"Out of scope?" Are they on dope?
by Toni Vonk with files from Dr. Linda Blade
Canadian government ignores safety risks for girls and women in sport – again
Standing Committee on the Status of Women rejects expert submission from esteemed athletics coach, Dr. Linda Blade, to a study on safe participation in sport for women and girls.
The call for public submissions posted on the Parliament of Canada website was clear: The study “will be examining the factors that affect the physical and emotional health of women and girls in sport, as well as their safety. The objective of this study is to identify ways to ensure a safe and inclusive sport environment and to encourage women and girls to participate in sport in Canada.”
It couldn’t have been more specifically targeted to Coach Dr. Linda Blade’s area of expertise, which includes a PhD in Kinesiology. It was entirely in line with her athletic credentials as President of Athletics Alberta and called to her leadership in advocating for women’s sex-based rights. Ensuring safety and fairness in sports for women and girls has been a prime focus and responsibility for Dr. Blade’s entire career.
It was an opportunity for parliamentarians to learn from Canada’s preeminent expert spokesperson and author on the physiological and psychological factors that characterize and differentiate women’s and men's experience in sport.
For Coach Blade, it was a chance to finally be heard by federal officials about current realities and dangers for girls and women in sport, and of the scientific and sociological rationale for maintaining competition among athletes in many sports strictly within the sex class they are born.
By the time most Canadians who follow this topic were even aware that the government was undertaking such a study, Coach Blade had somehow been entirely overlooked as an ideal and logical witness to invite to speak to the committee. A review of the committee's website reveals a total of 19 witnesses were invited to appear at three committee meetings. Procedural information for the House of Commons explains that parliamentary committees “invite private citizens, experts, representatives of organizations, public servants and Ministers to appear before them in order to elicit information (receive evidence) relevant to the study under consideration. These consultations allow witnesses to set out and clarify their points of view, which are often presented in a written brief, and give MPs the opportunity to ask questions.”
Uninvited but unabated, and since the public submission process is open to all Canadians, Coach Blade prepared and delivered a written brief (copied in full, below) well in advance of the December 15 deadline and in complete compliance with the committee’s terms of submission.
The stunner? Within 24 hours, Coach Blade’s expert submission was rejected by the committee.
The reason? Because “it falls outside the scope of the study.”
This remarkable pronouncement was signed off by the clerk for the committee, Alexie Labelle, Ph.D. (She/her/elle). Labelle, whose LinkedIn bio lists gender identity and sexual diversity among her “fields of interest,” also wrote that she had consulted with the committee on Coach Blade’s submission before rejecting it outright:
In her Twitter profile, this House of Commons procedural clerk promotes the online availability of her dissertation, "Intersectionality, white privilege, and citizenship”:
People who read Coach Blade’s submission (copied in full, below) will wonder what, exactly, is “out of scope” in her brief?
What part of her submission does not address “the factors that affect the physical and emotional health of women and girls in sport, as well as their safety”?
And why would a standing parliamentary committee for the status of women, composed of all women, save for one man, refuse to accept this citizen-submission by a demonstrably qualified and concerned Canadian woman?
SUBMISSION TO THE FEWO COMMITTEE – House of Commons – Canada
Study on the Participation of Women and Girls in Sport – A Coach’s Perspective
From: Dr. L. F. Blade, President, Athletics Alberta; Sport Performance Professional Coach
December 1, 2022
Dear Karen Vecchio and parliamentary colleagues:
I currently serve as President of the Board at Athletics Alberta, the track and field association for the province of Alberta. Since 2018 Athletics Alberta has been working closely with our national governing body, Athletics Canada, on improving our “safe sport” guidelines.
We have improved training and safety requirements of our coaches, including enhanced police background checks and adherence to “the rule of two.” A coach or official is never alone with an underaged athlete. There must always be another adult present. We also have a “whistleblower” policy, whereby a third party can write a private note to our office if they have observed potentially abusive behavior.
Sadly, these improvements in safeguarding will be put in jeopardy if our sports governing bodies fail to enforce sex-based boundaries in key areas of activity: washrooms, locker rooms, hotel rooms, and competitions.
What I am referring to is the current situation in which sports groups in Canada struggle to balance the right of female athletes to safety, fairness, and privacy (no matter how they identify) and the preference of male athletes to self-identify as girls or women.
According to the most recent amendment of the Canadian Human Rights Act (Bill C-16), “the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, disability, and conviction of an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.”
Male-born athletes (irrespective of gender identity or gender expression) have an unfair physical advantage in sports at all ages; an advantage that becomes more extreme during and after male puberty. The larger size and greater power of the male body can be outright dangerous to females in contact sports. World Rugby states that: While there is overlap in variables such as mass, strength, speed and the resultant kinetic and kinematic forces we have modeled to explore the risk factors, the situation where a typical player with male characteristics tackles a typical player with female characteristics increases the magnitude of known risk factors for head injuries by between 20% and 30%.”
In track and field athletics, a male athlete throwing a female implement could very well kill someone. Male javelins, for example, are weighted and designed to land within the grassy field. If a good male thrower identifies as a woman and launches the female-designed spear, it will sail far beyond the confines of the grass and land either on the running track (jeopardizing male and female runners) or drift into the stands (possibly impaling a spectator).
And, of course, we all know what happened to MMA female boxer Tamikka Brents who happened to get into the ring with transgender (male) fighter Fallon Fox: she emerged with a fractured skull.
It is simply not safe to mix male and female bodies in many types of sports.
The demand by a male-born person to be included in a female competition instantly sets up a conflict of rights:
(a) Disallowing a male who self-identifies as “woman” or “girl” to be included in the female category might be construed by some to be discrimination based on gender identity.
(b) Allowing the male to compete unfairly and unsafely against female athletes is discrimination on the basis of sex.
(c) Allowing a male to self-identify into female-only spaces in sports can also lead to discrimination on the basis of religion, excluding girls from mix-sex spaces due to their religious beliefs.
Since all three – “gender identity”, “sex” and “religion” – are listed in Bill C-16, how are we to decide which characteristic to protect? Does one characteristic take precedence over another?
To make matters more confusing, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) insists that males who wish to self-identify as “women” or “girls” need not be required to undertake any physical mitigation whatsoever. According to the CCES, sports organizations have no right to require proof of surgery or demand hormonal treatment that would reduce the likelihood of the male dominating female competitors.
By implication, then, sports organizations in Canada are expected to allow “fully-intact” males into the private spaces of our female athletes, including washrooms, locker rooms and hotel rooms during team trips.
Are Canadian women and girls in sports really expected to ignore the presence of a male body, complete with male genitalia, standing right there next to them (observing them) when they are disrobing and showering? If beds are to be shared on team trips, is a female athlete going to be expected to accommodate a male-born person sleeping next to her? Really?
How about the male parent who has “transitioned” in middle age and is now considered to be the “woman” chaperoning the young girls in the dormitory? How is this any better than a male coach violating the privacy of his female protégés?
How is it a good thing that instead of benefiting from the empowerment and self-confidence sport often delivers, young female athletes will exit the sport with a sense of “learned helplessness;” having placed lower than deserved and knowing the competition was unfair? Or even worse, leaving the sport with serious physical injury and knowing it could have been prevented had the male athlete not collided with her. It’s hard enough to keep girls playing sports when we protect the sex boundary!
According to the CCES it is “discriminatory” – and now with Bill C-11 potentially characterized as “hateful” – to even ask questions about the person who claims a particular gender self-identity in sports.
In track and field, many of our competition officials are elderly retirees who simply enjoy creating the environment that enables children and youth to excel in sports. When they witness unfairness or see a safety hazard, their instinct will be to call it out. How many of them will remain involved in a realm where they might be accused of “hateful conduct” for simply playing their role?
Our entire sport development system in Canada depends upon volunteers to conduct and supervise competitions in good faith. Without officials we have no sports competitions. No development of athletes who will grow up to represent Canada proudly on the world stage.
Without sex-based protections in sports, we will see a generation of Canadian women and girls abandon the playing fields altogether. We will see frustrated coaches and parents giving up their support roles. And we will struggle to recruit officials.
Allow me to thank you, Ms. Vecchio and colleagues, for undertaking this investigation into safety for women and girls in Canadian sports. I hope your panel discovers innovative solutions because what is at risk is Canadian sport itself.
Yours in Athletics,
Dr. L. F. Blade, President, Athletics Alberta; Sport Performance Professional Coach
Portrait of Coach Dr. Linda Blade by the Famous Artist Birdy Rose
Since Gender Dissent’s resistance profile of Coach Blade in April 2022, she continues to make strides in saving women’s sports and protecting women’s and girls’ sex-based rights.
Coach Blade has collaborated with stakeholders from a number of countries to establish the International Consortium of Female Sport (ICFS). This non-partisan consortium of women's sports-advocacy groups will serve as the key international “voice” for the preservation of the female sports category. To date, the ICFS is composed of representative organizations from nine countries: Canada, USA, UK, France, Spain, Mexico, El Salvador, New Zealand and Australia. Coach Blade explains, “the ICFS aims to represent millions of women and girls in this one thing: that in every sport, at every level and in every country, there should be one category dedicated to the female athlete.”
In fall 2022, Coach Blade assumed responsibility for leading Women’s Declaration International - Canada, further strengthening the growing global network of women’s groups resolved to protect women’s sex-based rights.
As president of Athletics Alberta, Coach Blade has engaged diligently behind the scenes with leaders of track and field across the country, offering input on the current development of Athletics Canada’s Transgender Policy. At the time of this writing, it is not known when the Athletics Canada policy will be finalized.
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