Watch BodyBreak’s Hal Johnson discuss racism

Hal says the origins of the long-running Canadian fitness duo has even more to do with fighting prejudice than staying healthy
Hal BodyBreak Hal Johnson faced many examples of racism as he tried to get into Canadian sports media in the 1980s. (Screenshot YouTube/BodyBreak Hal and Joanne)

Since July 1988, BodyBreak has been a Canadian institution.

Hosts Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod have been encouraging people of all ages to "keep fit and have fun" for 32 years.

They got their start shooting PSAs (public service announcements) for ParticipACTION, a Canadian government organization designed to promote healthy living and physical fitness. Hal and Joanne's easygoing enthusiasm made them trusted voices for many people.


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Joanne and Hal hanging out with Blue Jays mascot, Ace. (Hal Johnson/Instagram/@bodybreak88)

They were also an interracial couple. This week, Hal released a video explaining that even in Canada, this was not always accepted.

And that he and Joanne started BodyBreak to set a positive example of acceptance.

There, but subtle

As a Black man who has lived in both Canada and the United States, Hal explains on the BodyBreak YouTube page a key difference between being Black in each country.

"Racism in the US is in your face. It's always present," he writes. "But in Canada, it's there but subtle."

To address it head on, he filmed this video that we're sharing below. His message is warm, upbeat, and full of hope for tomorrow. But we hope that it helps remind people who doubt racism's presence in Canada, that even if more subtle, it is there.

Thank you, Hal. For keeping us fit and aware!

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  1. 🙂 Wow! That is really a clear demonstration of racism in action. And those kinds of activities go on behind the scenes and most of us never know. Thank you so much for this story.

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