Côte-des-Neiges under fire for offering gender-segregated swimming

Centre sportif Côte-des-Neiges has garnered attention after an official complaint was filed concerning their gender-segregated swimming sessions.

Sessions an 'infringment on rights': Drainville

Gender-segregated swimming hours should not be allowed, say Bernard Drainville, Quebec's minister for democratic institutions. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Gender-segregated swimming sessions at the Côte-des-Neiges sports centre have come under fire after an official complaint was filed with the borough. 

Every Sunday, an hour is set aside for women-only swimming and another hour for men at the public swimming pool. The borough implemented the sessions 16 years ago at the request of some of its Muslim and Jewish citizens. 

The complaint, filed by an unidentified woman, has since been supported by the Council on the Status of Women and Quebec Secular Movement. 

May Khalifa, a Ville St-Laurent resident who comes to the pool during the segregated hours, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak that her religion and culture prevent her from swimming with men. 

"I shouldn't wear a swimming suit in front of men - it's my culture," she said. 

But Bernard Drainville, the provincial minister for democratic institutions, doesn't think gender-segregrated swimming times should be allowed. 

"We think that this infringes on the equality of rights between men and women - which is a value that is widely shared by Quebecers," he said. 

"It was not always the case that men and women were equal in this society. This is something that is now a given." 

Drainville said the segregated hours sends a wrong message about Quebec, all the while using taxpayer money. 

Julie Miville-Dechêne, president of the province's Council on the Status of Women, agreed. 

"I can't please everybody and I think my role is to think of the larger issues, and the larger issue is that we live in a secular society where women and men can be in bathing suits, swim together," she said. 

Moshe New, a rabbi at the Montreal Torah Center, argued that some people are trying to turn secularism into a new religion and force it on others. 

"These taxpayers would be excluded from using the pool that they are paying for by a secular dogma that they don't believe in," he said. 

"If you want to believe in secularism, that's your dogma: you want to worship it, fine. Just don't force it on me." 

The borough confirmed they had received a complaint but said they had no plans to cancel the segregated sessions at the public pool.