Hello and thank you, Mr. Chair, and committee members.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear today, and thank you in particular for undertaking this review. I am personally encouraged by it.
By way of introduction, I'm the former head of CBC Sports, where I was responsible for the sports programming, production, and negotiations for the broadcast rights for CBC and Radio-Canada. That included Hockey Night in Canada, the Olympics, the Pan-Ams, and a very long list of amateur sports.
Subsequently, I became chief operating officer for Olympic Broadcasting Services. We had a staff of 3,000 people and provided the host broadcaster coverage for the Vancouver Olympics. I now have been engaged by the International Olympic Committee to implement gender equality into the Olympics sports program, so this study is perfect timing for me.
I've been a board member for the Canadian Commonwealth Games association, CAAWS, and Right to Play, on the governing council at the University of Toronto, and the chair of a community sport fund in Toronto.
For my part, I will offer some comments and recommendations regarding the media. In addition, my experience in international sports and governance has given me insight into how the governance of sports organizations impacts gender equality, how the NSOs, the national sports organizations, themselves impact gender equality, and how the evaluation and oversight by Sport Canada also impacts gender equality.
All of that activity, and in some cases non-activity, plays a major role in how the media perceive women's sports and how they report on it. For a moment, let's focus on the media.
I think there are several reasons why the quantity and quality of women's sports coverage is still an issue, and here's a quick list. Budgets are one issue. Media companies don't have enough resources to spread around. Another issue is that reporters don't have easy access to the results, or they don't make an effort to get the results. Another one is that media companies don't see the business case and, by and large, the audience data, at least for television, would back that up. As for sexism, it exists for sure, but I don't believe that the majority of people working in the industry are sexist. However, it is worth noting that just one bad photo can cause a lot of harm and perpetuate coverage based on what an athlete looks like instead of how fast or strong she is.
In spite of all that, I think there is a more basic reason for the lack of attention. Most reporters, producers, and media executives just don't think about it. It's not on their radar screen. The result is that when they're making editorial decisions around what to cover and determining where to allocate resources, they are not applying a gender lens as part of that decision-making. Some of my recommendations will address that.
Last year I was asked to make a similar presentation in Qatar. It was to a group of sports organizations from Africa and the Middle East. They wanted to know why media coverage of women's sports in their countries is still an issue. My message to them was the same as it is to you today: you need to step back and figure out what the sports system is doing to enable the media to ignore women's sports. Until you fix that, you are reinforcing the stigma that women's sport is less credible.
I'm leaving my recommendations with Mr. Lafleur. I have 14, so I don't have time to go over them, but there are two I want to present now because I believe they're really important.
First, the department needs to ensure that the principle that women and girls deserve equal access and opportunities in sports is clearly and formally embedded into the policies and practices of Sport Canada, the NSOs, and the MSOs. Currently it is not.
Second, it's imperative that this principle be activated by the NSOs and MSOs, not with nuanced expectations but instead with explicit requirements matched to tangible outcomes. Plus, the administrations and their boards must be held accountable, with real consequences tied to their funding.
Obligations and real consequences for gender equality in sport are not far-fetched. People know me: I don't operate in la-la land. In fact, this week, the United Kingdom announced that its government funding would be tied to gender equality in all its sports organizations. What this means is that in the governance boards, the administration leadership, its sports program, and hosting international events in the U.K., these organizations must treat women and men and girls and boys equally. It's pretty clear, and I think it's pretty impressive.
In addition to government actions, sports organizations such as the Commonwealth Games Federation and on the international side the International Olympic Committee are putting real gender equality policies into action. The gender equality policy for the Commonwealth Games Federation has a great depth. I know that others have talked about officiating and coaching, and this policy is requiring organizing committees to have equality plans for coaches, team officials, technical officials, and athlete numbers. By the way, it has been driven by a Canadian by the name of Bruce Robertson.
As for the IOC, as we speak, there are committees that are working on concrete, practical gender equality activations, and part of that is the hiring of me to literally change the competition schedule at the Olympics so that it's equal for all genders.
To sum up, it's all about showing how women can and should play an equal role at all levels of sport and, by extension, in society at large. In closing, thank you very much for undertaking this study and for the efforts that Minister Qualtrough is already making. It's clear that Canada is in a position to lean in. What I'm asking of you is that you make sure we get the job done.