Federal MP shares insight into proposed physical activity study

This December, Canada’s federal parliament will hear the reading of a proposed bill with special implications for Canadian children and youth. The private member’s motion, submitted by MP Kyle Peterson of Newmarket-Aurora, proposes that the Standing Committee on Health study the physical activity and fitness of children in Canada with a view towards finding strategies to increase their levels of activity and improve their long-term health.

At Active for Life, we are excited that a member of Canada’s federal parliament is taking this important issue forward. We recently spoke with Mr. Peterson to learn more about his motivation for proposing Bill M-206 and his interest in physical activity and wellness.

AfL: Can you tell us more about your thinking around the need for the study and why it’s important?  

It comes from a very personal place. I have two young boys—one will be nine soon, the other is seven. As a father, it’s a constant struggle to keep them active and away from television and the screen time and the video games that are so prevalent in society today. Compared to when I grew up in the seventies and eighties, it’s a much different environment for young people.

As a father, it’s a constant struggle to keep them active and away from television and the screen time and the video games that are so prevalent in society today.

In my area, there’s an organization called Activate Aurora, and I’ve had many chats with them over the years because I see firsthand how important physical activity is for youth. As I started looking into physical activity more, I realized there’s much scientific research that isn’t necessarily being centralized and mobilized by the federal government, or any level of government for that matter. So I thought it would be a good role for the health committee to study the information and make some recommendations on what federal policy should be, and how can we achieve these goals of increasing youth physical activity.

The benefits of it are indisputable and significant, so why aren’t we doing more to get there? That’s how I came about putting this motion forward.

AfL: What are your thoughts on physical literacy and its role in promoting physical activity?

I think the concept of physical literacy should play a role in whatever recommendations are made by the health committee. I don’t want to presume what they’re going to do—they’ll do their job as they see fit—but I think physical literacy is important.

My dad was a physical education teacher, so part of my thinking is coming from that as well. We’re just not talking about it enough. There are some people working in silos, and this is a way to break down those silos. I’m not trying to step on provincial jurisdiction in creating a school board curriculum. This is just about what we can do as a federal government to ensure that people become more aware of the impact of physical activity.

We need to start looking at how active we are as a society—how a physically active child tends to be more resilient against bullying, and how a physically active child as they grow up tend to have less incidence of depression and mental health issues. These are important things that shouldn’t be scoffed at or brushed away with a simple, “Oh, of course.” Because it’s “of course” only if you think about it. If you don’t think about it, then it isn’t.

AfL: We couldn’t agree with you more, and it’s exciting to know that you are going to be presenting this to Parliament.

I hope to bring it to the speech in the house around December 11th. The schedule often changes, as I’m sure you can appreciate, but that’s what we’re planning for now. This is not a political or partisan motion by any stretch of the imagination, so I hope to get overwhelming support by members from all over the country and from all parties.

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