Female ski jumpers taking case to Supreme Court 

Lawyers hope hearing can take place prior to Olympics

Female ski jumpers will fight on - they are taking their case against VANOC to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Lawyers for the ski jumpers confirmed to Pique on Tuesday that their clients are applying for leave to appeal to the highest court in the land. After being shot down in B.C.'s Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, they're also applying for an abridgement of time so that they can get a meaningful hearing - they hope before the 2010 Games in two months' time.

"We have filed an application for abridgement of time so time is condensed," said lawyer Jeffrey Horswill. "So we can hopefully get this in on time for a meaningful, successful result."

The decision to go to the Supreme Court of Canada comes just over two weeks after the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld a B.C. Supreme Court decision that said the exclusion of female ski jumpers from the Olympics is discriminatory, but it concluded the discrimination was on behalf of the International Olympic Committee and that VANOC was simply carrying out a decision by the IOC.

Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon ultimately dismissed the suit against VANOC but said the organizing committee is carrying out a government activity in putting on the Games. It is thus bound to the provisions under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees equality.

The Court of Appeal, however, said that VANOC doesn't have the power to decide which events are included in the Games and it thus dismissed the ski jumpers' case.

"The issue in this case... is not intention, but control," the Appeal decision read. "VANOC simply does not have the power to determine what events are included in the 2010 Olympic programme."

In a talk hosted by the Whistler Forum for Leadership and Dialogue at the Nita Lake Lodge last Sunday, Ross Clark, one of the lawyers for the women ski jumpers, said Canada is "implementing discrimination" in holding a men's ski jumping event at the Olympic Games but not a similar event for women.

"If VANOC, in carrying out the activity of hosting the Games, refuses to hold the men's events then there's no discrimination," he said. "But if VANOC proceeds in carrying out a government activity of hosting the Olympics, and only does it for men's ski jumping and not for women, then it is in effect implementing the discrimination."

Margot Young, an associate professor at UBC's Faculty of Law and a researcher into equality law, joined Clark at the talk. She said that although the decision didn't lean in favour of the ski jumpers, there's a chance the case has advanced gender equity in sports.

"For the issue of gender equality in sports, the attention this case has garnered and generated has probably advanced the cause," she said. "It's been educative about the persistence of gender stereotypes in sport.

"This was a moment of progress. Although the individuals at that moment didn't benefit, it may be that the longer course of the evolution of women in sports does."

The Supreme Court of Canada has the discretion to decide which cases it will hear. It may yet decide not to hear the appeal, which would effectively put an end to the ski jumpers' fight for inclusion at the Games.

 

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