Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) have once again been pushed back. And this time the postponement is indefinite because of the pandemic.
The multi-sport competition, which was expected to feature athletes from across Canada and the United States, was originally scheduled to be held this past July in Halifax.
Some events were also to be held in nearby Millbrook First Nation.
But organizers announced this past March the event was being postponed until July 2021.
The NAIG Council, however, announced today (Friday, Sept. 18) that it was postponing next year’s Games indefinitely because of the current uncertainties with COVID-19.
NAIG Council President Dale Plett said the decision was made after a teleconference with members and stakeholders. It was determined for the health and safety of all involved that delivering the Games in 2021 would not be feasible.
“This is such an unprecedented time that we all have been navigating these last six months,” Plett said. “There are no more disappointed individuals than those that I have the pleasure of calling good colleagues at the NAIG Council.
“This wonderful group of committed and dedicated individuals—from coast to coast to coast—have wrestled with this decision. But the safety for all our athletes, participants, volunteers and their families and communities will always be at the forefront of our mind.”
Plett said members of the NAIG Council will continue to work with those in Halifax from the Games’ host society, as well as its partners and stakeholders, to determine just when the Games will be staged in the Nova Scotia capital.
A number of issues will need to be considered, including age eligibility for the athletes. Officials were planning to increase the age limits of eligibility in various sports for those competitors that had planned to participate this year but would have been too old to take part in 2021.
Christine Abrams, the vice-president of the NAIG Council, is keen to eventually stage the next Games in Halifax, whenever that might be.
“We are truly excited to all come together on beautiful Mi’kmaq lands and shores to experience the hospitality the East Coast has to offer, but deeply desire to do so with the whole family at the table,” she said.
“We want to thank everyone for their continued patience and support as we navigate these challenging waters, especially during this time where we have more questions than answers.”
Fiona Kirkpatrick Parsons, the chair of the NAIG host society, said she respects the NAIG Council decision to postpone the event indefinitely.
“The health and safety of all our participants, volunteers and stakeholders has always been and will continue to be our top priority,” she said. “We understand this decision is difficult for our athletes and participants, however, we are thankful and inspired by the support of our funding partners and supporters, including local public health officials. We look forward to working with all of our partners to secure a future date soon.”
Though Kirkpatrick Parsons realizes there are numerous questions that will be asked following news of the postponement, she is unable to provide much more insight now.
“There isn’t really anything else I can add at this point,” she said. “Too many unknowns and we have much to work through. We ask for everyone’s patience, as we continue forward.”
NAIG 2020 (and 2021) was expected to feature more than 5,000 athletes, coaches and support staff. Participants were to compete in 16 sports in the week-long competition.
It was being billed as the largest multi-sport and cultural event to be held in Atlantic Canada.
Following news of the Games’ postponement in March, officials opted to retain interest by staging a virtual Games, dubbed NAIG at HOME, this past July.
This event included virtual competitions and activities as well as some panel discussions.
The NAIG was first held in 1990 in Edmonton. The Games have been held eight other times since then.
Organizers were keen to alternate the Games between sites in Canada and the United States.
But the Games have only been held twice south of the border, in the Minnesota city of Blaine in 1995 and in Denver in 2006.
The Games were last held in Toronto in 2017.