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P.E.I. football players sidelined by new New Brunswick high school transfer rule

Tyler Newson and Ethan Haakman are being forced to wait a year in order to play football while attending Moncton High due to a New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association transfer policy.
Tyler Newson and Ethan Haakman are being forced to wait a year in order to play football while attending Moncton High due to a New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association transfer policy. - Contributed
MONCTON, N.B. —

Tyler Newson is interested in a career as a dietitian. Ethan Haakman wants to work in forestry.

Both teenagers also love football and dream of playing in the university ranks.

Newson and Haakman, both from Prince Edward Island, are enrolled at Moncton High School.

They said they transferred to Moncton High this year because it offers more elective courses than their former schools in P.E.I., and because Moncton High has a football team. High school football isn't offered in P.E.I.

Newson and Haakman registered for the current school year last May and moved to Moncton in August to begin training camp with the Purple Knights' football team.

However, they were deemed ineligible to play sports at Moncton High for 12 months because of a New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association (NBIAA) out-of-province student transfer rule.

Moncton High principal Mike BeLong is disappointed with the NBIAA policy. 

"This province is known in Canada and North America for having a very stringent inclusion policy," he said.

"The kids that come in from other countries can play sports. I just want these kids to have the same opportunity as the many that come internationally. This is not very inclusionary at all."

NBIAA executive director Allyson Ouellette said Newson, Haakman and a third student from P.E.I., who has since returned home, don't meet the eligibility criteria for transfer students.

According to the NBIAA, the transfer policy is intended to promote fairness and is meant to restrict students transferring schools for athletic purposes and to prevent recruiting.

BeLong, who summers in P.E.I., was approached two years ago by a teaching colleague on the Island inquiring if Moncton High accepted transfer students. Two students from P.E.I. enrolled and played football at Moncton High last year, and both are now studying and playing football at Acadia University.

The NBIAA adjusted its out-of-province transfer rule during the 2018-19 season to match its existing inter-provincial transfer rule that prohibits student-athletes transferring schools without meeting the eligibility criteria. The change was approved by the NBIAA membership at its annual general meeting in June.

Ouellette said Moncton High was informed prior to last May the rule would be changing for out-of-province students and would be discussed further at the AGM in June.

BeLong attended that meeting and prior to the vote, spoke to the membership about how he felt the rule would be unfair and discriminatory. He believes out-of-province transfer students, like international students, should have the right to play sports immediately instead of sitting out a year.

"Even if P.E.I. had football, what right do I have as a principal to say you can't move to New Brunswick to come to school," he said. "I don't know if that's fair. If a parent wants to give up guardianship and let them live somewhere, why are there rules initiated to roadblock these kids?"

BeLong added that it's not about having them attend Moncton High in particular.

"I even suggested they could go to Tantramar (in Sackville) because it has Mount Allison University in its backyard. It's about giving kids opportunities."

BeLong met with the parents of the P.E.I. students last summer and told them academics are the top priority for transfer students. He said if the P.E.I. students were to leave after football season, they would not receive any course credits.

"These kids are making huge sacrifices," he said. "They've been with their friends and buddies from kindergarten through high school, and they want to come to another province for an exchange."

Watching from the sidelines

Despite being ineligible to play any sports for 12 months, multi-sport athletes Newson and Haakman have decided to stay at Moncton High for the full school year. They're already thinking about playing for the Purple Knights in 2020-21.

The Grade 11 students said it's a big commitment to move away from home, but are happy at Moncton High — both in and out of the classroom.

P.E.I. does offer community football for high school-aged players, but those teams rarely graduate players to the university level.

"I really had to think about my future," said Newson, a 17-year-old defensive back from Hunter River. "This gives me more opportunities."

Haakman, a 16-year-old receiver from Summerside, said he never felt like he fit in at his former high school.

"I miss my family, but I just love this school," he said. "It's a huge opportunity to get a better education and maybe get four more years of football (in university). On P.E.I., I wouldn't get that."

'This is wrong on so many levels'

Tyler's mother, Lisa Newson and Ethan's mom Melanie Haakman said it was a difficult decision to let their sons move away from home.

The parents of the two boys have signed over legal guardianship to Marc Charette, an assistant football coach at Moncton High, and his wife Nathalie.

"But we never dreamed that in sending our boys to a school that was so diverse and so inclusionary that they would be denied an opportunity because we don't live over there for 12 months," said Newson. "This is wrong on so many levels. Every child should have the opportunity to play."

"Everybody wants kids to be active, and they promote physical fitness," added Haakman, "and you're taking two kids and you're denying them the opportunity to do what they love and be active at school."

– Written by Sean Hatchard, Moncton Times & Transcript


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