I will call the meeting to order, please.
While we are filling people's names in we will say good morning, Madam Minister, and welcome.
As you know, we are doing a five-meeting study on women in sport. We are now welcoming the department and Minister Qualtrough here to talk to us about women and sport, some of the challenges that they face, and what we can do to ensure that women are seen, are heard, and become coaches in other parts of the sports system.
You know that we will be having a 10-minute presentation from the minister. Then we will have an interactive session, in which the department will be able to answer questions, if the minister so wishes.
Thank you very much.
Minister Qualtrough, will you begin, please?
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to be here today.
Madam Chair, I am pleased to appear before this committee today.
I would like to begin by commending the members of this committee on having embarked on a study on women and girls in sport. As a Paralympian, an experienced administrator in Canada's sport system and the mother of two girls, I believe this is an issue that is more than worthy of study and of our government's full attention.
As someone who was working for former MP Dennis Mills when he was preparing his report almost 20 years ago, I can tell you how far we have come. I have seen a great deal of progress over the last two decades. I have lived it.
I'd like to share my views of the progress we have achieved, as well as my observations on the gender inequities that remain and that keep our women and girls from succeeding.
Canadian women and girls are excelling in high-performance sport like never before. Successful athletes, such as Penny Oleksiak, Brooke Henderson and Aurélie Rivard, inspire pride in all Canadians.
More than this, their example shows us what women can do. Because of women athletes like them, young women and girls across the country can see themselves excelling in sport. For many, this may be just the encouragement they need to take a chance and get involved in sport.
At the Rio Olympic Games, this summer, an impressive 16 of the 22 medals awarded to Canada were won by women. And, at the Rio Paralympic Games, 11 of the 29 medals for Canada were earned by women athletes.
These achievements were watched by the world and will have untold ripple effects throughout the world of sport and beyond. When women succeed in any sector where they are under-represented, their success helps break down the barriers that keep others out.
This is also reflected in the leadership ranks of the Canadian sport system, where more and more women are taking on decision-making roles. They include Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith; and the CEOs of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, the Coaching Association of Canada, the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, Canada Basketball, and Tennis Canada. I believe you've already met some of these women in the course of this study.
The achievements of our female athletes and sport leaders are indicative of how far we've come. Decades ago, the challenges were about access—simply getting in the door. Now it's a question of reaching our full potential for the benefit of sport and of society. As part of this evolution, our policy on women and girls in sport was updated to foster sport environments at all levels that encourage and support the participation of women and girls as athletes, coaches, technical leaders and officials, and governance leaders, because an inclusive sport system is the reflection of an inclusive society. A society that fosters the full participation of all women and girls fosters the participation of people with disabilities, members of visible-minority groups, and indigenous people.
Yet, despite the considerable progress that has been made in recent years, gender inequality persists, and traditionally under-represented groups remain on the sidelines. Canadian women and girls across all demographics participate in sport at lower rates than men and boys, and while many teenagers drop out of sport, the rate is particularly concerning for girls. We know that messages conveyed by the media about women, femininity, and sport present a major challenge to keeping girls involved in sport. We need to think about how we can change this.
It's not just girls who miss out when they drop out of sport; it's all of society. We need to stop thinking about this as just a girls' problem or a sport problem. In fact, it's a manifestation of the larger inequalities that persist in society. That's why we as a society need to tackle this issue together.
Here is what we know.
While there is a relatively strong focus on our female medallists at the Olympic and Paralympic games, there is little coverage of women and girls in sport the rest of the time.
For example, in 2014, only 4% of sports programming on Canada's national sports networks featured women's events.
In addition, during the coverage of Rio 2016 events, we saw examples of sports media reporting on female athletes in a way that reinforced stereotypes and outdated gender roles instead of prioritizing athletic achievement. This is just one example of the gender bias and inequity that still exist in organized sport.
And it is a reflection of persistent attitudes in society—a society in which a gender wage gap of close to 20% continues to exist and women continue to shoulder the bulk of unpaid domestic tasks. All of this makes it more difficult for women to take on volunteer and high-profile leadership roles.
We see this clearly in international sport federations. Women account for fewer than 6% of international federation presidents, 12% of vice presidents and 13% of executive committee members.
In short, women and girls continue to face barriers to full participation and representation in the Canadian sport system at all levels and in all capacities. We need to change this.
Through Sport Canada, the Government of Canada, in co-operation with provincial and territorial governments, is taking steps to address these issues. Only national organizations that demonstrate that their programs benefit both men and women are eligible for federal funding. About half of our recipients in the athlete assistance program are women. A main objective of our bilateral agreements with provinces and territories regarding sport participation is to provide opportunities for persons from under-represented groups and our marginalized populations to actively participate in sport as athletes, coaches, officials, and volunteer leaders.
We know, however, that we still have a lot to do and we must take action. All of us together—women, men, sport organizations, and governments—promoting gender equality and inclusion in sport will benefit countless women and girls of all backgrounds and abilities and, in turn, society as a whole. Sport helps to create social cohesion and to build more inclusive communities.
To capitalize on this, we need to encourage participation in sport and also in coaching and sport administration by traditionally under-represented groups. These include women and girls, as well as people with disabilities and indigenous people.
As Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, I am committed to ensuring that all Canadians benefit from sport, and I am determined to close the gender gap in sport participation and leadership for women of all backgrounds and abilities. I anxiously await the recommendations of your study to do even more to encourage the full participation of women and girls in sport and in the Canadian sport system.
I'd now be happy to answer any questions you might have.
It's a very interesting question. It's something that we're looking at across the board in terms of how far you go as a government to tie programming requirements to infrastructure investments. I'm not sure, to be honest, that we've landed on a decision around that.
One of the things that we did do in our budget this year was to create a dedicated $150-million fund for sport and recreation infrastructure, reinvestment, and refurbishment. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities identified that the most dilapidated bundle or type of infrastructure in this country is sport and recreation infrastructure, and it identified an incredibly large dollar amount, a $9-billion deficit. There's a reason why our recreation centres and rinks have the word “centennial” in their name: because that's when a lot of them were built. They haven't been upgraded since.
We wanted to make sure that rec and sport facilities got the attention they deserved. That, to me, was a bit of a “TSN turning point”, to use a sport analogy, in terms of how we're looking at sport and recreation infrastructure.
With respect to tying programming requirements to infrastructure investment, we haven't landed on that yet, to be fair. I'd be really interested to hear if that is a recommendation that will come out of your report, because that will inform some of the decisions we make.
I don't know if Marie-Geneviève or anybody.... I apologize. I didn't introduce my team: Marie-Geneviève Mounier, Alan Zimmerman, and Sean O'Donnell, from Heritage and Sport Canada. They're my officials.
In Rio, I had the opportunity to spend some time with both Mr. Lacroix and Greg Stremlaw from CBC Sports. One of the educations I got was on just that, the alternative platforms that were available to showcase sport, women in sport, paralympic sport, any kind of sport that may not be on television per se. I was very intrigued by the idea that television isn't the be-all and end-all that it used to be and, in fact, most young people are engaging in watching sport in very diverse ways, such as on their computers, or on their phones, or through other social media, and Internet platforms.
The thing that fascinated me was the opportunity that this provides, because, in some ways, these platforms are only limited by the content, as opposed to the hour or the minutes on a television, and the notion was that as long as there was content available, we could have a really robust representation of these groups available for people.
As I left Rio, I committed to convening some kind of round table or meeting of people involved in media, such as CBC and others, to talk about how we can get traditionally under-represented groups onto these other external platforms, because I think they present a huge opportunity for awareness.
Yes, absolutely. I'm happy to.
We need to recognize in sport—but I would say this is broader—that men and women are different. In order to bring out the best in people, you have to recognize the differences and bring out their best through that recognition.
Again, I think that from the start we need to design our programs and policies through an inclusion and diversity lens, so that it isn't designing something generic and then recognizing that it doesn't really work for girls and trying to fix it. It's about being very clear how we intentionally include everyone from the start as we design our policies and programs.
I think what we're talking about—and it's a challenge—is a culture shift. It's a societal change in attitudes, right? I have a 6-year-old daughter and I have a 16-year-old daughter. My 6-year-old daughter goes onto the soccer field and we tell her how great she is and she's equal to the boys and it's all lovely, but by the time your girls hit 14 or 15, some lady will yell out a comment to a boy and say “you run like a girl”, like that's a bad thing. I know some girls who are pretty damn fast, right?
It's just the idea that somehow in that 10 years of a kid's life they go from having such a positive and confident self-image around their participation in sport to the culture shift of it's okay that slagging is to say, “You run like a girl”. To me, this is a really big challenge that we have to face as a society: When does that become a compliment instead of slagging? When we're there, that's when we'll know we have achieved something.
Those are good questions; thank you.
I'll answer the second one quickly.
No, my 16-year-old daughter is not in sport. She was, and she moved on. To be fair, she's a very artsy child. She's in band, music, drama, theatre, and what have you. She's gone with the arts. She didn't find a place in sport, and that's a huge problem.
In my own experience, at that point in my life, I was lucky enough to find Paralympic sport. If I had stayed in mainstream sport, I probably wouldn't have stayed in sport, but because I happened to be exposed to Paralympic sport, which addressed my unique needs in sport through their system, I stayed involved in sport and flourished.
I can't guarantee you that if I had just stayed in mainstream sport I would have continued either. I would hope so; I'm pretty active, sporty, and competitive, and so probably, but I don't know if it would have been because of the system or despite the system.
Thank you, Madam Chair. Good morning to you all.
Minister, I'm sorry I missed your presentation. But I'll make a comment before I ask my question.
As the representative of a predominantly rural constituency, I can tell you that you have pleased many people in small municipalities when you talked about community centres. These are really at the heart of the social life of the villages we represent. They are of great importance. Small municipalities are struggling to meet their financial obligations and the needs of the people.
My question is of a different kind. I would like to draw a parallel, but I don't know whether it's relevant. You can decide.
Last year, the committee did a study on dance. We studied the artist's cycle, training, professional life, and found that little emphasis was placed on the reintegration into the so-called civilian life, once the career of the artist was over.
Do you think our female athletes could also face a similar challenge?
First of all I just want to thank you for having me before this committee. I'm really excited to be here and hopefully to share some of my experiences with all of you.
I have been on the Canadian national boxing team for the past 12 years. I have travelled to provincial, national, and international competitions, as well as four major games. My sport experience might be a little different from that of most other Olympians. I started boxing much later in life. I didn't come from a family that was really sport-oriented, but my parents did see enough sort of desire to still put us in sports.
When I was younger, my parents would me in things like baton twirling and rhythmic gymnastics. I went to those sports and I wasn't really good at them, and they weren't things that I really enjoyed, so I just automatically assumed that I was not an athlete.
It wasn't until later in life, when I followed my brother to a boxing club, that I fell in love with a sport. Even in high school, after grade 10, when gym class was no longer mandatory, I no longer took gym class.
Finding this sport of boxing is what got me interested. Initially it was just for fitness. I think I just had the right mentors and coaches around me who taught me the sport in a way that helped me really develop and become comfortable with the sport. Then when I made the decision to compete, that decision was on me. It was my decision to get in there and take it to another level.
Since then, obviously I have been very involved in sport. I've also become a coach. I've also become a referee and judge, and I have sat on other panels and different boards representing women in sport.
I have a love for sport. If there is some way that I can encourage the younger generation to get involved and to pick up any sport, I take every opportunity to do that. I'm involved in a few other organizations, including True Sport and Fast and Female, which you've probably heard of. I try to take every opportunity to go to schools and do different presentations to try to get our community to be more active.
I think that's a really important thing. Canada has come a long way, even since I initially started competing, but I do believe that there is a lot more that can be done to increase the interest of young girls and women in sport, coaching, and all the above.
If there's anything that I can share, I would be more than happy to do so.
My name is Lanni Marchant. I'm a 2016 Olympian in the 10,000-metre and marathon this past summer. I'm the Canadian record holder in the marathon and half-marathon. I'm a graduate of University of Ottawa's faculty of law and Michigan State University's college of law. I'm a practising attorney in Tennessee, and I'm licensed and admitted to both the state and federal bars.
I'm here today to speak about my experience as an athlete in Canada—as a female athlete in Canada, for that matter. As we heard earlier this morning, we're getting close to having more representation, almost equal representation, of our young girls and our women at all levels of sport. When I contacted Athletics Canada, they told me that we have almost equal representation of boys and girls, men and women, registering with different facets through Athletics Canada. We have gender equality in our national cross-country program now, so men and women will compete over the same distances. As we saw this summer, our women's teams across the board were forces to be reckoned with.
I think perhaps to an outsider, it appears we have gender neutrality in Canada. Based on my experiences, however, I have to say that this is not necessarily true. Looks can be deceiving.
I came into this sport late. I made my appearance on the scene in 2012, when I just missed out on making the Olympic team that year. At the time, Athletics Canada didn't see me as a rising star. Though I was well under the Olympic marathon standard, I was not selected to represent Canada at the London Olympics. We had zero representation in the women's marathon and 10,000-metre run that year.
Since 2012 I've set our national record in the marathon and half-marathon, and I've made every international team I've set out to make. The problem is that they keep moving the goalposts. Most recently, our 2016 Olympic and our 2017 World qualifying marks have been substantially lowered in the women's marathon and 10,000 metres. Our male counterparts see little to no reduction in the qualifying marks they're supposed to meet.
This summer Krista DuChene and I were the first women to line up for Canada in the women's marathon since 1996. That's 20 years.
We've spoken about how high-performance athletes are meant to inspire. The funding we receive is meant to improve enrolment and encourage participation throughout high school and post-collegiate levels, the periods when we're most likely to lose young girls in the sporting world. I question how this initiative will be met if it's another 20 years before we see Canadian women running in the Olympic forum.
In preparation for this summer's Olympics, I once again found myself in the crosshairs with the high-performance division of Athletics Canada. I promise I don't like poking bears, but I had qualified for two events, and the ability for me to double came under scrutiny. My being vocal about wanting to double brought along a threat of a sanction against me.
It was during those six weeks of limbo that my perspective switched. What started out as a selfish endeavour—I wanted to go to the Olympics and I wanted to do two events—became something different. It took on a whole new purpose for me. I was battling Athletics Canada for two spots I had rightfully earned on the team, but it wasn't just my right I was fighting for. Canadians spoke up and voiced their desire to see me compete in both events, not because I was a medal contender, not because it would be nice if Athletics Canada let this little girl run, but because they wanted women and girls in their lives to see a strong Canadian female competing for Canada. In my mind, I was no longer asking for permission for myself, I was demanding it for all of us.
There is very little understanding of the development of a female distance runner in Canada and the fact that age does not necessarily dictate results. The funding of athletes like me, over 30 and female, often comes with performance requirements that are not set on younger athletes or equally on our male counterparts. I will likely not be funded in 2017, after being on the 2016 Olympic team.
Our current government has stated a goal of gender parity in Parliament. We haven't seen that yet in sport in Canada. High-performance directors, head coaches, CEOs, and other title positions within sport federations, such as the COC and Sport Canada, are still predominantly male. After what our female athletes achieved in Rio, there is now a greater expectation to see “us” reflected in the governing bodies and agencies of sport in Canada.
The issue here is not just about participation numbers or female representation as athletes or sporting reps, however. We expect our teammates to have our backs, not to comment on our backsides. We do not need men in the sporting world to proclaim that they stand behind us as feminists because it puts them in the perfect position to comment on our behinds. Instead, we want them to stand beside us.
Recently, I was running with an Olympic teammate, a man. We were passed from behind by a cyclist who recognized me and congratulated me on my performances in Rio. My running companion immediately commented that the cyclist clearly recognized me by my behind.
I'm one of the fastest distance runners in Canada, male or female. I have a very distinct running stride. I was probably the only woman in Toronto running at that pace at that time, but my teammate decided to minimize and dismiss the compliment I had received and tie it to my body. I don't pretend to know the intent behind his words but I have come to learn that it's not the intent of our words that always matters, it's their effect. We look at action over intent.
If we'd like to see actual change in high-performance women's sport in Canada, we need entities like the COC and Sport Canada to step in when a policy or criterion is issued that places a higher burden on women. If you, our government, want to see women continue to develop in sport and see our female population living healthy and active lifestyles, there need to be checks and balances on our federations. Sport Canada and the COC cannot turn a blind eye and say the conflict is solely between the athlete and her federation. If we want to see continued change and growth in women and sport, it needs to happen at all levels. Our teammates need to see us and treat us as equals. Our governing bodies and administrators need to understand our development.
We still have a relatively short history of women in sport, in Canada and worldwide. We need to see ourselves as equals and stop asking for permission. I'm done asking for permission to be seen as an equal on or off the field, and I think we're starting to see that women in sport are demanding it as well.
I'm going to be honest; it was very intimidating. When I first went to the boxing club I asked a friend to come with me because I knew that there weren't a lot of girls in the boxing club. I guess I knew this mostly because my brother didn't want me to go to the club with him. I actually had to wait until he quit boxing before I had my opportunity to go.
When he quit, I thought, “Okay, I'm going to do this,” and I asked one of my friends to come.
Initially, it was intimidating. You have to keep up with the guys; it's not girls and guys. You're an athlete when you're in the boxing gym, but there were definitely coaches who didn't like females in the gym.
I remember a few times being in the ring sparring and being kicked out of the ring for no reason. Later, they came and told me that it was because they just didn't know how to talk to female athletes or how to handle them in the boxing gym.
I think a lot of that has changed now. I think you see female boxing throughout Canada. But initially, even before we were an Olympic sport, it was difficult. There was a lot of “You shouldn't box,” “You're too pretty to box,” or “Why would you come into a boxing gym?” It was tough but it was something I really enjoyed and I wanted to do.
As I mentioned, before Krista and I competed, we hadn't had women run the marathon since 1996. That's not to say we haven't had women who were competitive by the IOC and IAAF standard, it's just that Canada kept setting the standard faster. In 2012, I missed the team, and so did Krista. In 2013, we both made the world championship team, with a slightly relaxed standard. That gave us the opportunity to compete on the world scene. Since then, I've made other teams.
We saw that with the 2016 Olympic criteria, we were right back to where we started in 2012 to make these teams. Everyone has celebrated what Krista and I have accomplished in women's running, and I've become a role model, whether I set out to or not. I've inspired all these girls, and we have so many marathoners coming up who are in their late twenties and early thirties who could make these teams, but Athletics Canada came back and set the goalpost back to 2:29:55, which is faster than 2012. When we competed in Rio, we performed really well, and then 2017 comes along and our standards come out and they're back to being fast again.
The goal is to inspire. If the new movement here is to inspire girls, to have representation, and to have athletes like me be these role models, then they're going to see us out there competing. Krista and I are the only two women in the country who can run these qualifying times. We're the only two women in the country who have been able to do it since 1996. When I set the record, it was a 28-year-old record at the time. If you want women to participate, and if you want young girls to think they can go and compete at the Olympics, whether it's in running or other events or other sports, then you have to stop setting standards that eliminate us and that take your top women out, and that's what I mean by them moving the goalposts back.
I took my certification levels throughout my career. I've continued to do some coaching on the side. A lot of the coaching that I did.... I do some corporate events in Toronto now, where I'm coaching people in the advertising and media industry in boxing. I'm more or less doing that type of coaching, or else I'm going into schools and just introducing people to the sport.
It is very difficult. A lot of people ask if, once I'm fully retired, I'm going to be a coach, and honestly, I think my answer is no. I want to go out and coach young girls and athletes, but there are no initiatives out there for females who are in a sport to transition over to the coaching aspect.
I've gone through a couple of different coaches. One coach in particular was a full-time employee somewhere else. He was a part-time coach, and he had a family. I was always in the gym alone and didn't really have the attention that I needed at that time, and that was really hard on me.
If I'm going to be a coach, I'm going to do it 100%; I'm going to be there for my athlete. And after dedicating my entire life to being an athlete, I'm not sure if I want to dedicate my entire life to being a coach and going through the same struggle of not having funding or whatever it is to be a full-time coach. I think that is very difficult.
I do think that's something that we need to work on, to keep our athletes somehow in the program, whether it be as coaches, board members, or otherwise.
The biggest issue we're facing still is funding. We have funding through Sport Canada, and as athletes, we seek out private sponsors. But in terms of programs and initiatives, from the federal standpoint it seems the money is going into a lot of talk. I commented earlier that it's not the intent behind the words, it's the effect. It's not the intent behind what we say we're going to do, it's action.
I'm very fortunate, and I'm very happy to be here speaking on this matter. But if we're just going to sit around and talk about it, then I don't understand what we're going to accomplish.
I went through university. I went through law school. We're told as women that we can have it all—we can be professional women; we can be a mom; we can have hobbies; we can work out. Nobody really told me it was okay to accomplish all those things and then walk away and be a professional athlete.
Young girls and women are not the same as boys. If a guy is halfway decent at hockey, he's going to go all the way and try to make the NHL. I saw with my collegiate teammates that it was perfectly acceptable for them to graduate, not pursue a secondary degree, and live in a house like frat boys while trying to make it on the running scene.
It's not been told to us as girls the same way it has been to boys, that it's okay to pursue a sport, and that in doing that, you are just as successful as a female.
I'm very fortunate; I'm very glad I have my degrees. But nobody told me I didn't have to do it that way.
I think if the federal government wanted to start sending out that message, that success can come through sport.... Because it's through sport that we end up with some great coaches, and we end up with our Minister of Sport. She said herself that she participated in this initiative years ago, and it introduced her to politics. We have a lot of female athletes out there who could turn into future ministers and future professionals, but the pressure doesn't need to be on us to be that first.
Yes, to clarify my Sport Canada funding, my carding, will likely end. The list will be out tomorrow, so I can't comment exactly, but I was given a restriction on my funding that I had this past year and the restrictions were only given to those athletes who were over 30, and the majority of those athletes were women. We had to perform on a certain basis at the Olympics to be eligible for funding going forward.
It doesn't matter that my age puts me perfectly in the window to be a finalist in the 2020 Olympics. It doesn't matter that I'll stay in the sport another four years. As a woman over 30, I had to perform and to be in the top 15 in the 10,000 in Rio to be eligible for funding going forward. I was 25th and then I turned around two days later and I was 24th in the marathon and that doesn't warrant anything.
In terms of private sponsorships it is more difficult for women and I don't have a good answer why. I know I'm a very vocal Canadian runner in Canada. I'm sponsored by ASICS Canada, but I know that my ASICS male teammates make more than me. Again, I don't know if it's because our history in sport has been so short that the companies don't necessarily buy into what we're selling, but I know that when I've hosted community runs 20 people will show up and they'll have a brand new pair of ASICS shoes on their feet.
I know I have that power to reach people and I know that with my background in education, and coming from a large family with a single mother, I have an interesting story, and we have so many women with these amazing, interesting stories, but the companies are still looking for the Wheaties box and typically on the Wheaties box we have men.