Ontario's Human Rights Tribunal has sided with a group of female tennis players, ruling that one of the largest tennis leagues in Toronto discriminates against women.
The decision comes in response to a complaint filed last August, alleging that the InterCounty Tennis Association (ICTA) provides men with more opportunities to play than it does women in violation of the Human Rights Code of Ontario.
The ICTA, a non-profit corporation, runs four competitive tennis leagues across the GTA. More than 120 teams at 90 tennis clubs participate, but while there are eight spots for men on each team, there are just four for women.
For Cathy Boyd, one of the players who challenged the ICTA, the ruling is an ace.
'It's 2018, it's time'
"It's 2018, it's time," said Boyd. "Because of this decision, we're going to have many more women come into competitive play now."
The league has argued that the skewed ratio is a simple supply and demand issue, and that more men than women want to play competitively.
"The concern we have heard over and over again is that it's really difficult to find enough strong women to play in a fixture that would be comprised of six men and six women. In fact, even with four women and eight men, clubs often struggle to find enough women," ICTA president Anton Katz told CBC Toronto last year.
The league argued that women have other opportunities to play competitive tennis in the GTA, a defence that the tribunal chair didn't accept.
In her decision, she compared that argument to a restaurant not serving certain kinds of people, defending itself by saying those people can be served elsewhere.
The ruling orders the league to implement a 50-50 male-female balance starting next season.
The league believes the tribunal viewed the issue too simplistically and that forcing female parity could jeopardize it.
"If you build it, they will come," she said. "Personally, I know many women that want to play and haven't had the opportunity. Now is the time to do it."
The league could appeal — and will be consulting with member tennis clubs to decide on its next move.