gary-with-flameMNO President Gary Lipinski holds the lantern containing the flame
for the Pan AM Games torch during ceremonies in Toronto today.

Today (May 30), despite torrential rain, the torch for the 2015 Toronto Pan AM Games began its journey in Canada in Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) canoes and MNO President Gary Lipinski as well as other MNO leaders played a major role in the Torch ceremony held at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.

The torch ceremony began with the flame being transferred from a float plane to a flotilla of three canoes; two of which were the MNO canoes used at every Annual General Assembly and the 2014 MNO Canoe Expedition and a birch bark canoe built by Marcel Labelle that belongs to the MNO Niagara Region Métis Council (NRMC). There were MNO representatives in each canoe along with representatives of the host First Nations, the Mississaugas of New Credit, the Huron-Wendat Nation, and the Six Nations. Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario (PCMNO) Senator Joseph Poitras and MNO Toronto and York Region Métis Council (TYRMC) Youth Representative Christine Skura were in the lead canoe carrying the torch while MNO NRMC President Derrick Pont and MNO citizens Chris McLeod and Jenna Mcleod paddled in the birch bark canoe. MNO TYRMC President Tera Beaulieu, rode in the third canoe along with other representatives of the Aboriginal Leaders Partners. Several MNO citizens were paddlers in each of the canoes including MNO NRMC Senator Gary Laframboise, Kyle Burton, Hank Rowlinson, Joanna Burt and Alicia Blore.

President Lipinski was part of the official party meeting the canoe fotilla on the shore along with Chief Bryan LaForme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, Chief Ava Hill of Six Nations and Grand Chief Konrad Sioui of the Huron-Wendat Nation.

In his remarks during the ceremony, President Lipinski commented on the symbolism of the torch arriving by canoe. “It is fitting that the torch relay starts with canoes,” he explained, “as they played such a significant role in Métis and Canadian history. Métis Voyageurs travelled the breadth of Canada in canoes very much like the ones here today. Just as our forefathers felt exhilaration as they prepared to leave for another fur trade season, the excitement that we feel today; the energy that is in the air; marks the beginning of another great adventure; the 2015 Pan AM and Parapan AM Games! The excitement of the games will build as the torch makes its journey and is greeted by thousands of excited Canadians who want to be part of history and the spirit of these great games.”

Over the next 41 days, a series of torch bearers will carry the flame until it reaches the opening ceremonies of the Pan AM Games on July 10, 2015. Among the torch bearers will be such notable individuals as Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield and MNO citizens Jennifer St. Germain, Senator Dr. Alis Kennedy and Bryce Johnson.

President Lipinski will also be a participant in the Pan AM Games opening ceremony and several MNO citizens are part of performances during the opening ceremony that are being staged by Cirque du soleil.

The MNO signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Pan AM/ Parapan AM Games Organizing Committee in September 2013 and since then has been heavily involved in the organization of these incredible international events. The MOU provided the MNO and its citizens with appropriate dignitary recognition, access to economic development opportunities as well as involvement in the Aboriginal Pavilion, which will feature Métis and other Aboriginal artists throughout the games.

President Lipinski concluded: “The Métis people of Ontario look forward to welcoming athletes and other visitors from the Americas and the Caribbean to the games and sharing our unique history and culture with them. The 2015 Pan AM/Parapan AM Games are a once-in-lifetime opportunity for all of us here in Ontario to come together, celebrate and share our diversity, culture and dreams.”