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Message from CGAA Chairperson Sean Harte on COVID-19

A chairde,
I hope this finds you all well and staying safe during these particularly tough times. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended all areas of life – and community sports are no exception. Social distancing measures brought in to limit the spread of coronavirus have had a significant impact on our Gaelic Games here in Canada and around the World. As provincial and municipal restrictions begin to lift, the question facing all organizations is how do we return to play? It goes without saying that return to play for all organizations will be based on public health, provincial and municipal considerations, as well as sport specific considerations.  At the provincial level, the Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture has established a committee to develop plans for a safe post COVID-19 sporting environment.

Not surprisingly, COVID-19 has impacted or outright restricted our GAA Club activities including fundraising events, coaching and referee courses, and all training, tournaments and fixtures across the Country had to be suspended to limit the spread of the virus. As you know the inaugural Canadian National Championship has been pushed back until September 2021.

While most of us are being told to stay home and to use social distancing, health care workers are front and centre, taking care of those affected by the COVID-19 virus as well as our senior citizens and those with illnesses. Many of our association members are front line workers so we extend a big thanks to you all for keeping us safe – we greatly appreciate everything that you are doing for us and our communities, and we will be there to support you.

There is a lot of work to do to prepare us for a return to activity. Clubs and County alike need to turn our minds towards the return of Gaelic Games and related matters. Activities need to take place in a safe environment while we operate during the novel coronavirus pandemic. We need to be aware of what is happening in all the Provinces in which our Games are played, be compliant and move ahead with good governance following the Provincial and health authorities guidelines on how to do so in a safe and compliant manner.

It is critical that we take the time to really understand what the Provincial and Medical regulations are in each jurisdiction and to make sure that we continue to be good citizens and conduct ourselves in a manner that maintains and preserves the health and safety of our members. Those are our big concerns, without question.

The Canadian Government and health authorities are openly discussing encouraging coronavirus infection trends.  In response, Provincial Governments are either making or announcing plans to re-open their economies in a phased and gradual way. Some Provinces are moving more quickly than others, based on local COVID-19 infection trends. Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Quebec, for example, have all announced tentative plans to gradually ease social distancing restrictions for certain sectors of their economies in May. Atlantic Canadian Provinces and Ontario have eased a limited number of restrictions, while saying the timelines for opening up other sectors of the economy will depend on infection rates. British Columbia has announced that it will also start to ease social distancing restrictions, although how the Province will do so is yet to be made public.

In order to support our GAA community and our clubs in Canada, I am proposing that we establish a working group to develop a Return to Play Roadmap. We envision the roadmap will be a step by step guide on how to return to play and will be based on information from the Provinces and Public Health as well as best practices from other jurisdictions. While the CGAA will lead the project, the working group would ensure the roadmap is developed so it can be adapted by Clubs based on their specific provincial regulations thus ensuring it is localized and therefore practical.

We see through regular social media posts that many clubs have been very active during the pandemic supporting their members and contributing to their communities through member fitness challenges, weekly Zoom work outs, preparing and delivering food to frontline works, fundraising events and regular Executive committee meetings (albeit virtual meetings!).

We encourage Clubs to closely monitor the government regulations and to make preparations for a phased return to activity that adheres to guidelines of their home Province. CGAA is doing the same and will support Clubs in their return to playing activities. If you would like to discuss this further or have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to our County committee at any time.

I wish to extend a personal thank you to all of you for the way you have supported your members and provided a vital connection and belonging to members during this unprecedented time. Now and always, the GAA has provided so much more than sporting activity – it provides a community. That need for community has never been stronger than right now so please continue to provide care and support to each other.

Let’s stay in touch and get through this together.

Is mise

Séan OhAirt


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