COLUMN: Tarnishing shine of AWG success

by Darrell Greer- March 29, 2018

Back on Sept. 4 of 2017, I wrote an opinion piece (It’s gotta be the shoes) lamenting my frustrations over dealing with the Government of Nunavut (GN).

I had gone through a frustrating three days of asking Kyle Seeley of the GN’s Sport and Recreation Division in Baker Lake if he could get permission from those above him to do a simple policy interview with me.

I wanted the interview because a number of athletes had been kept from attending the Arctic sports territorial in Coral Harbour due to inclement weather.

Among them was Arviat’s Andrew Bell, who I referred to as the Kivalliq equal to the Great One in Arctic sports.

Nobody wants to see any athlete miss a chance at the Arctic Winter Games (AWG) because of bad weather, but an athlete must attend the territorial of their sport in the host community to qualify.

Here was a Nunavut athlete who had brought home six gold ulus, five silver and a bronze during the past four years, as well as breaking a few AWG records for good measure.

I was hoping there would be some avenue of appeal; some way of granting special consideration to one of our most decorated athletes, so he could do Nunavut proud again in 2018 (Bell had five ulus and a new record as I wrote this).

Long story short, Mr. Seeley was denied permission for the interview and I was led to believe Bell would not compete in 2018. Six athletes from Fort Simpson, NWT, missed their tryout due to bad weather, including 2016 AWG knuckle hop gold ulu winner Chris Stipdonk, and were turned down this year by Sport North.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I received the Team Nunavut media guide earlier this month and saw Bell’s name listed for Arctic sports along with two athletes from Chesterfield Inlet.

While the decision to allow Bell to attend the 2018 AWG may have been made with the best of intentions, the same cannot be said for the way it was made.

If the policy concerning a situation like Bell’s has no avenue of appeal or to award special consideration, then, while it may be flawed, it represents the rules.

I do not know how – or if – the addition of Bell to Nunavut’s Arctic sports team affected those who did compete in Coral Harbour.

But I am willing to bet the technical package, or any policy concerning the issue, reads the same today as it did this past summer.

I’m also willing to bet a deal was worked out behind closed doors to allow non-participation in the territorial to be overlooked.

Kind of makes you wonder what else GN politicians may overlook behind closed doors, doesn’t it? But I digress.

There are Kivalliq coaches who saw championships lost when star players taking trade programs were unable to play because the time away would have meant exceeding the maximum number of hours they’re allowed to miss while completing their program.

Like the NWT athletes, there were no deals to be made for them.

So, congratulations to one of the Kivalliq’s all-time premiere athletes and his accomplishments at the 2018 AWG. They were hard-earned.

But the rules, as they stand now in Nunavut, are just meaningless pieces of paper.

Hopefully, the GN will learn from its mistake and have the sense to amend (or accept) any policy concerning this issue before the next games roll around.

If not – for every athlete going forward who misses a territorial due to reasons beyond their control – a precedent has been set.

Once again the GN manages to leave a sour taste in the mouth, during what should be the sweetest of times, by forgetting its own direction – open, accountable and transparent.

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