The Arctic Winter Games flame will travel through some of Alberta’s northernmost communities this week before heading to Fort McMurray for the 2023 event that combines northern sports and culture.
The Arctic Winter Games are an international competition with athletes from the Northwest Territories, Yukon Territory, Nunavut, Northern Alberta, Alaska, Greenland, Finland and Norway.
Held in Wood Buffalo from January 29th to February 4th, the event features a variety of sports including alpine skiing, snowshoeing and the Dene Games.
As the start of the Arctic Winter Games approaches, more than 40 former and current athletes and activists will carry the torch across the region.
Jenn Vardy, chair of the 2023 Arctic Winter Games, said the process of selecting the torchbearers was long because there were more than 200 nominees.
“There were a lot of fantastic people nominated and the process of selecting them was laborious,” Vardy said.
Vardy said that while athletes are an important part of the game, it remains a community event. Vardy said nominating a torchbearer is a way of highlighting leaders who “have the torch of our community to light the way for our generations to come”.
“This is an opportunity for everyone to participate.”
The torch relay will begin at Fort Chipewyan and Fort Fitzgerald/Smith’s Landing First Nation on Wednesday, and conclude at Fort McMurray on January 28.
Kerry activist Adam McDonald of Fort McKay was one of those chosen.McDonald’s across canada Raise awareness of the MMIWG.
Vardy said he was chosen to represent Fort McKay because he is a “national treasure”.
“Who better to carry the torch on Fort McKay than someone who takes the lead in ensuring we reduce the number of missing and murdered Aboriginal people?”
MacDonald said becoming a torchbearer has been a dream of his since he took the torch at the Alberta Summer Olympics at the age of 14.
“I jumped for joy when he found out he was going to have a flashlight again.”
Former Arctic Winter Games athlete Tanis Robillard was selected after being nominated by her niece.
“It was almost like a full circle moment for me,” Robillard said.
Robillard, 47, was an Olympic athlete in 1992 and won a silver medal with the Ulu on the Alberta volleyball team.
“It made me feel old,” Robillard said. “It’s almost like a reality check on how fast time flies.”
Robillard, who represented Conklin in the torch relay, said she was excited to showcase her community.
Equipment operator and former firefighter Rheimer Reid will be part of Anzac’s relay team.
During the 2016 wildfire that engulfed Fort McMurray, Reed remained at the Gregoire Lake estate and protected the home during evacuations.
Reed is also an athlete and has competed in several adventure races, but said he is recovering from an injury so he may not be at top speed for the relay.
“I’m not as fast as I used to be,” Reed said, adding that he would love to see a lot of people come out and support the relay.
“This area has been amazing for me and my family,” Reid said. “There’s a lot of difficulty and difficulty. I think everyone definitely feels it. It’s a good time to move forward.”
Athlete Alicia Gladue, 17, will compete in this year’s Dene Games and is one of Fort McKay’s torchbearers.
Gladue, who is Dene and Cree, said she’s unfamiliar with many of the events she’ll be attending, but she’s excited to be closer to her heritage.
“It makes me feel like I’m keeping it going, teaching it to go on, in a fun way,” Gradu said.
She plans to wear a mudra on her face to represent MMIWG because she cares about the issue.
“I want to teach people and remind them that this is still an ongoing thing.”
The Arctic Winter Games are held from January 29th to February 4th.