Alberta cowboys shatter stereotypes on Canadian version of reality TV hit

Gay teammates Jamie Cumberland and Pierre Cadieux
have long wanted to be on ‘The Amazing Race’ 
— in part, to ‘push the barrier just a little bit’

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Pierre Cadieux has wanted to be on “The Amazing Race” since it first aired in 2001, but as a Canadian citizen wasn’t eligible to be on the American reality TV show.

Which was why the Innisfail resident was thrilled when his best friend, Airdrie’s Jamie Cumberland, called with news that a Canadian version was in the works.

“Jamie saw a CTV commercial one night and phoned me instantly and said, ‘You won’t believe what is coming to Canada. The race is coming. We have to apply,’” said Cadieux.

And that they did. The pair is one of nine teams competing for $250,000 in prize money for the 10-episode “Amazing Race Canada,” which begins Monday, July 15 on CTV.

Cadieux said he and Jamie figured they had to be distinct from the rest of the contestants. Both men are gay, having met 15 years ago through an Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association fundraising dance.

“We’ve seen different personalities make the show,” he said. “Our opinion was, ‘Where else do you find a couple of gay cowboys?’ We can openly come out of the closet and say, ‘I like the country and western lifestyle and I am also gay.’ They’ve had cowboys but not gay cowboys.”

Cadieux said that while he and Cumberland, who grew up in Red Deer, are best friends and partners on the show, they are not life partners.

“At the end of the day, we wanted to tell our story,” he said. “I think the public perceives a cowboy stereotypically as somebody who is hard as nails and goes out every day and ropes calves, does all the things a cowboy does. Part of him also wears his heart on a sleeve.

“I think it is important that we push the barrier just a little bit, and say, ‘They are that and there is so much more.’ Just because you are a cowboy doesn’t mean that you can’t be gay and have feelings.”

The series was filmed in May but Cadieux can’t say where or who ultimately won.

But he is more than willing to say the entire process was extraordinary.

“This experience was the most rewarding yet challenging, yet incredible, yet amazing all wrapped up in one incredible package,” said Cadieux.

“This show catches you with some really big highs. Some days things go your way, and everything is great, and some days things just don’t go your way and catches you at a very low point where you are vulnerable, exhausted and you are tired — all those things.”

In many ways, the experience was like participating in a rodeo.

“There are good days and there were bad days, and on the bad days you just pick yourself up and get back on the horse,” he said.

While Cadieux adores the cowboy and western lifestyle, he loves Innisfail even more. He came to the area in 2007 with his life partner Dwayne Sparks. They were living happily near Gleniffer Lake with their two teenage boys, Wyatt and John, until 2010 when Dwayne tragically passed away from a heart illness.

Cadieux, an executive with ATB Financial corporate head office, then moved to Innisfail with his two sons.

“This community has been awesome — I have never had a problem, I have never encountered one single instance where I felt anything negative towards me because I am a gay man,” said Cadieux. “Innisfail has been a wonderful home to raise our children.”

He said he hopes his performance on “Amazing Race Canada” — win or lose — will make Innisfail and all of central Alberta proud.

“I hope everyone enjoys the experience and goes through the journey with me on television — that’s what these reality shows do,” said Cadieux.

“I really hope that my kids, family members and anybody who knows me in town or if they don’t know me, will enjoy the little bit of comic relief, the humour, the fun, the Canadianism that was what this show was all about.”

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