Alberta Premier tells Arctic Winter Games committee to reconsider vaccine mandate

"The AWGIC will no longer require participating athletes, coaches, managers, mission staff, and others to be fully vaccinated to be part of the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games, If, however, any jurisdiction wishes to enforce its own requirements including other health measures related to COVID-19, the AWGIC will respect their autonomy as a team decision.”

 

People won't need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games coming up in January in northern Alberta.

On November 18, the Arctic Winter Games International Committee said it revoked its policy on mandatory COVID-19 vaccines "to align with current public health advice," according to the committee's news release. 

During a press conference on November 28,  Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said she asked the Games to drop the vaccine requirement in response to the committee's request for funding.

“The Arctic Winter Games wanted $1.2 million from us to support their effort and they were discriminating against the athletes, telling them they have to be vaccinated,” she said. “So we asked them if they would reconsider their vaccination policy in the light of new evidence, and they did and I was pleased to see that.”

Smith did not elaborate on what the new evidence was.

On November 18, the Arctic Winter Games announced they were dropping the vaccine mandate for participants, though individual teams could still require their members to be vaccinated. In the letter to Chiefs De Mission, AWG president John Rodda said the organization would work with the Wood Buffalo 2023 host society to ensure other health safety measures are met, “including masking, hand sanitization and other actions that can help mitigate the effects of these diseases.”

“This means that the AWGIC will no longer require participating athletes, coaches, managers, mission staff, and others to be fully vaccinated to be part of the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games,” reads the release. “If, however, any jurisdiction wishes to enforce its own requirements including other health measures related to COVID-19, the AWGIC will respect their autonomy as a team decision.”

Athletes who had not signed up because they were unvaccinated or athletes who wanted to back out because of the change were given until Nov. 22 to connect with AWG.

The Arctic Winter Games was cancelled over the last two years due to Covid-19 outbreaks.

It is currently scheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4 and is expected to draw over 2,000 people from across the Arctic, including, Northwest Territories, Alberta, Yukon, Nunavut, Alaska, Greenland, Nunavik, and the Indigenous people (sami) of Norway, Sweden and Finland.

The AWG committee said it supports any jurisdiction that still wants to enforce its own requirements related to COVID-19.

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