Ontario announced on April 19 that there were 88 days until the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) begin on July 16 in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), with 550 athletes from across the province set to compete.
Eleanor McMahon, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport was at Nathan Phillips Square on Wednesday, April 19, to mark the occasion and provide well-wishes to all the athletes who will participate. The day was significant because it aligns with the 88th call to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which recognizes the Games as an important way to support Indigenous athlete development and recreation in Canada.
“Ontario is excited to support the many talented athletes in the Indigenous community that will soon inspire youth across Canada,” said McMahon. “One of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action is to provide opportunities for Indigenous youth to progress through their chosen sport, including by participating in the North American Indigenous Games. These Games will give young athletes the chance to test their skills in an international sporting event and empower them to continue their journey in sport.”
NAIG is one of the largest sporting and cultural gatherings of indigenous people in the world. During the Games, which run from July 16 to 23, the GTHA will welcome more than 5,000 indigenous athletes aged 13 to 19 from Canada and the United States to compete in 14 sports, such as canoeing, basketball and wrestling.
The Games provide Indigenous athletes, coaches, and officials with the opportunity to participate in organized sport, develop their skills, and pursue excellence in their sport. The province is providing support for the Games and for Ontario athletes, including recruitment events, training camps, Team Ontario uniforms and travel subsidies for athletes who live in Ontario’s northern communities.
David Zimmer, minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation said “The 2017 Games this summer will showcase the achievements of indigenous athletes from Ontario and North America, and the communities they represent. We are proud to be supporting young athletes competing at NAIG2017 and beyond, which is part of our work with First Nations, Métis and Inuit to advance reconciliation. Go Team Ontario!”
Hosting athletic competitions and investing in the development of amateur athletes is part of Ontario’s plan to create jobs, grow the economy and help people in their everyday lives.
David Marc Laliberte, president of the Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario said, “With the generous support of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario has been able, to date, to hold some 60 tryout camps across Ontario where over 1,350 indigenous athletes have participated in the selection process for Aboriginal Team Ontario that will be representing the province at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games. ASWCO is excited that Ontario will be able to field a competitive team representative of Indigenous communities from all regions of the province at this important Indigenous sport and cultural event and celebration.”
Ontario’s support for NAIG is administered through Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario, and includes $285,000 to support Indigenous athletes and $3.5 million to successfully deliver the games. The games are expected to attract 10,000 visitors to the GTHA and generate $35 million for the local economy.