According to Curling Canada, the pregnancy exemption will be expanded in 2024

Curling Canada says it will open pregnancy exemption eligibility to all teams competing in next year’s Canada Women’s and Men’s Championships. The announcement comes a day after the organization came under fire for limiting the exemption to only the top five teams in the rankings.

In a press release issued Thursday night, Curling Canada said the expanded rule will go into effect for the 2024 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary and will also apply to the 2024 Brier in Regina.

The exemption allows a team to field a substitute even if the athlete did not compete in the provincial/territorial championship or meets residency requirements.

Curling Canada’s existing policy, which will remain in effect for the 2023 Women’s and Men’s Championships, allows the top five teams to add an out-of-province free agent at the national playdowns.

The wildcard team for the upcoming women’s championship, skipped by fourth-placed Manitoba’s Kaitlyn Lawes, was allowed to field Edmonton resident Laura Walker as a replacement for runner-up Selena Njegovan, who was granted maternity leave.

However, 13 of the 18 teams that qualified for the Feb. 17-26 event in Kamloops, BC were unable to apply to make similar roster changes if needed. Several prominent curlers – including Olympian Dawn McEwen, Mike McEwen, Felix Asselin and Beth Peterson – criticized the admission rule on social media on Wednesday.

All teams may use substitutes who meet Curling Canada residency requirements.

Per residency rules, at least three out of four players must reside in their respective province or territory, or have birthright status. Only one free agent is allowed unless an exception is granted.

Curling Canada said in a press release on Wednesday that the exemption only applies to the top five teams “because their ability to replace a player with someone of equal skill and dedication is limited.”

“I am confused as to what position/rank in CTRS I have [rankings] has to do with it,” said Jessie Haughian, second in a team skipped by sixth-place Casey Scheidegger, on Twitter. “Pregnancy is pregnancy.”

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