Water Polo Canada has developed a Diversity Task Force to eliminate systemic racism and create a better atmosphere for the sport, they said in a statement last week.
Among the Task Force is Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller, who co-captained Team Canada to fifth place at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. She was appointed to the group immediately after the statement was released.
“Water Polo Canada was extremely open to tackle these issues,” said Horn-Miller. “This is a complete 360-degree turn in this organization and I look forward to working with everybody.”
The group was created to reconcile past mistakes between the organization and affected athletes like Horn-Miller, who left the sport for cohesion issues in 2003.
“It started off with abuse on the team and I was co-captain,” she said. “A few of the other athletes brought that to life and no one was listening. We finally got an external organization to do an investigation and after, there was a problem. There was abuse (from Water Polo Canada).”
Despite the cohesion issue claims against Horn-Miller, she said the team did not explicitly state what problems she was exhibiting.
“You have to tell me what I’ve done so I don’t do these cohesion issues again,” she said. “I was made a co-captain of a team. If you’re put in a position of leadership, you don’t put people in a position of abuse.”
Water Polo Canada has apologized in their statement to Horn-Miller. “We have worked hard over the years to make Water Polo Canada a sports organization that we thought was safe and welcoming for everyone, all skin colours, all backgrounds, and all identities. We now recognize that we fell short. We sincerely apologize to her (Horn-Miller) and others who we have hurt and excluded.”
She wants to provide equal opportunity for everyone to play water polo, not just for Indigenous people, but for anyone regardless of their race, gender or background.
“Sports are not accessible, you have to live in a (specific) geographical location,” said Horn-Miller. “Like Indigenous Peoples, you don’t have access to a lot. You have to tell them you have to come south to want to play. I feel sports needs to make it more accessible. We need to ask how do we do that.”
Despite the shaky past with Water Polo Canada, Horn-Miller is ready to help promote the game that made her famous.
“I still love water polo. I want to make it better,” she said. “If I can bring more patience and experience that can contribute to do that, I’m really happy that I can do that.”
Horn-Miller was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame last year.
Her appearance at the 2000 Summer Olympics made her the second Kahnawake Olympian, joining Alwyn Morris.
She won the gold medal at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Manitoba and bronze in the 2001 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.
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