Iqaluit’s Toonik Tyme festival cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns

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The annual Toonik Tyme festival has been cancelled due to coronavirus concerns.

“It is out of an abundance of caution, and with much disappointment, that the board of 123 Go! has decided to cancel this year’s event in light of the COVID-19 virus,” read a statement from the Toonik Tyme organizers on March 14.

Iqaluit’s 2020 Toonik Tyme festival is cancelled due to the fear of spreading COVID-19. photo courtesy of Toonik Tyme

The number one priority is keeping the community healthy, stated the news release.

The 55th Toonik Tyme festival was scheduled from April 9 to 19 2020 in Iqaluit.

The festival is a celebration of Inuit traditions and the return of spring. It brings together people from all around Nunavut to play traditional games and participate in various sporting events. The Toonik Tyme hockey tournament is one of the many events that take place during this celebration.

Jonny Ehaloak, president of Iqaluit Hockey League, said, “the cancellation of the tournament is disappointing as it is always a fun event, but safety of players and fans comes first.

“There will always be next year for the tournament, and everyone understands that,” he added.

Sheena Machmer, along with other Pangnirtung community members, has been working hard to raise funds for the minor hockey league to attend Toonik Tyme.

“There’s nothing we can do, it’s better to be safe than sorry,” she said in response to the cancellation.

Machmer said the plans are to continue raising funds, but now for next year’s Toonik Tyme.

Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell said it was important to cancel the festival despite the financial impacts for the city.

“Shutting down and making these precautions is really important, even though, let’s say, it is going to be a huge financial debt to the capital,” Bell said.

He trusts the Government of Canada will provide as much support as possible to the citizens of Iqaluit.