Toronto·Video

Woman recalls Charter fight to play boys' hockey

A Brampton woman recalls a Charter fight she waged 25 years ago to play hockey with the boys.
Woman recalls her 1987 Charter fight to play hockey with the boys. 2:28

As Canada celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, one Ontario mother recalls how 25 years ago she raised a charter challenge to the country’s highest court, fighting for her right to play hockey with the boys.

The year was 1987 and Justine Blainey-Broker, then 15, had dropped the gloves in court with the Ontario Hockey Association. Her fight had started five years earlier. She wanted to play hockey, but not girls hockey.

"My brother and I were born in the same year and what my brother got, I wanted," she told CBC News. "We were a little bit competitive. He got to play with the guys and I could see the difference, more ice time, better coaching, better times for the ice, body checking. And none of those things existed in women's hockey at the time."

Blainey-Broker had made the squad of a team that played in a league prohibiting female players. She challenged the league rule under the Ontario Human Rights Commission but lost because the province’s human rights code allowed gender discrimination in sports.

Her fight eventually rose to the Supreme Court, which found that rules prohibiting women from playing in men’s leagues were in violation of the Charter.    

Fight came at a price

Now a successful chiropractor and mother of two in Brampton, Ont., Blainey-Broker is glad she made her stand, but says she paid a price.

"It was a tough time," she said. "Being a feminist was the f-word. I'd go to games, coffee would be thrown on me. If I had to go back or send my daughter through the same thing, I'm not sure I'd want to."

She said while the charter has helped women move closer to equality, things are still far from perfect for female athletes who wish to match their talents against the males.  

"I still think we've got a long ways to go, discrimination still exists," she said. "There's still work to be done."

With files from Lucy Lopez