This year’s Arctic Winter Games will have a Pride House

This year’s Arctic Winter Games (AWG) in Whitehorse will feature something new — a “Pride House” for young people.

“It’s kind of aiming to be a safe space for LGBTQI2S+-identified athletes, and especially for these Arctic Winter Games we want to focus on making sure that that space really is safe,” said Mia Val, who works for the AWG host society and sits on its inclusion committee.

Val said the first Pride House was at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and they’re now common at major sporting events. It’s a first for the Arctic Winter Games, though.

The host society partnered with Queer Yukon, a local advocacy group, to organize Pride House. It’ll be set up in a semi-private space at Yukon College from March 16 to 20.

Sofia Fortin, volunteer coordinator for Pride House, says it’ll be a meeting place for young people. She’s also hoping to organize some activities, like movie nights, and have other support and resources on hand.

“The main idea is that it’s just a safe place for youth to come hang out in their off-time during the games,” Fortin said.

“They know it’s a place where they’re not going to face discrimination, they’re not going to face any bullying, they’re just going to get lots of support and love for who they are.”

Fortin says it could be especially great for young people visiting from small communities who don’t always get to meet others like them.

Athletes celebrate at the closing ceremonies of the 2018 Arctic Winter Games in Hay River, N.W.T. (Mario DeCiccio/CBC)

She also said it’s not just for youth who identify as LGBTQI2S+.

“Certainly, allies would be welcome but basically anything that’s unfriendly or hostile is not welcome,” Fortin said.

Volunteers for Pride House are still needed, she says. They would work a few hours a time, either in the early afternoon, or late afternoon and evening. 

Anybody interested needs to register as an official Arctic Winter Games volunteer before Jan. 31. All games volunteers must fill out a criminal record check form.

The 2020 Arctic Winter Games are from March 15 to 21 in Whitehorse.