Organizers of the 2017 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Toronto were heaving huge sighs of relief after the Ontario and Canadian governments announced joint funding totaling $7 million, just shy of the full $10 million budget.
The federal government will provide $3.5 million, and provincial counterparts will match this figure, the two parties announced on May 27.
“It’s a huge relief to get this funding,” said Rob Lackie, operations manager for the 2017 NAIG. “Now we just need to raise $1.5 million more.”
More than 5,000 participants are expected for the 2017 NAIG, which will be held next July, primarily at various Toronto locations. Athletes will compete in 14 sports.
This marks the first time the Games will be staged in Canada’s largest city. The NAIG have been held eight previous times (with as little as two years and once as many as six years between Games) since their inception in 1990. The last Games were held in Regina, Saskatchewan in 2014.
The Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario (ASWCO) was originally awarded hosting rights for next year’s Games. Earlier this spring, however, ASWCO transferred those rights to an incorporated, not-for-profit organization called the 2017 Toronto NAIG Host Society. Organizers of the 2017 NAIG had previously raised $1.5 million since being awarded the Games last June. Shortly afterward the Ontario government had pledged $3.5 million in support, but only if this figure was matched, preferably by the federal government.
The Canadian government had offered $3.5 million in support to previous Games, but funding was uncertain leading up to last October's federal election. And even after the Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau, ended up with a majority government, it still took several months for NAIG organizers to secure federal funding.
Since his election victory, Prime Minister Trudeau has pledged a greater commitment to the country’s Indigenous Peoples. Carla Qualtrough, Canada’s Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, said the federal government is not allowed to offer more financial support than it has in previous years to the NAIG because of a longstanding event funding formula that does not allow the government to provide more than 35 percent of the operating budget. Thus $3.5 million is the most they can give directly, she said.
“We are committed to supporting these Games and other initiatives that contribute to the well-being and quality of life of indigenous people from coast to coast to coast,” Qualtrough said, adding that the government is exploring the possibility of offering another $1 million to subsidize athletes' travel expenses. “That decision will be made by our department in the fall.”