Soccer club did not discriminate by refusing to integrate girls into a boys’ team

A Montreal soccer club did not discriminate by refusing to integrate two girls into a boys’ team, ruled the Quebec Court of Appeal.

Karine Bellemare, unhappy that her two girls could not play on the same soccer team as their friends (boys), refused to register them in the summer recreational soccer league run by a Montreal soccer league and filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

The Commission, following an investigation, adopted a resolution that stated the two girls had been discriminated against on the basis of their sex.

But the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal dismissed the claim and concluded the Quebec Human Rights Commission, acting for the mother, failed to demonstrate the existence of a prima facie case of discrimination under the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

The Commission appealed, arguing that the Tribunal refused to acknowledge discrimination and stereotypes historically experienced by women.

The Quebec Appeal Court dismissed the appeal in Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Bellemare) c. Club de soccer Les Braves d’Ahuntsic, 2024 QCCA 462.

The Appeal Court upheld the Tribunal’s conclusion that even on an objective assessment of dignity and its requirements, the evidence does not demonstrate any infringement of their rights. “In a recreational activity intended for children of this age, the fact that the groups are composed in such a way that boys play with boys and girls play with girls in no way undermines their dignity as human beings or that of their parents,” said the Tribunal, a finding upheld by the Appeal Court.

The Appeal Court also confirmed the Tribunal’s finding that the participation of children in a summer recreational soccer league did not result in discrimination based on historical stereotypes unfavourable to women. “Even if the judge had enumerated historical stereotypes of women, there is nothing to suggest that he would have concluded that the separation of boys and girls reinforced or perpetuated them,” held the Appeal Court.

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