Chief Bryan LaForme, Chief of Mississaugas of New Credit, official Host First Nation for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Games, speaking at launch of the Aboriginal Pavilion, Toronto, November 18.

Chief Bryan LaForme, Chief of Mississaugas of New Credit, official Host First Nation for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Games, speaking at launch of the Aboriginal Pavilion, Toronto, November 18.

By Barb Nahwegahbow

Over a hundred people gathered at Toronto’s Fort York on November 18 to celebrate the launch of the Aboriginal Pavilion. A 14-member collective of First Nations and Aboriginal community agencies are  undertaking an ambitious project. It’s intended to bring the best of Indigenous arts and culture to an international audience of over 250,000 during Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games next July and August. Over 7,000 athletes from 41 countries will participate in the Games taking place in Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe Area including Toronto, Niagara, Markham, Mississauga.

On behalf of the Ontario Government, Michael Coteau, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport and Minister Responsible for the 2015 Games announced a $500,000 contribution to the $1.2 million cost of the Pavilion. “Diversity is part of these Games,” said Minister Coteau, “and celebrating our Indigenous history, our cultures and sports through the Pavilion will inspire all visitors.” It will, “allow us to showcase…the incredible Aboriginal spirit found here in Ontario,” he said.

Executive Producer Cynthia Lickers-Sage, in an earlier interview, said the Pavilion is independent of the Toronto 2015 Games, a decision taken by the collective known as the Aboriginal Leadership Partners (ALP). Other funders and sponsors are being sought, she said.

The Pavilion will occupy 1.2 acres at Fort York and will be one of the largest Indigenous festivals ever organized in Canada. Visitors will enjoy theatre, music, dance, and arts and food markets.  Confirmed performers so far include Anishinaabe musician and media artist, Melody McKiver; Amanda Rheume, Metis singer-songwriter; Mi’kmaq comedian Candy Palmater; and Don Ross, Mi’kmaq fingerstyle guitarist. Associate Producer Jason Jenkins says there are more to come.

Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs David Zimmer, also at the Launch, said, “This project is an example of the spirit of partnership to ensure that all Aboriginal peoples in Ontario participate in, and benefit from, the Games.” It offers, “a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the culture, heritage and the ongoing contributions of First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities,” he said.

The Mississaugas of the New Credit is the official Host First Nation for the Games. We’re making history, said New Credit Chief Bryan LaForme. This marks the first time the Pan Am Games have given official recognition to an Indigenous group.  Echoing the sentiments of other speakers, Chief LaForme said, “I see the Games as a catalyst for strengthening the relationship between Canada and First Nations…the Pavilion will offer us the opportunity to practice our tradition of sharing.”

The Pavilion will be open at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto and Fort York during the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games from July 10-26, and August 7-9. ALP is seeking 1000 volunteers. If you’re interested, contact Jason Jenkins at info@alppavilion.ca.