Unvaccinated athletes getting notice they can’t compete at Indigenous games

NAIG says Mi’kmaw elders aren’t comfortable with having unvaccinated visitors.

James Gladue has won a number of gold medals competing in track events around Alberta.

But at the moment, he won’t be competing at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) scheduled for July in Kjipuktuk (Halifax).

A letter from NAIG organizers says because he’s not vaccinated means he can’t take part.

“It’s unfair that because I’m not vaccinated, that I shouldn’t be allowed to compete in these games,” says the 12 year old Gladue. “I’ve earned my spot here. I’ve been training, and I really looked forward to these games.”

His father, Travis Gladue, says he was surprised by the letter because other events including the Arctic Winter Games in Fort McMurray, Alta., dropped their vaccine mandates.

“Now we are past the pandemic, we’re hoping,” he says, “that NAIG can follow suit, and all athletes can compete.”

Health Canada is still recommending vaccines for children.

According to the federal government’s website, 24 million people (81 per cent) in Canada have received two doses of vaccine.

The federal government says the vaccine helps lowers a child’s risk of getting sick from COVID-19 and that most reactions are mild.

Gladue says he had a bad reaction to his own shot and wants to decide whether his son is vaccinated.

“Allow him to carry on and let his immune system develop. Especially at that age,” he says. “Being if you look at our history as Indigenous people, if you look at the forced sterilization, the history of forced vaccination pushed on our people, we should be learning from our history and what its done to our people in the past.”

Jacob Hendy, CEO of the Alberta Indigenous Games, says both his son and daughter have been told they can’t compete because of their vaccine status.

Hendy says he’s talked to many parents who are also hoping organizers change their minds.

“It’s a life-changing experience for a lot of kids to be able to get out of the province, or out of state, if you’re looking at the Native Americans in the U.S. and to have this world, life-changing experience to participate in, it’s like the Olympics,” he says. “For those youth in the U.S. and Canada that have been denied, it’s devastating, and it’s really hard. We ask that they remove the mandate and have inclusion for all.”

NAIG organizers say they’re sticking with the mandatory vaccine policy for athletes, coaches and trainers.

According to a statement released March 2, NAIG says it’s priority “is the safety and wellbeing of the 5,000 athletes, coaches and chaperones from over 756 Nations across Turtle Island.

“This includes Elders of the Mi’kmaq host territory who have shared they are not comfortable with unvaccinated groups coming into their territory.

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