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Aeroplan Insiders: Meet the Leaders Behind Team Canada


The team behind Team Canada talks Olympic and Paralympic travel, leadership and their tips for earning Aeroplan points on the road to gold.

In the Paris 2024 edition of the Aeroplan Insider Guide, we sit down with Team Canada insiders to talk points and unpack the travel behind the Games. Many Canadians remember where they were when Bruny Surin handed Donovan Bailey a straight path to victory in the 4x100 metre relay at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Or when Karolina Wisniewska skied her way to two silvers in the super–G and giant slalom at the 1998 Winter Paralympics in Nagano. Now, the four–time Olympian and three–time Paralympian plan to cheer on the next generation of athletes in Paris as chefs de mission alongside their colleagues at the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee: COC chief executive officer David Shoemaker and chief People and Culture officer Candice Maxis, and CPC president Marc–André Fabien.

July 2, 2024
A sunny view of La Seine in Paris
   Photo: Pocholocalapre/Getty

enRoute Many people don’t realize how crucial travel is for athletes. How does it support the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) missions?

David Shoemaker Most people assume that the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic teams all assemble in one location, get on one plane and travel to the games together. It’s exactly the opposite. We have hundreds of athletes who travel from all over the world — not just Canada. There is a myriad of factors, and it couldn’t be done without a travel partner like Air Canada.

A profile of David Shoemaker
Photo: courtesy of David Shoemaker

David Shoemaker

Occupation: Chief Executive Officer and Secretary General, Canadian Olympic Committee
Home Base: Toronto, ON
Points: 146 000
Member since: 1986

Candice Maxis Our mission is to enable podium success and advance Olympic values. In terms of values, athletes build new connections, make new friends and develop a broader perspective when they travel. Ultimately, this makes you a better person. I also believe this helps build resilience. As you adapt to different realities, it makes you stronger.

Marc–André Fabien I think it also strengthens the bonds between athletes from various sports when they travel together on flights that are sometimes 10 to 12 hours long. It creates the ambiance we hope for before they even arrive at the Olympic and Paralympic Village.

ER Bruny and Karolina, as chefs de missions, what is your approach to leadership?

Karolina Wisniewska I’m a co–chef de mission with Josh Vander Vies. I was an athlete and have worked in the sports system for a long time, but this is something new and exciting. In terms of leadership, we’re there to serve the athletes, coaches and their integrated service teams. We are not there to dictate or decide what we will offer them. We’re there to serve in whatever way they need us.

Karolina Wisniewska in a red Lululemon Team Canada jacket
Photo: courtesy of Karolina Wisniewska

Karolina Wisniewska

Occupation: Team Canada Co–chef de Mission, 2024 Paralympic Games
Home Base: Montreal, QC
Points: 110 000
Member since: 1994

Bruny Surin Like Karolina said, we’re there for the athletes. It’s very important to not impose or get into their bubbles because they already have the support of their coaches and teams. I’ve tried to build relationships with the athletes before Paris, which is why I’ve gone to many competitions and practices to introduce myself.

DS They’re being far too modest. Karolina and Bruny are proven success stories in the Paralympic and Olympic realms. They are the inspirational leaders of Team Canada, and they speak with authority and credibility. We found this has been a critical element of our team’s success when they travel internationally.

ER Travel is a crucial part of your work as well. As seasoned Aeroplan members, what tips can you share?

MF The main thing I do right now is accumulate points. My tip is to try to book with Star Alliance member airlines wherever you go so you can earn as many points as possible.

KW One way I accumulate points is through online shopping. For example, you can buy your new Team Canada lululemon athlete kit at the Aeroplan eStore. There are also multiplier events, so you can earn more points for every dollar you spend.

Karolina Wisniewska takes the podium in Vancouver at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games after winning bronze
Karolina Wisniewska takes the podium in Vancouver at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games after winning bronze in women’s standing slalom.
Marc-André Fabien giving a speech on stage
One of Marc–André Fabien’s proudest moments as a litigator was representing Canada before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

CM I’ve discovered that you can link your Aeroplan account with their partners for ridesharing, coffee and more. It’s made me change my trajectory when I need to get gas and caffeine. So, I’m being more intentional about taking advantage of those partnerships.

BS I regularly visit the Aeroplan website and stay informed about partners — even through my Aeroplan credit card. I make sure that every time I spend something, I earn a reward. I also invest strategically, because sometimes it’s worth paying a little more to earn more points and status. Once you get the status, I can tell you, it makes a real difference.

DS My greatest tip is to download the Air Canada app, which has your Aeroplan account embedded within it. It’s a one–stop shop for everything you need while travelling.

ER The 2024 Paris Games will be the first to have the same number of women competing as men. How do the COC and CPC support advances in women’s sports?

DS This is an incredible development, and I think it’s fair to say that this standard will exist forever as a defining requirement. We’ve actually had more women than men on our Olympic teams for a number of years, and more medalists have been women than men for a number of years. We’re very proud of that.

MF The International Paralympic Committee has done great work to ensure that there are as many quota spots for women as there are for men and Canada has been a very strong voice in making sure that happens.

Marc-André Fabien in a navy suit and polkadot bowtie
Photo: courtesy of Marc-André Fabien

Marc–André Fabien

Occupation: President, Canadian Paralympic Committee
Home Base: Montreal, QC
Points: 512 000
Member since: 2003

DS We’re very intentional about these developments, and we stand for them 365 days a year, not just when the Olympic and Paralympic Games come along.

KW Having worked with the COC and CPC, it’s also interesting to note how many women are in positions of authority across the Canadian sports system. There have been women in leadership positions for a long time. As David said, it’s not something that just happens. As a sports system, it’s important to involve women in various capacities.

CM I think the word of the day is intentionality, and making sure diversity, equity and inclusion are part of every action we take as we advance as an organization.

ER If travel had Olympic and Paralympic events, what would you be a pro at?

KW I don’t want to say I’m ruthless at security, but… I’ve got my ticket and my boarding pass ready, my shoes off, my laptop out and my liquids organized. I have some hardware in my body, so that’s the only thing that stops me from being super fast.

CM Mine would be going through security, too. I have a Nexus card and like Karolina, I always have my liquids prepared in a little plastic bag. It’s like a routine for me.

DS I have the exact opposite answer. I would be the Olympic champion of exiting the airplane and airport in record time. I beat everyone. I’m off and out. I love the airport on the way in, but when I get home, I’m out of there.

Bruny Surin celebrates gold in the 4x100 metre relay at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games
Bruny Surin celebrates gold in the 4x100 metre relay at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games.

BS I think I could set the world record for falling asleep the fastest on the airplane. I have a drink and a quick meal, and then I fall right to sleep.

MF I would have gone with security as well, but I’ll try to be a little imaginative. I would say that I’m a pro at sitting down with a glass of champagne as quickly as possible.

ER What trips are you currently saving Aeroplan points for?

CM South Africa, Greece, Ghana, the Maldives and Zanzibar. I’m a breathtaking–view type of person, so these would be a few of my choices.

BS I’d like to go to Siena, Italy, with my family. I’ve been many times because that was my base when I was a professional athlete. So, I want to show my family where it all started and reminisce.

MF For me, it would be Vietnam. I’ve never been and it’s one country that is very high on my list.

DS The best croissant I’ve ever had in my life was at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, Marc–André, I encourage you to try it! My bucket–list destination is Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s the only Canadian province I haven’t visited.

Candice Maxis standing in front of the Olympic Rings
Outside of the COC, Candice Maxis sits on the boards of the Afrodescendant Leadership Alliance and Aéroports de Montréal.

KW My first nationals in ski racing were in Newfoundland, and everyone is surprised by that. But Marble Mountain has one of the highest elevations east of the Rockies. I was even screeched in as an honorary Newfie: I took a shot of screech and kissed a cod.

BS You kissed a cod?

DS Bruny, forget Siena. Come with me to Newfoundland!

KW I highly recommend it! In terms of my bucket list, one destination I’d like to visit is Milano Cortina for the next Winter Olympics and Paralympics in 2026 because I was a ski racer, and the Alps are one of my favourite places in the world.

ER What does it mean to be able to represent Canada abroad?

CM I’ve always been proud of my roots. I’m Canadian with a Haitian heritage. With the COC, I’ve experienced a sense of belonging in a unique way, because I’m able to serve a purpose that touches almost every Canadian.

Candice Maxis standing in front of the Team Canada logo
Photo: courtesy of Candice Maxis

Candice Maxis

Occupation: Chief People and Culture Officer, Canadian Olympic Committee
Home Base: Montreal, QC
Points: 27 500
Member since: 2014

MF I represented Para athlete and current Canadian senator Chantal Petitclerc on behalf of the CPC, Sport Canada and the Government of Canada in a case where her gold medal race was declared void because of an accident between other competitors. We filed a protest against the decision, and we won before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Standing in that room and representing Canada was one of the greatest moments of my life because I strongly believe in our country. Without quoting Jean Chrétien, Canada is probably the best country in the world.

DS I lived outside of Canada for two decades and I can unequivocally say that it’s when you’re abroad that you’re most proud of Canada because that’s when you realize how respected and admired our nation is by others. It’s an honour and a privilege to represent the country. I still get teary–eyed every time our flag goes up. It never gets old.

David Shoemaker sitting in a red chair in front of a large maple leaf
Before joining the COC, David Shoemaker spent seven years as CEO of NBA China.

KW The Canadian teams and athletes have such a great reputation, and it really serves us well. I think we rise to the occasion. What David said about the flag going up is true: It never gets old. Ever. Whether it’s me on the podium or someone else.

BS I have been asked what it felt like on the podium after winning the 4x100 metre relay in 1996. I thought I was going to faint. At a conference, someone said to me, “I remember where I was when we won in ‘96.” Suddenly it hit me: He said we, not you. Now, going to Paris, I can feel it: The whole nation is behind our athletes.

Bruny Surin  wearing a black Team Canada Lululemon jacket
Photo: courtesy of Bruny Surin

Bruny Surin

Occupation: Team Canada Chef de Mission, 2024 Olympic Games
Home Base: Montreal, QC
Points: 430 000
Member since: 1992

ER Bruny, this last question is just for you. If you could recommend one documentary to watch on your next Air Canada flight, what would it be?

CM He’s got to think very hard about this.

BS Oh yes, I’ve got to think very hard. You have to watch my daughter’s film The Relay: Revisiting History. Watch it on every flight! It’s worth it.

MF I fully concur!

Team Canada winning the 1996 Olympic gold in the 4x100 metre relay
The Relay: Revisiting History
  • The Relay: Revisiting History — Watch on your next flight: Four Canadian sprinters stunned 85,000 spectators, winning the 1996 Olympic gold in the 4x100 metre relay, beating the American team on their home soil. Directed by Kimberley Ann Surin.

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