TORONTO – The Aboriginal Pavilion had a launch event on February 10th to usher in what is being marketed as the largest Aboriginal cultural event ever to occur in Canada. The Pan Am and Parapan Am Games are giving Canada the unique opportunity to ensure that the First Nations communities of Canada are given their rightful place in this international sporting event. The launch event, which took place at the Native Canadian Centre in Toronto, was a lively one that showed great respect for the original peoples of the land in which these games will be played.
From the exuberant host Andre Morriseau, to Elder Cat Criger, to the stunning performances by Inuit throat singers and Metis fiddlers, indigenous perspectives were well represented.
Toronto Mayor, John Tory, was also represented as was the Provincial government through MPP Sophie Kiwala. Each took the time to express how important this union of culture and city will be. Executive director of the Native Canadian Centre, Larry Frost, reinforced how this collaboration feels good for everyone and how only good can come of it.
The Aboriginal Pavilion is a 19 day Indigenous arts, culture and sports festival which will occur in three locations around Toronto: The Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, Fort York’s Garrison Common and the Harbourfront Centre.
Representatives from 14 First Nations and Aboriginal services organizations based in the GTA came together to put on this festival, a first of its kind, to promote greater understanding among all peoples. This initiative is happening with large-scale collaboration from the city of Toronto and the Federal government. This was demonstrated in a few major ways. Minister of State (Sport), The Honourable Bal Gosal, announced, for the federal government, a donation of $500,000 to be directed to athletic efforts in aboriginal communities across Canada.
It’s an on-going conversation as to whether monetary funding is truly the answer in solving pressing issues throughout our communities but as Board Member Janice Thompson pointed out, of all the population of Aboriginal citizens in Canada, about half are 15 and under which means sports will likely be an outlet for them. Bal Gosal’s announcement seems to ensure that the facilities required for these kids to take part in their passions will be provided.
Andy Byford, the CEO of the TTC was present along with Bob Leroux, VP/GM of Pattison Outdoor Advertising to unveil a new ad campaign specific for the Aboriginal Pavilion. Adverts do have a power in grabbing peoples’ attention and this new campaign will ensure the Aboriginal Pavilion will reach those it needs to reach if word of mouth is not enough.
It is estimated that 250,000 people will be flooding into Toronto to view or participate in the games, and Elder Cat Criger made the point of saying that we are all visitors essentially and it should be our intention to tread carefully and not harm the land that we find ourselves on. One can interpret this as not stepping on the people that came before us. One way to do so is through recognition and that is precisely what the Aboriginal Pavilion seeks to do. The festival takes place July 10-26 and August 7-9.