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Girls’ softball teams accuse City of Victoria of discrimination over fields

Teams’ human rights complaint is headed to a hearing
Girls’ softball players deserve better field conditions, says a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal complaint. (Karen Powell photo) Girls’ softball players deserve better field conditions, says a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal complaint. (Karen Powell photo)

A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing will go ahead to hear a discrimination complaint filed by a local girls’ softball association over the conditions of sports fields.

The tribunal recently ruled against the City of Victoria, which tried to quash a complaint filed in 2020 by the Beacon Hill Baseball and Softball Association.

“(The association) asked the City to approve and support work to change the baseball field at Pemberton Park into a softball field, and to upgrade the facilities,” reads the complaint. “After phase one of those upgrades was completed, the process stalled at phase two. At this phase, the Association’s priority was to install a ‘skinned infield’ and a batting cage. The City did not initially approve this work. For the 2019 and 2020 seasons, softball players played at Pemberton Park without a skinned infield and batting cage.”

Michael Sharpe, a parent of an association player, filed the complaint.

“Mr. Sharpe alleges that the City’s conduct in response to the Association’s requests related to Pemberton Park deprives the Players of opportunities to play softball at a competitive level and develop in a sport where Canadian women excel internationally,” says the tribunal ruling. “He says the conduct stands in contrast with the City’s approvals for upgrades and facilities used for baseball, a sport for which 96 per cent of the Association’s players are boys. He alleges that the disparities, and the impacts on the Players, are discrimination based on sex, in violation of s. 8 of the Human Rights Code.”

The city, however, disagrees.

“The City denies discriminating,” reads the ruling. “It says that it is the Association, and not the City, that has chosen to focus its softball program at Pemberton Park. It says there are other softball fields in the City that the Association could apply to use, and/or that the Association could run its softball program at the same park as its baseball program, as it had done before 2016. It says that its decisions about Pemberton Park were made according to its usual processes, accounting for all the diverse needs of the community. It asks the Tribunal to dismiss the complaint without a hearing.”

The tribunal decision found there was good reason to continue the complaint.

“To the extent the City may be arguing that any potential discrimination has been remedied by its approval of a temporary batting cage in 2019 and the skinned infield in 2021, I am not persuaded this is a basis to dismiss the complaint. The question of whether the City is responsible for sex-related impacts on the Players for the period of the complaint is outstanding and has not been resolved. It furthers the purposes of the Code for the Tribunal to resolve that issue on its merits.”

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Chris Campbell

About the Author: Chris Campbell

I joined the Victoria News hub as an editor in 2023, bringing with me over 30 years of experience from community newspapers in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley
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