Andrew Paris| Founder and President, Black Rock Initiative and Coaching Lead for Equity, Inclusion and Mentorship, Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic
Our doors are always open.
This is how curling clubs operate – on an open-door policy. Andrew Paris wants curlers to know that opening the door is only the first step to creating an inclusive game.
Andrew recalls his own family being the only Black family he grew up with in their neighbourhood in Summerside, PEI. Life was not always easy, but one place he felt at home was at his neighbourhood curling club. That was, until a coach told him he was “a great curler for a Black person.”
What was likely meant as a compliment had only one effect – identifying Andrew as someone who didn’t belong in the game. Andrew had been curling since the age of seven and had grown up watching curling on TV with his grandfather who played the sport. He went on to play in local tournaments, yet the statement stuck with him.
Years later, when his stepdaughter took an interest in curling, Andrew signed her up right away, and volunteered as a community coach. He had stopped playing just before university and now saw an opportunity to relive his passion. He began as a community coach, then became a recognized competition coach, and thereafter became the Technical Director for Nova Scotia Curling.
Curling is more than a sport to Andrew, it’s an extension of his family. When the Black Lives Matter movement took shape in 2020, Andrew knew he wanted to help make curling a more diverse and inclusive sport because no child should feel like they don’t belong. In response, the Black Rock Initiative was born, with the help of supporters in the curling community.
“Most curling clubs want to do better and want to be more diverse, how we get there is a path that we’re still on,” Andrew explains. “At the end of the day we want everybody participating in sport, regardless of their background, sexual orientation or what they look like.”
Andrew’s work at the Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic involves mentoring and supporting all coaches from Black, Indigenous and diverse backgrounds, helping to increase representation in sport from the ground up. He emphasizes the importance of reaching directly into community, and being open to creating accessible sport programs, that may look different from one community to the next.
“I believe that my role with the support of Support4Sport exists, really to take those sport administrators and get them comfortable being uncomfortable,” he explains. “What I want to see in the next ten years, is when I look out onto the ice, we see a population that’s more reflective of what Canada and Nova Scotia truly is.”