OUA pens open letter calling on Ontario Government to provide equal financial support to women student-athletes

The Province's recent $3 million dollar investment in the OHL sparked conversation around equitable opportunities for women in sport

OUA calls on government to support women student-athletes
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The Ontario University Athletics (OUA) association penned an open letter to the provincial government on Mar. 18. regarding equal funding for women student-athletes.
 
The letter comes as a response to the province’s recent $3 million investment in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Scholarship Program. In the letter, the OUA called on the government to provide financial support to women student-athletes equal to what was provided to OHL students, who are men.
 
“An investment in women student-athletes is a springboard for continued and even greater success moving forward,” the letter read.
 
“Appropriate funding in women’s post-secondary sport scholarships helps grow future sport stars, provide opportunities for outstanding careers, and profoundly contributes to sport and society.”
 
The letter went on to add that financial support and scholarships “cannot be ignored any longer and the lack of equal public financial support cannot continue if proper gender balance is ever to be realized at the post-secondary level and beyond.”
 
The OUA also voiced that prioritizing men-dominated avenues like the OHL perpetuates the commonly held belief that women in sport are lesser. The letter stated that “ultimately, funding choices speak volumes 
about values.”
 
The Journal sat down with Matt Holmberg, Queen’s women’s hockey coach, to hear his thoughts on the issue.
 
“I’m certainly very happy and proud that the OUA, Queen’s, and the other member institutions have picked up on this and have taken a very solid and unified public stance on [women in sport],” he said.
 
Holmberg is in favour of supporting the future of men’s hockey players, but he’s waiting for a follow-up announcement regarding what the province is going to do for women’s sport.
 
“Obviously, [it’s] crickets at [this] point,” he said. “So, very happy that the OUA and Queen’s […] have very publicly stated their position.”
 
Holmberg said if the Ontario government were to match the $3 million investment intowomen student-athlete scholarships, this might improve the province’s ability to keep elite Canadian athletes in Canada.
 
“There continues to be a little bit of a drain towards the U.S.,” he explained. “One of the draws from time to time is the ability to provide full rides or scholarships [like] the States.”
 
“I think that increasing our ability to compete with that will help [keep these athletes in Canada].”
 
In Holmberg’s view, men’s and women’s sports funding within the Queen’s bubble doesn’t contain any gross disparities fueled by gender inequity.
 
“From a scholarship perspective, the [Queen’s] athletic department works really hard to make sure that there’s fairness there,” Holmberg said. 
 
The hockey programs at Queen’s have some funding differences—for example, the men might break more sticks than the women in a year, and the men and women’s teams have different travel destinations with respective associated costs. But for Holmberg, the issue is about more than just funding—it’s also 
about recognition.
 
“Often in articles they just call men’s hockey ‘hockey’ […] whereas for women’s hockey, they’ll say ‘women’s hockey.’  It’s just little things like that [where] I think there still needs to be some ground covered,” he said.
 
Overcoming financial burdens for woman athletes is another important consideration Holmberg drew from the letter.
 
“We’re talking about athletes [who] give their precious spare time to be varsity athletes,” he said.
 
“I think [funding] […] allows the athletes to focus on their sport, which is good for them, good for their team, and good for the school.”
 
Holmberg acknowledged that some government funding does exist for women’s sports, but there are more hoops to jump through to access it.
“It’s not only equal funding, but also equal access to the funding,” Holmberg explained.
 
“At the end of the day, we’re not looking to take away money from men’s sports. We just want the same opportunity to have access to the same funding and with the same restrictions.”
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