Inspiring Chefs de Mission to lead Team Ontario athletes at the 2023 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG 2023) in Halifax as ISWO gears up to host tryouts and put together a representative contingent, approximately 550 athletes and team officials strong.

Mississauga, Ontario – August 12, 2022 – Indigenous Sport & Wellness Ontario (ISWO) has named national kayak champion Keir Johnston as Chef de Mission and ISWO Board Member Laura Suthers as Deputy Chef de Mission to lead Team Ontario at NAIG 2023.

Keir Johnston, a member of Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, is a former National Development athlete and has competed on the international stage for Canada in the sport of canoe/kayak. His passion for sport started at a young age, and his journey has continued, contending in many competitive sports throughout his life. 

Keir’s involvement in NAIG started in 2002 in Winnipeg, watching his sister compete and win medals in swimming and observing his mother serve as a coach. He then competed in canoe/kayak at NAIG 2006 in Denver. During NAIG 2017, he served as the sport manager and coach for Team Ontario’s canoe/kayak entry. Keir has been part of the Indigenous sport pathway in many capacities and disciplines; as an athlete, coach, and organizer and has served as the former high-performance manager at ISWO. His experiences have given him a deep understanding of the life-changing effects the NAIG offers and its positive impacts on Indigenous youth. 

“Sport has always been a big part of my life,” said Keir Johnston, Chef de Mission for Team Ontario. “The sport of canoe/kayak has given me incredible connections to my family, my community, to water and to the land. Sport has opened many doors for me and allowed me to travel, experience new things, make lifelong friends and represent my community in a way that makes me proud of who I am and where I come from. NAIG is much more than competition; it has a powerful spirit and energy. It is an opportunity for youth to connect to their culture and to learn about other cultures beyond their community. It really has come full circle for me. I’ve had the privilege to represent Canada and to represent my community, and now I have the privilege of working to lead and connect a new generation of talented Indigenous athletes who will form Team Ontario to compete at NAIG 2023. I’m honoured to accept the position and to support the journey of these young Indigenous athletes as they move forward in sport and in life.”

Laura Suthers, who is Ojibwe from M’Chigeeng First Nation (located on Manitoulin Island), has been a Director on the ISWO Board of Directors since 2017. Laura started attending NAIG as a journalist covering the games in 2006 and 2008.  At the last NAIG held in 2017, she became more involved in the planning and execution of the Games as an event volunteer and eventually joined ISWO’s board. 

Sport for me has always been a great outlet for relieving stress, keeping active, meeting others and creating strong connections,” said Laura Suthers, Deputy Chef de Mission for Team Ontario. “NAIG offers Indigenous youth from across Turtle Island the opportunity to pursue a different pathway that promotes health, a strong sense of self-identity and self-confidence, and imparts a range of valuable life skills that has the potential to change the course of many athletes’ lives for the better. I think back to starting track in high school with my brother and sister and how important it was for me growing up; I want our youth and our future leaders to have that opportunity. It’s encouraging to watch the kids compete and having fun with each other, sharing their cultures and creating those connections—this is the embodiment of the games. I’m so excited to be part of the leadership for Team Ontario, representing so many communities, tribes and nations from across the province at NAIG 2023. I know it will be a rewarding experience for all involved.”

The North American Indigenous Games are a multi-sport, multi-disciplinary event for Indigenous youth, between the ages of 13 and 19, from across North America (Turtle Island). The Games will bring together 756 Indigenous Nations, and approximately 5,000 athletes, to celebrate, share and reconnect through sport and culture in Kjipuktuk (Halifax), Dartmouth and Millbrook First Nation. The Games will offer 16 contemporary sports competitions, three of which are traditional Indigenous sports, including box lacrosse, 3D archery and canoe/kayaking.

The last edition of the NAIG was hosted in Toronto in 2017, by ISWO, who had only one year and a small group of dedicated staff to deliver an event the size of the Vancouver Olympics. It was an enormous undertaking by ISWO, who also organized, managed and fielded a team comprised of more than 550 athletes, team managers and coaches. Marc Laliberte, ISWO’s current president, served as the Chef de Mission for Team Ontario at the 2017 NAIG.

“I am extremely pleased and honoured that Keir Johnston of Chippewas of the Thames is joining Team Ontario as Chef de Mission,” said President of ISWO, Marc Laliberte. “He has lived most of his life competing, coaching and supporting past athletes and teams who attended the NAIG in Winnipeg, Denver, Cowichan, Regina and Toronto. He is the embodiment of everything that ISWO and Team Ontario stands for, and we couldn’t ask for a better individual to lead our youth to NAIG 2023. I am also thrilled that ISWO Board Member Laura Suthers of M’Chigeeng First Nation is joining Keir and coming aboard as Deputy Chef de Mission. She brings essential knowledge, dedication and a calm and capable presence to Team Ontario. I wish them both great success and am very happy to be passing on the reins to a new generation of leadership.”

ISWO is the designated and officially recognized Provincial/Territorial Aboriginal Sport Body for Ontario, tasked by the NAIG Council and the Aboriginal Sport Circle, with managing all aspects of Team Ontario’s selection and participation at NAIG 2023. ISWO will be hosting tryouts across the province of Ontario for all NAIG sports throughout the year and into 2023. A full schedule of Team Ontario tryouts, along with additional information about the selection process for Team Ontario coaches and team managers, will be released in the coming weeks.

For more information about ISWO, visit

Indigenous Sport & Wellness Ontario (ISWO) Quick Facts:

  • ISWO is the designated Provincial/Territorial Aboriginal Sport Body (P/TASB) for the province of Ontario, funded primarily through the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, and Sport Canada.
  • ISWO serves all Indigenous Peoples and communities across Ontario, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis, living on and off-reserve, in rural and urban settings, encompassing more than 350,000 Indigenous Peoples in the province.
  • ISWO promotes and creates opportunities for participation in sport and cultural activities that promote wellness and positive lifestyles for Indigenous Peoples across Ontario.
  • ISWO is recognized by the Aboriginal Sport Circle (ASC) and the North American Indigenous Games Council, and is the designated sport body for the development, selection and management of Team Ontario, which participates in the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships and North American Indigenous Games.



ISWO honours the traditional lands and homelands of all Indigenous Peoples and communities across the province of Ontario, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis living both on and off reserve, in rural and urban communities.

Contact Information

Hilary Ostrom

ISWO Manager, Marketing and Communications