UNB challenged over downgrading women's hockey
A Court of Queen's Bench justice is expected to decide today whether the Human Rights Commission can investigate the University of New Brunswick's decision to cut its varsity women's hockey team.
Players with the team filed a human rights complaint against the university after the team was downgraded to a club from a program with varsity status in 2008.
That decision cost the women's team their ability to play in the Atlantic University Sport conference or the Canadian Interuniversity Sports national championships and most of their funding.
The University of New Brunswick, however, opted to keep its men's hockey team.
The women's hockey team argued the decision was discriminatory on the basis of gender.
The New Brunswick Human Rights Commission decided earlier this year to forward the matter to a board of inquiry. The University of New Brunswick, however, is trying to halt that process and asked for Thursday's judicial review.
Justice Paulette Garnett will consider whether the commission was right to call a board of inquiry. The justice will also decide whether the human rights commission can go forward with its board of inquiry.
Richard Petrie, a lawyer for UNB, said in court on Thursday the human rights commission did not disclose all of its reasons for why it decided to refer the matter to a board of inquiry.
Petrie said the commission has a responsibility to show there are sufficient reasons to proceed with a full hearing.
Garnett told the lawyer that 99 per cent of people who file human rights complaints do not have lawyers. The judge also told Petrie that his request would add even more work to the commission, which she said is already understaffed and underfunded.
Petrie argued the university has spent a considerable amount of resources on the fight. UNB is asking for the decision to be quashed and for the commission to be prohibited from proceeding with the complaint.
The justice said she has never done that before.
The university's lawyer is also asking that the commission be required to pay its legal bills.
Financial reasons cited for costs
The university said at the time that the decision was made for financial reasons and that women and men were still on equal footing in the UNB athletics program.
When UNB decided to cut the status of the women's hockey team, it said it cost about $225,000 a year to properly run the team.
The funding of women's university sports has been controversial in recent months.
Saint Mary's University in Halifax had announced it would scrap its women's hockey team in March.
The university, however, reversed its decision only weeks after it said it couldn't afford the $120,000 program.