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Parents, players petition New Brunswick government’s decision to stop sport

Click to play video: 'Parents petition for youth to play sport' Parents petition for youth to play sport
WATCH: With the province pumping the brakes on most sports amid rising COVID cases, parents and players are calling on the government to reconsider. – Dec 15, 2021

When New Brunswick tightened restrictions this week in response to the detection of COVID-19’s Omicron variant, the province restricted sports.

Upcoming sporting competitions, games and tournaments have all been canned by Public Health.

Those aged 12 and up are able to practise one team at a time, with social distancing in effect – but those under 12 can’t do that.

This throws the winter routine at Yves Arsenault’s home in Shippagan for a bit of a loop.

“All the family dynamic just got a big bang on Monday,” he says.

Read more: COVID-19 — N.B. launches ‘holiday testing blitz’ for kids, announces winter school plans

Arsenault has three sons: 11, 14 and 16 years old. All had been looking forward to the hockey season ahead.

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“This weekend we’re supposed to have six games of hockey, now we have none. So what do we going to do?” he says.

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick facing uncertainty amid Omicron variant' New Brunswick facing uncertainty amid Omicron variant
New Brunswick facing uncertainty amid Omicron variant – Dec 14, 2021

The difference in rules between those over and under 12 has Arsenault’s youngest feeling left out.

The reason seems to be a difference in vaccination rates. As of Tuesday, the province boasts 80.4 per cent of those 12 to 19 considered fully vaccinated, while only 0.4 per cent of those five to 11 are.

Vaccination for the latter age group was only approved in late November.

The youngest Arsenault was one of the first in line.

“As soon as the five- to 11-year-olds were able to get a shot of vaccine, we went and he got the shot,” says Arsenault.

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“We told him, ‘This is to make sure that you can keep doing what you love to do and you’re going to be protected.’ But now he can’t.”

Hoping other parents were equally frustrated, Arsenault started a petition on Change.org titled “Non à l’arrêt des sports au Nouveau-Brunswick,” or “No to stopping sports in New Brunswick.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 11,000 people have signed the petition.

And Tuesday saw dozens of impacted youth stage walkout protests in Woodstock, Hartland and other New Brunswick communities.

Inside the legislature, opposition voices called out the move as well.

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“Why didn’t the government consider treating them the same way for sporting events, organized sporting events, as semi-professional sporting events in New Brunswick?” Interim Liberal Leader Roger Melanson posed to reporters Wednesday afternoon, pointing out the continuation of competition within the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Maritime Hockey League.

“It’s two different types of rules and parents just want to have answers why.”

Dozens of student-athletes and supporting students took part in a walkout Tuesday, chanting, ‘Let us play.’. Courtesy: Michelle Nason

The health minister pointed to the Omicron variant.

“We really need to take every precaution that we can to limit the spread of Omicron and COVID-19,” Dorothy Shephard says.

Arsenault says he hopes to send his petition to Shephard and the premier.

He hopes they might find a way to get kids back on the ice or court before they decide to bench themselves permanently.

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“I’m afraid that some kids are going to say, ‘You know what? I’m done with sports. It’s always on and off and on and off,'” he says.

“I just hope that’s not going to be the effect of this decision.”

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