Women’s U18 national tackle football tournament to feature first Indigenous team

Photo courtesy: Football Canada

The 2023 Women’s U18 National Championship will feature seven provincial teams along with a premiere appearance by the National Indigenous Team.

“We look forward to this year’s championship as we continue to grow football for women and girls,” Football Canada executive director Shannon Donovan said in a statement. “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 was recently inducted into the Manitoba Football Hall of Fame as a player in recognition of his tenure as a guard for the Winnipeg Senior Mustangs. He has been on a two-year journey 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 towards 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.”

The rest of the field will be comprised of two teams from Ontario and one team from each Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, and New Brunswick.

The tournament will begin with seeding games on Sunday, July 23 featuring matchups between Alberta and Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Quebec, Ontario (Red) and Manitoba, and Ontario (Black) and the National Indigenous Team.

Teams will then be split into two pools based on the results of the seeding games along with previous rankings. Semi-final games will take place on Wednesday, July 26 and the final will be held on Saturday, July 29.

“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,” Football Canada president Jim Mullin said. “We are thrilled that we can take the next step with him to get us closer to our shared Truth and Reconciliation goals.”

Last year’s inaugural event was held in Regina, Sask. and featured teams from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick. Alberta won the gold medal while Saskatchewan won silver.

This year’s event will take place in Ottawa, Ont. A more detailed schedule will be released closer to the start of the competition.