gary with flame smallMNO President Gary Lipinski holds the lantern containing
the flame for the Pan AM Games torch during ceremonies
in Toronto.
As reported in the past several editions of the Métis Voyageur, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) has been very involved in the Pan AM and Parapan AM games since signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Games Organizing Committee in September 2013. The MNO has been an active member of the Games Aboriginal Leadership Partners that participated in planning Aboriginal involvement in the Games and in the Aboriginal Pavilion that was a major Pan AM and Parapan AM venue.

After years of preparation, on July 10, in front of a sold out audience of 45,000 people and an international television audience in the millions, the 2015 Pan AM Games got off to a spectacular start with Opening Ceremonies at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

In recognition of Métis traditional territories in Ontario, MNO President Gary Lipinski was a member of the official party of dignitaries at the ceremony. Other members of the party included Governor General David Johnston, several First Nations chiefs and representatives of the 41 countries participating in the games.

President Lipinski commented, “The Métis people of Ontario are excited to welcome athletes and other visitors from theJennifer St. Germain Americas and the Caribbean to the games and share with them our unique history and culture. 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.”

Five MNO citizens were among the international cast of 625 performers in the incredible Opening Ceremony show produced by Cirque du soleil. Dressed in traditional Métis clothing and using historic Métis artifacts including a canoe, Joanne Burt, Liam Blore, Alicia Blore, Christine Skura and Kyle Burton were featured in a sequence portraying the important role of the Métis in the fur trade era.Bryce Johnson

After that impressive start, MNO citizens and communities continued to enthusiastically be involved throughout both the Pan AM Games from July 10 to July 26 and the Parapan AM Games from August 7 to August 15. MNO Vice-Chair Sharon McBride represented the MNO at several major ceremonies including the closing the Pan AM Games, and the Opening of the Parapan AM Games. Vice-Chair McBride was joined by MNO Toronto and York Métis Council President Tera Beaulieu at the Opening of the Parapan AM Games. President Beaulieu also attended the closing of the Parapan AM Games.

The Aboriginal Pavilion, located at Fort York National Historic Site, was a hive of Métis activity throughout both Games. At theAlis Kennedy Pavilion MNO Summer Youth Cultural Program (SYCP) students, dressed in traditional Métis clothing, recreated a traditional Métis encampment from the fur trade era, with a canoe and even a campfire. The MNO SYCP students interacted with visitors, teaching them about Métis culture, finger weaving, dot art and Métis beadwork. The Métis camp had several prominent visitors including Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Premier Kathleen Wynne, provincial cabinet ministers Brad Duguid, Glen Murray and David Zimmer and Toronto Mayor John Tory.

In addition to the encampment, the Aboriginal Pavilion was also a performance venue that featured a number of Métis artists including Jamie Dupuis, Sierra Noble and Amanda Rheaume,Sienna Rochon (centre-left) and Matt Bombardier
who also performed in the closing ceremony of the Parapan AM Games.

In their own words

Many MNO citizens participated in different aspects of the Pan AM and Parapan AM Games. Below are some thoughts from just a few of them:

Alicia Blore – Performer in the Opening Ceremonies

“The rehearsals were long and intensive but, the reward of representing our nation in an international event was an extreme honour! It was especially important to us to represent various aspects of our culture such as jigging, fiddling, the birch bark canoe, spoons, guitar, our traditional clothing and way of life. I am incredibly grateful to have been given this once in a lifetime opportunity.”Shawn Harvey and his wife Andrea.

Simone Blais – Aboriginal Pavilion Métis encampment facilitator

“I am incredibly honoured to be doing this work because I understand the paramount importance of education. We’re creating new narratives that most people have never hear before. Versions of Canadian history which include the First Nations, include the Inuit and of course, includes the Métis.”

Brianne Gosselin – Aboriginal Pavilion Métis encampment facilitator

“The most memorable moments where spending great time with my Métis friends, interacting with people from everywhere in the world and sharing knowledge on my culture. I also enjoyed learning dances and listening to elders from the Six Nations of the Grand River! I felt proud of representing mypan am wynneOntario Premier Kathleen Wynne admires Métis beadwork
at the Aboriginal Pavilion.
Métis culture at such a large event! It was an honour.”

Senator Dr. Alis Kennedy – Volunteer with National Olympic Committee (which oversees the Pan AM Games) Due to ability in Spanish language, works with teams from several Spanish speaking nations.

“On July 9, 2015 at the Pan Am Games dress rehearsal opening, I had the great honour to participated in the athletes’ grand entree. It was quite an experience to walk as a Cuban “athlete”; of course I was wearing my MNO Veterans’ Council veteran sash, but over my right leg for the crowd to see that the Métis are volunteering at the Games.”

MNO citizens and communities participate in Pan AM and Parapan AM Torch runspan am amandaAmanda Rheaume at practice before the Pan AM Closing
Ceremonies in Toronto.

Leading up to the Pan AM and Parapan AM Games there were two separate torch runs – one for each games. As it made its way towards Toronto, they brought all Canadians together and the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) actively participated in its both relays.

In Windsor the local MNO community council played a big part in a Pan AM Torch ceremony while in Ottawa and Brampton, MNO citizens actually carried the flame. Read the story below about the citizens who carried the flame and click here to read about the Windsor event. In Hamilton, an MNO citizen participated in the Parapan AM Torch relay.

The Torch Relay arrived in Brampton on June 24, where MNO Veterans’ Council Senator Alis Kennedy wore her sash as she carried the torch along its route. Senator Kennedy was given special permission to represent Métis veterans, wearing her military undress ribbons in addition to her sash.

Kennedy was nominated to carry the torch by the Ministry ofMNO SYCP participants at the Aboriginal Pavilion. Veterans Affairs.

On June 30, MNO citizens Jennifer St. Germain and Bryce Johnson took part in carrying the torch through Ottawa.

St. Germain carried the torch through a part of the city that holds a special meaning to the Aboriginal population.

“I was honoured to be asked to participate in the torch run in Ottawa and humbled to have the opportunity to raise the torch past the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument,” St. Germain shared. “It was a joy to have my family there and to see many Métis sashes along the route.”

The Pan AM Torch arrived in Windsor on June 16, greeted by a traditional drumming ceremony organized by the MNO Windsor-Essex-Kent Métis Council and other local Aboriginalwild animals 2Métis performers backstage at the Pan AM Games
Opening Ceremony.

MNO citizen Donna Grayer, the former Women’s Representative for the MNO Windsor-Essex-Kent Métis Council, played a huge part in helping to organize the event. Sienna Rochon, 8, and Matt Bombardier, 18, represented the local Council’s youth at the ceremony, wearing their Métis sashes.

When Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) citizen Fern Tremblay learned that his grandson, Shawn Harvey, had been chosen to take part in the Parapan AM Games Torch Relay, he felt very proud.

Harvey, also an MNO citizen, was born in Timmins but now resides in Hamilton. He was chosen to carry the torch during its journey through Hamilton, on its way to Toronto for the 2015 Parapan AM Games.

In a letter to his grandson, Tremblay shared his pride, stating that Harvey found himself “in this well-deserved opportunity to let people know that you all believe in participants who have handicaps of sorts but have the will to try and achieve some ofMNO citizen Jamie Dupuis playing the guitar harp at the
Aboriginal Pavilion’s opening night.
their dreams by competing in games such as the Parapan AM Games.”

The 2015 Parapan AM Torch Relay ran from August 3 to August 7. Two separate torches were lit, one in Ottawa and the other in Niagara Falls, before being united in Toronto to light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony.

With 250 torchbearers for its five day journey, this torch relay was the largest ever held for the Parapan AM Games.