Sports in Canada

Sports in Canada are on the rise, with the constant tide of immigration to the country being a contributor to its’ broad pool of athletic talent. The reputation of the North American country in sports has risen to the point of being synonymous with excellence in certain sporting codes like ice hockey.

Recognizing the importance that immigration plays in elevating its sporting achievements and global profile, the Canadian government, via Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), has created several immigration programs and streams to maximize the number of sportspersons moving to Canada.

Take the chance to hit the field as a sportsperson or athlete in Canada by discovering all the ins and outs of sports in Canada!

Canadian Sport

Canadian Sport

Canada is a country with a vibrant sporting culture that is deeply ingrained in its national identity. From the snow-capped mountains to the sprawling urban centers, sports play a significant role in the lives of Canadians.

Whether it's the thrill of ice hockey, the grace of figure skating, or the excitement of soccer, there's something for everyone in Canada's sporting landscape. Among the storied history of sport in Canada, the most significant achievements include but are not limited to:

  • The Saint Johns Regatta, first held in 1818 in Newfoundland and Labrador is considered the oldest continuing sporting event in North America,
  • The first baseball game was held in Ontario, Canada in 1838, seven years before the establishment of the New York Knickerbockers by Cartwright,
  • First organized ice hockey game took place in Montreal at the Victoria Rink, and
  • The rules of basketball were written by Canadian James Naismith in 1891.

The Canadian Sports System

Canadian Sports Policy

The Canadian sports system is a well-structured and organized framework that supports and promotes sports at various levels. From grassroots initiatives to elite competitions, the system fosters talent and provides opportunities for individuals to pursue their sporting passions.

Canada’s sports system is made up of many organizations, each playing its specific role. For example, some organizations provide Canadians access to sports and assist athletes in participating and succeeding in sports competitions, while others host sports events. The three most prominent organizations are:

National Multisport Service Organizations

Multisport Service Organizations (MSOs) help lead the delivery of services to Canada’s national sports communities. Among others, the services include:

  • Education and certification of coaches,
  • Development of sports programs at post-secondary institutions,
  • Support of Indigenous athletes and coordinating the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG),
  • Provide resolution services for sport disputes in the form of education, mediation, and arbitration,
  • Promote participation in sport.

In recognition of the essential services they provide Canadian sport, many MSOs receive funding from the Canadian government via Sport Canada. These organizations are outlined below:

MSOs Funded by Sport Canada
AthletesCAN Aboriginal Sport Circle
Canada Games Council Canadian Women and Sport
Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association
Canadian Deaf Sports Association Canadian Olympic Committee
Canadian Paralympic Committee Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities
Coaching Association of Canada Commonwealth Games Canada
Go Le Grand Défi inc. KidSport Canada
Motivate Canada Own the Podium
ParticipACTION Physical and Health Education Canada
Special Olympics Canada Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada
Sport for Life Society Sport Information Resource Centre (SIRC)

You can visit the Canadian government website to learn more about Canada’s Multisport Service Organizations (MSOs).

National Sport Organizations

National Sport Organizations (NSOs)- also called the National Sport Federations (NSFs) - are the national governing bodies for specific Canadian sports. NSOs serve many functions which include the:

  • Administration of all aspects of a specific sport in Canada,
  • Management of high-performance programs in Canada,
  • Selection and management of their sport’s Canadian national teams,
  • Implementation of national initiatives to promote and develop their sport in Canada,
  • Sanctioning of competitions and tournaments at Canada’s national level; and
  • Support and promotion of Canada’s hosting bids for international competitions.

To serve their sports more effectively, many sports in Canada are funded by Sports Canada. You can find out if your sport receives funding from the Canadian government by looking at the list of NSOs funded by Sport Canada.

Canadian Sport Centres and Institutes

Canadian Sport Institutes and Centres were designed together with Canada’s provincial governments, Sport Canada, the Coaching Association of Canada (CAC), and the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC).

There are four Canadian Sports Institutes, each located in Calgary, Quebec, Ontario, and Canada’s Pacific region. The three Canadian Sport Centers are all located in Atlantic Canada, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute (COPSI) Network, which is a group of multi-sport training centers in Canada, assists in the development of high-performance sports in Canada in collaboration with NSOs, national partners, and local and provincial governments. The main aim of the COPSI Network is to promote opportunities for high-performance athletes and coaches.

In addition, these institutes and centers also:

  • Promote coaching as a viable profession,
  • Provide important sports medicine and sport science services to Canada’s national team athletes (able-bodied and disabled athletes),
  • Research and offer innovative methods to improve competition and training environments, and
  • Create quality daily training environments to stimulate sports development across Canada.

Canada’s National Summer Sport

Canada's national summer sport is lacrosse, a fast-paced and dynamic game that has deep roots in Indigenous culture. Lacrosse is a sport that requires skill, agility, and teamwork, and it holds a special place in the hearts of Canadians.

The sport's popularity continues to grow, with leagues and tournaments held across the country, providing opportunities for both recreational and competitive play. Lacrosse Canada is the national governing body responsible for promoting and administering all lacrosse-related competitions, teams, and events in the country.

Canada’s National Winter Sport

When it comes to winter sports, Canada's national sport is ice hockey. This beloved sport has a fervent following in Canada, with fans packing arenas to cheer on their favorite teams. From the grassroots level to the professional leagues, ice hockey is an integral part of Canadian culture, embodying the country's passion for the game and the enduring spirit of competition.

Hockey Canada is the national governing body that, in association with 13 member branches and minor local associations works to promote and grow the profile of ice hockey in Canada.

Canadian Government Involvement in Sport

The Canadian government is the largest investor in Canada’s sports system. Through Sport Canada, the Canadian government develops policies and programs to ensure the country’s sport system satisfies Canadian’s needs.

Canada’s private and not-for-profit sectors and provincial and territorial governments also provide funding and programs to support participation and excellence in Canadian sport.

Some of the governmental programs and policies that have proven to be vital to the growth of sport in Canada include the:

  • Athlete Assistance Program,
  • Sport Support Program,
  • Hosting Program,
  • Intergovernmental Sport Policy Development,
  • Federal Policy for hosting international sports events, and
  • Actively Engaged: A Policy on Sport for Women and Girls.

How Can I Become a Sportsperson or Athlete in Canada?

How can I become a sportsperson or athlete in Canada?

Self-employed Program

If you want to pursue a career as a sportsperson or athlete in Canada and have the experience and skills needed to contribute to Canada’s athletic community, you can apply for the Self-Employed program.

The Self-Employed program offers a permanent residence immigration pathway for individuals with relevant experience and a demonstrated commitment to contributing to the cultural and athletic achievements of Canada.

Provincial Nominee Programs for Sportspersons

Certain Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) provide opportunities for sportspersons and athletes to obtain permanent residency in specific Canadian provinces. These PNPs have specific streams and categories with criteria tailored to individuals with exceptional athletic abilities and a desire to make meaningful contributions to Canada’s provincial sporting communities. Prominent PNP programs that you can use to move to Canada as an athlete include:

Find out more about Canada’s Provincial Nominee Programs.

Now that you have a fair knowledge of Canada’s sports system, you can begin the process of becoming a sportsperson in Canada.


What is the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport?

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) serves as a guardian of ethical conduct and fair play within the Canadian sporting community. As a national anti-doping agency, the CCES upholds the values of integrity and clean competition, ensuring that athletes compete on a level playing field. Through education, testing, and advocacy, the CCES promotes a culture of ethical behavior and drug-free sport, safeguarding the integrity of Canadian athletics.

What is the Canada Games?

The Canada Games represent a prestigious multi-sport event that showcases the talents and dedication of young athletes from across the country. Held every two years, the Canada Games serve as a platform for aspiring athletes to compete at a national level, fostering a spirit of camaraderie and excellence.