An interview with Sandy Nimmo, CIRSA's Acting Managing Director

On the origins of CIRSA:

Creating CIRSA was like trying to make a puffy cloud into something tangible. In the beginning CIRSA didn't even have a name. It was never conceived of as the Canadian In-line & Roller Skating Association. It was conceived of in a very general way. Sooner or later there was going to be a need for something like this, and if the Canadian Federation of Amateur Roller Skaters (CFARS) was not going to organize it, then we had to.

There were a couple of people who I remember being involved. Myself, and a man by the name of Jamie MacGregor, who is a very highly qualified, certified figure skating coach, who was living in Winnipeg at that time. He was one of the people who joined forces with me to basically try to push CFARS into embracing in-line skating.

There was another man who was a high-level speed skating coach, a very good one, and he was also based half the time in Winnipeg, half the time in Ottawa. The three of us collaborated on writing a document for CFARS. That document was the first serious major written treatment of in-line skating in Canada.

And, after the submission, the Canadian Federation of Amateur Roller Skaters failed to recognize these efforts?

We just kind of threw up our hands and said `okay, it's obvious that they're not going to do anything about it. What do we have to do now?'

What were the central difficulties with starting up CIRSA?

Initially, I think we had a lot of discussions amongst ourselves in meetings with the Ice Speed Skating Association and meetings with the Ice Hockey Association. But I think we were groping for something, for whatever this thing was going to be, to look for ways that would ultimately bring together an organization, once we had--and I think at this point in time we were heading most of this activity--a general agreement.

What came together over a prolonged period of time was the concept of putting together an organization that could act as a parent body, a governing body for in-line skating in all of its many forms in this country. In the process of doing that, we had to have the cooperation of related sports: the ice organizations that govern the sport that would likely be played on in-line skates, a national ice hockey association, and the Canadian Amateur Speed Skating Association. We could see, in the early days, the need for someone to be a governing body for roller hockey.

How do CIRSA and its "founding partners", the Canadian Hockey Association and the Canadian Amateur Speed Skating Association, benefit from their affiliation?

The affiliation gives us, for one, credibility and the other benefit lies in what we can do for each other: access. Through their membership, it gives them access to our knowledge and our expertise, and their members are looking for ways to accommodate in-line skating and roller hockey: a mutually supportive arrangement.

What does the Canadian In-Line & Roller Skating Association do?

Fundamentally, we're an amateur sports organization. Our role is two-fold: to promote, develop, and govern the sport of in-line skating.

Could you please elaborate on CIRSA's role as a community facilitator for in-line sporting events.

We have a philosophy that says, `we're here to provide a service to our members, to the people that in-line skate.' There are three categories of events:

(1) There are events that are done by other people that we have no role in whatsoever. Those kind of events have become fewer and fewer as we go along. Right now there are still independently planned and operated events that we have nothing to do with. But we still let our members know, the in-line skaters, that those events are happening, so that they can make decisions about whether or not they want to go to those events.

(2) The second category of events is where an event, in essence, belongs to somebody else, but, as the sanctioning body, we provide volunteer support, where we provide officials, as we do for roller hockey tournaments. We're integrally involved in technical support, volunteer support, and insurance. But it is an event for someone else.

(3) The third category of events, which is the category that will grow, are those events that are ours. They are what are called our properties. We design. We develop. We implement. We run the whole thing, from the time it is conceived, up to the time it is finished.

What's evolving will be all the hockey championship events: invitational hockey tournaments, roller hockey championships. Our capability to do that is growing, along with our ability to organize events with respect to, say, the recreational skater. Thereby, we provide organized skating opportunities.

Many of CIRSA's events directly benefit national and local charitable foundations. How did the Canadian In-Line and Roller Skating Association get involved with organizing events for charities?

We didn't know that charity groups were interested in doing events, that is, until we approached the Heart & Stroke Foundation; we feel there's a reasonable degree of compatibility with both organizations: the fitness and recreational side of in-line skating.

It seemed that no sooner had we made overtures to the Heart & Stroke Foundation that we started getting into working with them--they wanted an event that included in-line skating. So we sort of figured, well, working with charitable organizations sends a very clear message, and the message is that we're a socially conscious organization. It's good for the charities, good for us, and good for the skaters, so long as the events are well-planned.

How has CIRSA helped Roller Hockey?

We've helped the sport get organized, created some standards for referee training and referee credentials. We researched and developed a very comprehensive rulebook that reads easily. We've been very supportive of open age groups to allow, particularly roller hockey leagues in small towns, to have 11 to 12 year olds play together.

Could you elaborate on a few of the safety initiatives that CIRSA has been involved with?

Cool Rules [an in-line skating safety primer produced in part by CIRSA and distributed throughout Metropolitan Toronto and North York] is, basically, an example of what we would ideally like to do, which would be to have uniform safety standards published and distributed across the country. That's a gigantic financial statement that hasn't happened yet.

Many municipalities turn to CIRSA for advice on their in-line skating by-laws. How does CIRSA assist them?

CIRSA works with municipalities to help them create by-laws for in-line skating. In all provinces in this country, the provincial government needs to have what is called enabling legislation; the municipalities, under their jurisdiction, can then make by-laws. All provinces have absolutely nothing in legislation which even makes reference to in-line skating. In the province of Ontario, the Highway Traffic Act allows municipalities to make by-laws governing the use of roads and streets. But the HTA does not make any reference to in-line skating; therefore, it is not easy for municipalities to make by-laws about in-line skating. But the provincial government shows no sign here, or pretty much anywhere else, of changing that legislation. The process has been long, complex, and highly political.

A good choice has been to work closely with municipalities to introduce a by-law to the table that allows people to... I think the best way to describe it is to get the tail wagging the dog. We choose to work with the municipalities to create by-laws that do allow skating in the street. We will bring additional pressure through that on the provincial government to ultimately bring change. In Ontario, we have worked with the municipalities of North York, Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston, Oakville, Orangeville, among others.

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