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Early life and education
Sylvia Sweeney was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She is the daughter of music teacher Daisy Sweeney and railway cook James Sweeney, and the niece of jazz musician Oscar Peterson. She was admitted into the Department of Performance (classical piano) McGill University in 1973. While at university, she played for the McGill Martlets basketball team, setting the record for most points scored in a game.
Sweeney played basketball with the Quebec Provincial Basketball Team in 1972. She was a member of the 1976 Canadian Olympic basketball team as a player for Basketball Canada. Sweeney played for the Concordia Stingers in 1977 and the Laurentian Lady Vees in 1978 and 1979. Concordia's team made it to the national finals in 1977, and Laurentian's team won the championship in 1979. Sweeney was voted the Most Valuable Player in the World Championships in 1979 in Seoul, Korea FIBA. She was named Canadian flag bearer for the 1979 Pan American Games in Mexico.
Sweeney was selected captain of the Canadian national team in 1979-84. Her last international competition was played in Los Angeles at the 1984 Olympic Games, when the Canadian team finished in 4th place.
Sweeney competed in France for L'Association Sportif Montferrandaise (ASM) sponsored by Michelin Tires. She was hired by Michelin in 1980, and worked in the company's department of economic forecasting.
In 1983, Sweeney worked as a researcher for CBC Television in Montreal. She was hired as an editorial assistant in 1984. In 1985 she was hired by CBMT Newswatch as a writer/broadcaster and sportscaster. In 1986 she was hired for CBC in Montreal to work in the department of current affairs news programming. In 1988, she was a journalist for CBC National News for the 1988 Calgary Olympics. In 1989 she was the weekend anchor for CBC Television in Montreal, and that same year was hired as a journalist and host for CTV's W-FIVE. In this era she also worked in music management, most notably for the funk/R&B band Tchukon.
Sweeney is the founder of Elitha Peterson Productions Incorporated and International Performing Arts for All. She has produced award-winning documentary programming for WTSN, W Network, TVOntario, History Television and Vision TV. Her award-winning television productions include In the Key of Oscar, a 1992 documentary on Oscar Peterson.
In 2002, Sweeney was named executive producer of the National Film Board's Ontario production centre.
Canadian Interuniversity Sport and TSN present an annual Sylvia Sweeney Award to a Canadian women's university basketball player who best exemplifies the values of athletics, academics and community involvement.
In 1994 Sweeney was inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame as a Player.
In 1996 Sweeney was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame and in 2000 was inducted into the Quebec Merite Sportif Hall of Fame.
In 1998 Sweeney became a director of the Ontario Media Development Corporation (the former Ontario Film Development Corporation), the province of Ontario's Film Commission responsible for issuing film tax credits to filmmakers in Ontario.
In 2002, Sweeney was the executive producer of the National Film Board of Canada.
In 2004 Sweeney was named the president of International Performing Arts for All (IPAFA), the official supplier of arts and entertainment to the Canadian Paralympic Committee. Sweeney produced the 2004 Paralympic Salute to Canadian Athletes in Athens, Greece.
In 2008 Sweeney was the executive producer of the Marriage of Excellence concert series that was broadcast in Wuhan, China. The concerts showcased Dee Dee Bridgewater, Sheila E, the Oliver Jones Trio, George Sampounidis, Justin Hines, Kitorah, Tony DeBlois, Kat Dyson, Rhonda Smith, Ma Li, Taylor Dayne and others. These were the first concerts ever staged between the Olympic and Paralympic Games to promote the integration of able-bodied artists and artists living with disabilities.
In 2009 Sweeney was the executive producer of the Quest for Excellence documentary that was broadcast on Bravo Television in Canada.
Appointed a Member of the Order of Canada (CM) in the Government Honour List of 29 December 2017 "For her long-standing commitment to and creative leadership at the nexus of art and sport through her documentaries and world-stage productions."