The opening ceremonies of the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg on July 28, 2017. The 2021 Canada Summer Games have officially been rescheduled for Aug. 6 to 21, 2022, exactly one year from the date the national competition was originally set to take place in the Niagara region of Ontario. (Canada Summer Games/Flickr)

The opening ceremonies of the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg on July 28, 2017. The 2021 Canada Summer Games have officially been rescheduled for Aug. 6 to 21, 2022, exactly one year from the date the national competition was originally set to take place in the Niagara region of Ontario. (Canada Summer Games/Flickr)

Canada Summer Games dates set for 2022 but uncertainty remains for Yukon athletes

Yukon athletes continue waiting to get back into schools

The next Canada Summer Games have officially been scheduled for Aug. 6 to 21, 2022, exactly one year from the date the national competition was set to take place in the Niagara region of Ontario.

On Oct. 16, the Canada Games Council and Niagara Host Society announced the new dates after confirming the postponement of the 2021 Games in September due to ongoing concerns around COVID-19.

In its statement, officials with the council and host society said the new dates were set after consultation with territorial/provincial teams, national sports organizations, potential venues and all levels of government.

The new dates mean the summer games’ opening ceremonies are now booked for Aug. 6, 2022 at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, Ont. with the closing ceremonies to be held Aug. 21, 2022 at Queen Victoria Park in Niagara Falls.

While the dates have been finalized, athlete eligibility rules remain unknown, though a decision is anticipated in early 2021.

“As we now look forward to Niagara 2022, we remain fully committed to supporting Canadian athletes and our amateur sport community,” Evan Johnston, chair of the Canada Games Council Board, said in a statement. “Providing some clarity on athlete eligibility rules for these 2022 Games remains a top priority for us. We expect to have clear answers for all athletes and their families early in the New Year.”

The question about eligibility and what it means for athletes who would be aging out of competition following the 2021 games is one that Sport Yukon executive director Tracey Bilksy highlighted in September when it was announced the games would be postponed by a year.

Approximately 250 athletes, coaches and mission staff from the Yukon were anticipated to take part in the Canada Summer Games, which draws upwards of 5,000 athletes from across the country.

In an Oct. 26 interview, Bilsky said the confirmation on the new dates has helped provide clarity to sports organizations that will be preparing for the Games.

What doesn’t seem to be clear is when schools in the territory will reopen to user groups as delays continue, creating more uncertainty for a number of sports organizations unable to train due to a lack of access to facilities.

Despite schools reopening in August for classes, the facilities have been closed to groups that rent the indoor spaces for activities that can range from basketball and karate programs to Girl Guides and Scouts, among many others.

The most recent message to user groups anticipates a Nov. 23 start to return to indoor use of the schools for extra activities, but it is the most recent in a number of anticipated dates that have come and gone.

Bilsky said at this point many user groups just want a definitive date of when they will get back into the school facilities so they can better plan their seasons. Some are wondering if they should cancel programs until 2021.

While hockey players have been able to return to the ice, gymnasts have been able to practice out of the Polarettes facility and a few others that don’t require indoor school facilities have been able to start their seasons, those that require the school spaces have been left waiting and there doesn’t seem to be any definitive answers on what the requirements will be for groups using the space or exactly when they will be back in, given the delays that have been happening, Bilsky said.

Organizations, she said, were excited to get rolling when the sport and recreation guidelines were released by the office of the chief medical officer of health in June, but many have not been able to due to a lack of facilities that have come with keeping the schools closed to user groups.

To that end, Bilsky said she would be sending a letter to education minister Tracy-Anne McPhee emphasizing the need more definitive answers about when groups can return to school facilities and what the requirements would be.

She noted beyond the need for user groups to be able to plan their season, there’s also a major concern across the country right now that inactivity levels are reaching a crisis level.

Prior to COVID-19, Bilsky said there was evidence showing that only a low percentage of teenagers in the country were getting the recommended 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity each day.

There’s concern that COVID-19 has meant even fewer teenagers are getting the recommended amount of physical activity to stay healthy.

Having sports programs able to start up safely again would be one way to help teenagers up that activity level.

“We really need to keep Yukon moving,” Bilsky said, also pointing out another concern that sports organizations may lose coaches and athletes with a prolonged delay.

As it stands, without the national competitions to work towards in 2021, keeping up motivation to perfect skills in their sports is becoming difficult for many athletes, though Bilsky also noted some organizations are finding creative ways for their athletes to showcase what they can do in their sport.

Polarettes, she noted, are planning a Christmas show that meets COVID requirements, where gymnasts will be able to perform for a small group of spectators (mainly their families).

While it is not a major competition like the Canada Games, it is proving to be a good motivator for athletes in a year where they will not be competing as they normally would.

In an emailed correspondence, Department of Education spokesperson Susie Ross said that while there is a joint-use agreement in place with the city for use of school facilities like gymnasiums and multi-purpose rooms, this year the first priority is the health and safety of students and school staff and ensuring schools remain a low-risk environment.

“We have been working with the City of Whitehorse under the current context and have recently provided guidance to ensure after-hours use of school facilities follow the specific health and safety guidelines for school settings set by Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, including proper cleaning and disinfecting,” she wrote, noting updates to user groups will come from the city.

The most recent anticipated date user groups have been provided for schools reopening to them is Nov. 23.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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