Right To Play’s Promoting Life-skills in Aboriginal Youth (PLAY) program partners with Indigenous communities and urban organizations to train locally-hired Community Mentors to deliver weekly play-based programs that promote healthy living, healthy relationships, education and employability life-skills. Community Mentors are trained and supported by Right To Play staff as they develop programs that are responsive to the individual needs of their community. Since 2010, the PLAY program has expanded from working with two partners to more than 85 across Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia, reaching over 6000 children and youth last year. Learn more from our latest Year in Review and Fall 2019 Seasonal Report.

How does PLAY work?
PLAY youth worker
Hire a Local Youth Worker
PLAY partners hire a local Community Mentor with 50/50 salary support from PLAY.
PLAY youth worker
Provide Training & Support
Right To Play designs and delivers training, program resources and coaching support throughout the year.
PLAY youth
Run Child & Youth Programs
Children and youth lead and participate in weekly programs that build healthy connections with their peers and their community.
"The Right To Play partnership has not only made a difference in our ability to provide activities for our youth, it has empowered youth to provide activities for themselves."
Where do we play?
PLAY Map 2019-2020
What is the need for the PLAY program?

For measures like human security, education, and standard of living, Canada is 10th in the world on the 2016 UN Human Development Index. Due to the on-going effects of colonization and the legacies of residential schools, Canada’s rank falls to 63rd when Indigenous peoples are considered. This drop is reflected in the inequities that Indigenous peoples experience at higher rates than most non-Indigenous Canadians, such as poverty, substandard housing, food insecurity, and barriers to educational and employment opportunities. Indigenous children and youth are especially affected.

As the driving force of their families and communities, we know that this generation of Indigenous children and youth hold the knowledge and potential to defy such disparities and to create positive change. We have witnessed children and youth take charge of their lives, and become leaders for their peers and their communities. Together, we can help these young people rise, by providing them with:

  • Safe play spaces
  • Life-skills training
  • Healthy food
  • Inclusive physical activities
  • Leadership opportunities
  • Positive role models
  • Connections with their community
  • Celebration of their cultural diversity
“Right To Play has brought out the leader in me, and continues to help me bring out the leader in others.”
Program Impacts

The PLAY program works to achieve positive change in four essential life skill areas that were identified through community partnerships: Health, Education, Healthy Relationships, and Employability.

PLAY youth
96% of Indigenous Communities with health-focused programs saw more physical activity. “Right To Play made it fun to learn about things like healthy eating, diabetes, physical activity and mental health.”
PLAY youth
97% of PLAY After School Program participants said they were excited about school. “Right To Play helped build self-confidence, improve attendance and relationships with teachers, and motivate kids to stay in school.”
PLAY youth
Healthy Relationships
91% of PLAY After School and Youth Leadership participants felt more connected to their community. “Since joining the program, they’re more resilient, with better coping skills, and peer relationships.”
PLAY youth
92% of youth felt working as summer program staff will benefit their future job search. “Right To Play helped give young people job experiences and mentorship opportunities, better resume-writing, and interview skills.”
Our Program Principles

At Right To Play, we recognize there are challenges present when research in Indigenous communities is neither consultative nor participatory. For this reason and our commitment to community ownership, we strive to abide by the OCAP principles in our research and data collection practices. The First Nations OCAP Principles include Ownership, Control, Access and Possession. This means that:

  • We only collect data that is relevant and useful for the communities that we work with.
  • We emphasize qualitative data and storytelling in our methods.
  • Data analysis and raw data is shared back with communities.
  • All communities are free to access their data.
  • Data analysis is contextualized as much as possible.
  • We collect informed consent from all research participants.
Updates and Reports

At the heart of our work in Canada is a theory of change that sees a collaborative partnership between Right To Play and local communities, schools and organizations as fundamental to promoting positive child and youth development. As we look ahead to 2020, we will work with our partners to create safer spaces and more opportunities for youth to engage as agents of change in their communities.

PLAY strat plan - 2018-2020
PLAY Programs Supporters


  • Bear Standing Tall, Onion Lake Cree Nation
  • Debra Trask, West Moberly
  • Ernie Sandy, Rama First Nation
  • Gerry Martin, Mattagami First Nation
  • Gloria McGregor, Whitefish River First Nation


  • Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, Lakehead University
  • Jody Alexander, Ottawa District School Board
  • Kaitlin Ritchie, OKT Law
  • Laura Arndt
  • Mitch Baird
  • Damon Johnston
  • Dmitri Ashawasegai
  • Alabama Bressette
  • April John
  • Kara Tremblay
  • Candice Assiniwe
  • Joyce Peters
  • Nora Boyer
  • Gloria McGregor
  • Chelsea Perreault
  • Leonard Genereux


  • BC Ministry of Education
  • BC Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Services
  • Bell Let's Talk
  • Bruce Power
  • Canadian Tire Jumpstart
  • The Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation
  • Cenovus
  • CN
  • Daryl K. Seaman Hockey Fund at the Calgary Foundation
  • Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation
  • The Government of Canada
  • Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life
  • The Harold E. Ballard Foundation
  • Hydro One
  • Indigenous Services Canada
  • Jays Care Foundation
  • KPMG Foundation
  • The Lawrence and Judith Tanenbaum Foundation
  • The London Community Foundation
  • Microsoft
  • Miziwe Biik
  • MLSE Foundation
  • Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services
  • Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
  • Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Affairs
  • Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities
  • PepsiCo Canada Foundation
  • Public Health Agency of Canada
  • RBC Foundation
  • Riverside Natural Foods
  • The Slaight Family Foundation
  • Suncor Energy Foundation
  • Sun Life Financial
  • TELUS Manitoba Community Board
  • TELUS Vancouver Community Board
  • Thomas Sill Foundation
  • TransCanada
  • The Winnipeg Foundation


  • Aboriginal Sport & Wellness Council of Ontario
  • Andrea Warnick Consulting
  • Bereaved Families of Ontario
  • The Big Little Caravan of Joy
  • Callum Pinkney Photography
  • Canadian Lacrosse Association
  • Canucks Autism Network
  • The Chill Foundation
  • CTMS
  • Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario
  • Guardian Art
  • James McDonald Photography
  • John Chabot
  • Lifeguard Outreach Society
  • Nishnawbe Aski Nation
  • Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
  • PR Associates
  • Project Journey
  • The Psychology Foundation of Canada
  • University of Ottawa, Faculty of Human Kinetics
  • Wasaya Airways
Becoming a PLAY Partner

Are you from a First Nations, Métis or Inuit community or urban Indigenous organization? By becoming a PLAY partner…

Your community and/or urban organization can access:

  • Financial support for a local youth worker's salary to implement the PLAY Program
  • Financial support for program expenses
  • Training and coaching support from Right To Play staff
  • Access to a network of PLAY youth workers across Canada

Your children and youth can access:

  • A safe and supportive mentor
  • Consistent play and sport programming that helps to build essential life-skills
  • Leadership and community-building opportunities
  • Healthy snacks
  • Potential to participate in sport for development clinics and youth leadership symposiums

How can you apply to be a PLAY partner?

At this point in time our program applications have closed and we have commenced the 2019/20 program year. Due to the high volume of applications we receive each year and the shifting needs and priorities of program partners, we will not be hosting a full application process for the 2020-2021 program year. Instead, during this time we invite folks interested in the program to submit a Letter Of Interest (LOI).

The PLAY team works out of offices in Vancouver and Toronto. To get further information on the PLAY program please contact one of our Program Coordinators:

Vancouver office: Maddie Lafleur, PLAY Program Coordinator, by phone at (604) 428-9249 or email at mlafleur@righttoplay.com.

Toronto office: Lubna Rahman, PLAY Program Coordinator, by phone at (416) 203-0190 ext. 249 or email at lrahman@righttoplay.com.