From the very beginning of the Jeux Canada Games in 1967, the Games had been heralded as an opportunity to invest in the youth of Canada, offering opportunities and possibilities that extended beyond the development of facilities. The Games provided opportunities for community participation, promoted awareness of the importance of health and well-being, enabled local members of the community to develop marketable skills and allowed young Canadians to reach their full potential while gaining recognition for their efforts. In 1981, these extended benefits were demonstrated through the recruitment of staff and volunteers from the region, the development of complementary programs alongside the Games and the training opportunities catered to officials. By the time the Games began, the total volunteer contribution was estimated to involve approximately 5,000 people, while 67 people had been recruited as paid staff. Additionally, Thunder Bay provided a host of sport officials, many of whom were trained through specially developed training seminars held in Thunder Bay in the years leading up to the event. The effects of the Games on Thunder Bay were best explained by General Manager Taras Kozyra who stated in a Post Games Report: “The 1981 Jeux Canada Games have come and gone but the warm glow of pride remains with the people of Thunder Bay – a City that will never be the same again.”²
The host society of the Jeux Canada Games 1981 recognized the potential that complementary programs could play in fostering community involvement. Programs in effect throughout the course of the Games included the cultural program (Creative Canada Créatif), the Educational Student Exchange program and the Community Fitness First program. The cultural program encouraged artists to the City, and opened opportunities for local artists in the area to achieve recognition on a national scale, with art exhibits, workshops and an expansion of currently offered cultural programs within the City. Funding from the Ontario Ministry of Culture and Recreation allowed for an acquisition budget to complement the newly constructed Canada Games Complex, decorating the lobby with artistic celebrations and giving local artists an opportunity to exhibit their work in a highly visible public space. Other supporters of Creative Canada Créatif included the Federal Department of Communications, the Wintario Program offered by the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Arts Council.
Young participants outside the Canada Games Complex
Planning & Implementation Committee Meeting Minutes
Aside from the cultural component of the Games, a side project entitled the Community Fitness First Campaign was developed by the Thunder Bay District Health Council. The Campaign, which involved senior members of the host society, including Taras Kozyra and Dave Siciliano, used the Jeux Canada Games 1981 as a catalyst to encourage physical activity and promote a healthy lifestyle.
Host society members and members of City Council also saw the initiative as an opportunity to ensure that the recreational facilities would continue to be used beyond the course of the Games, ensuring that the facilities would serve as a worthwhile investment for the City. The overall objective of the campaign, according to the creators, was to “encourage citizens of Thunder Bay to become more active, more frequently, and more regularly” and to “change the macro-level social, cultural and economic barriers that influence people’s personal health decisions.”³ Health and fitness education also extended to the classroom. Educational curriculum materials were also adapted to include a focus on sport and fitness. Host Groups were encouraged to visit, mini-games events were staged to involve students and student exchanges took place.
² Post Games Report prepared by Taras Kozyra. City of Thunder Bay Archives (TBA 8038-04).
³ Excerpt taken from a speech titled Strategic Planning for Health Promotion at the Community Level delivered by Frances Guzzi and D. Wesley Leister to the Canadian Public Health Association Annual Conference, held in Ottawa (June 1980). City of Thunder Bay Archives (TBA 8038-41).