Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Marc Laliberte will continue to be the head of an Indigenous sports organization.
But now it remains to be seen whether Laliberte will be the president of the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) Council while continuing to also serve as the president of the Indigenous Sport and Wellness Ontario (ISWO), the provincial governing body which he co-founded in 2009.
At the recent North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) Council annual general meeting in California, Laliberte was appointed NAIG Council president. Laliberte could technically also retain his ISWO presidency.
“I don’t know if I want to,” he said. “There would be conflicts. And I would have to recuse myself from voting.”
Laliberte is a member of Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan through his late mother Barbara Gaddie. But he grew up and continues to live in the northern Ontario city of Thunder Bay.
Laliberte said he travelled to California for the NAIG Council AGM knowing he would be nominated to serve as the council president.
“I was given a heads-up,” he said. “I had to check first with my family, especially my wife.”
Laliberte also had to inform ISWO officials that there could potentially be changes to the ISWO board if he was indeed selected to be NAIG Council president.
While he contemplates whether to remain ISWO president, Laliberte must continue playing some sort of role with ISWO. In fact, it is a requirement that the NAIG Council president have involvement with one of the 26 provincial, territorial, state or regional associations in Canada and the United States that are part of the NAIG Council.
“I’m truly grateful and honoured to have been selected president,” he said. “I trust and hope to fulfill the role as it deserves.”
Laliberte is also hoping plenty of others help him with his new position.
“I pray for the guidance and assistance for the NAIG Council, the NAIG hosts, and the North American Indigenous Games itself,” he said.
Laliberte takes over the NAIG Council presidency from Shannon Dunfield, a Métis woman from Grande Prairie, Alta.
Dunfield is chair of the Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta. She’ll be working with the Calgary group hosting the next NAIG in that city in 2027.
“I nominated Marc as he will be a great president,” Dunfield said. “He will carry on the priorities of NAIG Council,” which oversees all matters relating to the NAIG.
Laliberte, who is 63, retired as a firefighter four years ago.
“If I was still working, I wouldn’t be able to do this,” Laliberte said of his newest position.
Dunfield will remain on the NAIG Council executive as past president.
Laliberte expects to be kept busy in the coming years with numerous NAIG Council committee meetings. The majority of those meetings will be held remotely.
Members of the NAIG Council, however, do meet twice per year in person.
As NAIG Council president, Laliberte said one of his goals will be to have more participation from American athletes at the next NAIG.
He estimates about 80 per cent of the 5,000 athletes that competed at the last NAIG this past summer in Nova Scotia were from Canada.
“We need to have the states more involved,” Laliberte said. “Many of the (American) regions don’t take part in the Games now.”
Laliberte said the NAIG Council will work on various tasks in the immediate future, including contacting media and getting their communications in place, as well as working on governance hosting requirements, membership processes and administrative needs.
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.