BAY ROBERTS, NL — There was nothing more Harris Tucker wanted as a parent than to see his four-year-old daughter Lauren enjoy herself on the ice, just like her older brother.
According to the girl's dad, it was at the Bay Arena in mid-September where Lauren, who is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, saw her brother taking part in the CanSkate program and had an instant reaction.
"When Logan got on the ice and we turned to go to a viewing area, Lauren started to scream and cry," Harris told the Compass in an interview last week.
"When I asked her what was wrong, she answered, 'I want to skate like bruddy.' I tried to distract her, but she had her mind made up."
After speaking with his wife Lisa, it was agreed they'd look into signing Lauren up through the Conception Bay North Skating Club (CBNSC).
According to Harris, who lives in Bay Roberts, a person with the club told Lisa it would be no problem to get Lauren involved, as CBN Skating Club considered itself an inclusive group.
But after four weeks of waiting, no arrangements were made to satisfy what the Tuckers envisioned for Lauren. The couple ultimately decided to remove Logan from CanSkate and requested reimbursement on his fees. As of last week, they had not received a response from the club regarding the latter request.
"Logan could join CanSkate no questions asked, but Lauren is different," said her father. "We tried to instill in Lauren that she could do anything she wants to do, but maybe in a modified way. We understand that. We know that Lauren is not going to be a figure skater, but no reason why she can't skate in a modified way."
Lisa contacted the club again after three weeks by email looking for an update. In response, she was told the club consulted with Skate Canada Newfoundland and Labrador. The latter group also got in touch with the national governing body for the sport, Skate Canada.
The ultimate suggestion was for Lauren to use double-bladed skates and a red glider with adult program assistant helping her at all times. At the local level, CBNSC only had junior program assistants available. It was suggested either Harris or Lisa could fill this role — they would also have to pay an insurance fee to get on the ice with her. The parents did not like that idea.
"It's our intention to treat Lauren like Logan and be like other kids using a personal assistant, not her parents," Harris explained. "We wanted to teach her independence to meet and trust other people and be just like all kids."
Harris added too as parents, they could get on the ice with her during a local parent and tot program free of charge.
He later reached out to Skate Canada and had a positive discussion with a representative, but it ultimately did not lead anywhere by mid-October. It was then on Oct. 17 that the parents decided to give up on registering Lauren for CanSkate while also pulling Logan out of the program, feeling their relationship with the local club had become strained. Harris feels the registration should have been a one-day process, much like his son's experience.
"But because Lauren was pointed out as different, things didn't go as smoothly as with a 'normal' child," said her father.
Lauren has issues with her vision and recently took part in Canadian Blind Hockey at the Paradise Double Ice Complex with help from a personal assistant. The organization responsible for the sport is a charitable group.
"She was so excited and needed no assistance from (her parents)," Harris noted. "If (Canadian Blind Hockey) can provide the service, then so should Skate Canada."
The Compass contacted CBNSC president Sherrie Keefe Thursday, Oct 26 requesting an interview. The club issued a statement later that day.
"Skate Canada is actively trying to include all persons with disabilities in our activities in the safest way possible," the club wrote. "In this case, the club, section, and the national office, were working on a plan to have Lauren participate in our programs.
"We realize that there was a delay in registration and it was due to the fact that the club was working to identify adequate resources available in the area to ensure that Lauren would be safe on the ice. We are happy to continue working with the Tucker family to find a solution that will allow Lauren to enjoy our programs in the safest way possible."
In response to a separate request for comment, a Skate Canada spokesman referred The Compass back to the statement CBNSC provided.