Dene athlete who was released from AWG team because of where she lives wants policy review  

A Thlicho Dene athlete says Team Yukon needs to review its policy on where competitors live after she missed the latest edition of the Arctic Winter Games.

Robyn Mcleod is no stranger to the Arctic Winter Games or AWG. She has competed before and was excited to learn that the games were opening up a category for women over the age of 18.

McLeod said before making the team last year, she won three of four Dene games events.

“I have a lot of knowledge about these games and I love these games,” she told APTN News.

But hopes of competing in the 2024 games were dashed after she was released from the team in February.

“It just really opened my eyes to, um, how wrong this whole situation can be,” she said.

McLeod, 38 and a mother of two, lives in Ross River – a five hour drive from Whitehorse where team practices are held.

She said she struggled to attend practices because of the distance, cost and difficulty securing childcare.

McLeod said she was released for not attending enough practices and that it was only after she was let go that she learned she was required to attend around 70 per cent of them.

She estimates that would’ve cost her upwards o $8,000.

McLeod called the decision to release her from the team “hurtful.”

She appealed the decision and wrote an open letter detailing her frustrations to the Aboriginal Sports Circle – the government body for the Dene games.

The organization said it conducted a review and stood by its decision, stating that “there was a lack of demonstrated commitment to the Dene Games team and the core values of Dene Games on your part.”

Alyssa Carpenter, a fellow athlete and former AWG Dene games coach, said she was disappointed to see McLeod released from the team.

“Sports needs to be more accepting of people like moms who may have extra responsibilities,” she said. “It’s something the (Aboriginal) Sports Circle and other groups just need to be mindful of. It’s important to allow them to participate as well.”

McLeod said she’d like the see the sport body update its policies to be more inclusive of those living outside Whitehorse as well as working adults with children.

“I love these games and I’m going to continue to be involved in these games,” she said.

The executive director of the Aboriginal Sports Circle declined to comment on specific athletes but did say the matter was closed.

A spokesperson for Yukon government, which provides money for sports governing bodies, said athletes have several options to cover travel expenses.

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