IF you want to curl in Manitoba, you have to live in Manitoba -- and now you may have to prove it.
The Manitoba Curling Association, which introduced its new name, Curl Manitoba, at a press conference Wednesday, also announced it has adopted a new proof-of-residency policy for curlers in this province, calling it the toughest in Canada.
Only curlers who are Manitoba residents are eligible to represent the province in national events. The new, stricter proof-of-residency policy was approved at a Curl Manitoba board meeting earlier this month.
Not all curlers will have to prove their residency, only those requested to do so by Curl Manitoba. Any curler can file a "residency protest" in writing and present it to Curl Manitoba executive director Shane Ray at least seven days before an event.
"The big thing is what we are requiring for proof of residency, things like driver's licence, lease or mortgage agreement, copies of Manitoba Health, Manitoba Public Insurance, all public documents that are not easily forged, duplicated or purchased," Ray said, adding that curlers can only be a resident of one province.
"It's a message to curlers that we are supporting Manitoba curlers. We feel it is important that Manitobans represent Manitobans nationally. We feel that we put on these competitions for Manitobans. We don't put these competitions on for Americans or people from Ontario."
Ray said the former residency policy required only minimal proof, such as a Manitoba address and phone number. Now legal documentation is required.
Residency of Manitoba curlers caused a big debate" last year locally and at the men's and women's national events, Ray said. "Last year, especially with a couple of teams, there were some questions about eligibility around members of their teams. They met the eligibility requirements last year, but we've decided to change those eligibility requirements because people felt they were too lax and too weak."
A couple of the teams in question were Kerry Burtnyk's Assinboine Memorial rink, which included Don Walchuk, and Jeff Stoughton's Charleswood team, which included Kevin Park. Both Walchuk and Park were from Alberta but had established Manitoba residency for the curling season.
Burtnyk said his team supports the stricter rule.
"Certainly it makes sense that they should have to produce some proof that they fall under that rule... I'm not aware of anything that's changed that will affect anything on our team."
Stoughton's and Burtnyk's teams have qualified to compete in the pre-trials event for the 2010 Olympics from Nov. 9-14 in Prince George, B.C., in which 12 teams will compete for four berths in the eight-team Roar of the Rings Olympic qualification event Dec. 6-13 in Edmonton.