Observers say the Canada Sport Policy 2.0 marks the first time government has formally recognized the need to get more Canadians moving.
"In the same way as perhaps 40, 50 years ago we began a campaign towards the cessation of smoking, we are now trying to do some things in a systematic way to arrest the rise of obesity, which has such profound costs to society," said Chris Jones, senior leader of the Sport Matters Group, a coalition of sport community leaders in Canada.
The policy is an update of the first federal-provincial sports strategy, unveiled in 2002, which focused on government involvement alone.
The new framework sought input from sporting organizations, community groups and municipal governments to widen the net of those whose help is required in re-energizing a public that's becoming more sedentary.
"It's how we can make more Canadians involved in sports and physical activity, recreation," said Bal Gosal, federal minister of state for sport.
"Sport is something that unites the communities and actually participating in sport and recreation activities make communities healthier."
The policy sets out goals in five areas, beginning at the introductory level and continuing through recreational, competitive and high performance athletes.
It also includes a focus on sport as a tool for development both in Canada and abroad.
"Canadians have identified population health, community building, social development, nation building, and civic engagement as areas in which sport can make the greatest contributions to Canadian society over the next 10 years," the policy says.
"These contributions are significant as Canada faces several challenges: obesity, physical inactivity and related health problems, an aging population, and increased diversity of the Canadian population."
Statistics Canada reports that only seven per cent of Canadian youth get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day.
The same survey found that, in general, only 15 per cent of Canadians meet the minimum recommended standard of exercise each week.
Underpinning many of those challenges is a lack of physical literacy in Canada, Jones said.
Kids aren't learning the basics of how to run, jump or throw. And that sets the stage for them to shy away from physical activity later in life.
"The whole thing rests on a foundation of physical literacy," Jones said.
While the new policy doesn't come with any financial commitments, it does suggest that formal action plans ought to be created.
It also calls for the creation of a system that would allow governments to monitor the effect of the policy itself.
A lack of tangible proof of the outcome of sport funding was one of the main criticisms in an audit of Sport Canada released earlier this year.
The new pan-Canadian policy was released at the end of a federal-provincial ministers meeting last week in Nunavut.
The two government levels also agreed to launch a review of high performance sport in Canada to more clearly define the relationship between levels of government and not-for-profit groups.
It will encompass a review of the Own the Podium program, an initiative in the lead-up to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics to ensure that Canada won the most medals at the Games.
The $117-million plan saw Canada finish third in the overall medal count but win the most gold, at 14 — a record for a single Winter Games. Canada also won 19 medals, including 10 gold, in the Paralympic Games.
Canada's goal for London is more modest. It aims to finish among the top-12 countries in overall medals and among the top eight in the gold medals at the Paralympics.
The chief executive officer of OTP, Anne Merklinger, said the review of high performance sport is a positive step for the program.
It's about making sure the potential career of an elite athlete is managed as best it can be from the local club level all the way to the Olympics, she said.
"If we don't have a strong provincial-territorial investment in high performance sport, then we don't have the next generation of podium potential athletes coming up that will represent Canada and win medals," she said.Suggest a correction