UNB women’s varsity hockey team set to play first game after long discrimination battle

The University of New Brunswick women’s varsity hockey team is set to play its first game Saturday, after a former player successfully fought to have it resurrected in the name of gender equality.

“It’s a pretty significant sense of closure,” said Sylvia Dooley, who alleged a 2008 decision to downgrade the women’s varsity team to a sports club amounted to discrimination on the basis of sex.

“This story will now shift to be more about this new team and what they’re going to do going forward. I’m really happy to see that finally actually happening.”

In 2016, the province’s Labour and Employment Board agreed with Dooley and ordered the school to reverse its decision.

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Dooley, who played defence at UNB and is now based in Ottawa, said she will be in the stands when the Varsity Reds hit the ice for the first regular season game in a decade.

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She said she had an opportunity to revisit her old stomping grounds on Thursday.

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“The arena was empty, but I just kind of sat there and soaked it in,” said Dooley in an interview on Friday.

“The arena, it has changed since I’ve played, but it still feels exactly the same as well… There’s a lot of anticipation and a lot of nostalgia.”

Dooley said she met head coach Sarah Hilworth and that the team appeared excited to start the season with a home game Saturday in Fredericton against Mount Allison University.

“I think they’re starting to recognize and see that it’s a big deal. They know that it’s a pretty significant shift to have the team back at UNB,” she said.

“They’ll all excited to be part of that. For a lot of them, it was the reason why they came.”

George MacLean, vice-president academic for the Fredericton campus, said the team is a “pretty impressive group.”

He said there are women from across Canada and from a range of faculties, from engineering to arts.

“There’s been quite a positive buzz ahead of Saturday’s game,” said MacLean.

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UNB to Reinstate women’s varsity team for 2018-2019 season

A reception was held on campus Friday to present the players with their new home jerseys.

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UNB had applied for a judicial a review of the Labour and Employment Board ruling compelling the school to reinstate a women’ varsity hockey team, and had also struck a task force in June 2016 to review the matter.

The task force recommended the parties enter into a settlement conference. The agreements reached included the reinstatement of the team for this season, and that UNB withdraw its application for judicial review.

UNB had also agreed to produce a revised gender equity policy no later than September 2017.

MacLean said the policy was completed by the deadline and has been adopted by the university.

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