Sport Canada Establishes a New Policy on Women and Sport

It only took 23 years, but Canada has a new policy on Women and Sport. Actively Engaged: a Policy on Sport for Women and Girls and the accompanying Action Plan, 2009-2012, were launched at the Canada Summer Games in PEI in August, but are back-dated to take effect January 1, 2009.The objective of the policy is to foster sport environments – from playground to podium – where women and girls, particularly as athlete participants, coaches, technical leaders and officials, and as governance leaders are provided with quality sport experiences and equitable support by sport organizations. The two documents are extensive and can be accessed from the Sport Canada web site, Actively Engaged and Action Plan.

We are pleased to see the policy addressing the gender issue from a much broader perspective than in 1986 (for example, moving beyond measures to increase female athletic participation to recognizing the many societal barriers that inhibit women from engaging in different roles in sport, including governance roles). However, the Policy remains toothless in terms of enabling intervention by Sport Canada within the countless organizations that they heavily fund. The language in the Policy is that the government of Canada will merely “support and encourage” these organizations to comply with the Policy.

Our experience in many gender equity battles over the years is that the roadblocks to the engagement and equitable treatment of women are ingrained within the cultures of national sport organizations. A handful of these organizations continue to operate in direct defiance of federal policy and their own policies on gender equity – and do so without repercussions from their main funder. This is not likely to change under the new Policy regime.

Originally published: Centre for Sport and Law Newsletter (2009) Vol. 5(2)

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