the hundreds of millions of dollars last year. The cost of zero-barrier sports teams is a drop in the bucket.”

To implement this policy, the city and school board would need to mutually invest in a larger dedicated bus fleet, to supplement the small school bus fleet the board currently owns.

“This is an example of a policy that requires close council-school board cooperation,” explained Dean McGee, co-founder of Proudly Surrey and School Trustee candidate. “We need to make sure the same policies go for school field use as for city park use when it comes to extra-mural teams so that we are working hand-in-hand to enact the same policy. We need lend the city some buses and, in exchange, we get to share the capital costs of expanding our fleet with City Council.”

The expanded school bus fleet would be supplemented with Translink vouchers for children and youth able to reach practices, games and other programmed activities through existing public bus and rapid transit routes, until such time as an agreement can be reached to exit the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority and establish an integrated bus system south of the Fraser.

Parker, co-author of the policy, remarked that this program is closest to his heart of all Proudly Surrey policies.

“This is a vision that my uncle Harry Jerome, BC’s Athlete of the Century (1871-1971) always dreamed of. He lifted himself out of poverty, abuse and racial discrimination through amateur sports.

The idea that every young person, irrespective of wealth, income, race or class, could participate as an equal on a baseball diamond, soccer field or on a track like him was something he strove for his whole life of public service, as a founding administrator of Canada’s Ministry of Sport and creator of BC’s Premier Sports Award. He would be seventy-eight years old this month. I wish he could be here to see the first election where people could vote on his vision.”

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