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Hockey Nova Scotia reviewing former referee fee structure that paid less for girls’ games

Hockey Nova Scotia says it is reviewing its pay structure with a focus toward gender equity.
Hockey Nova Scotia says it is reviewing its pay structure with a focus toward gender equity. File / Global News

Hockey Nova Scotia (HNS) says a review of its former fee structure is currently underway, as the structure pays referees more at every level of play for games involving male hockey teams than games with female teams.

The fee structure was approved ahead of the 2014-15 season and was based on rates from 2010-11. The pay scales were approved by three boards, including the HNS minor council, female council and board of directors.

Under the fee structure, referees officiating games in atom, peewee, bantam and midget leagues were paid less for girls’ games than boys’. Under the three-official system for atom boys’ games, referees would earn a combined $45, while referees officiating atom girls’ games would only earn a combined $40.

It was a similar structure in the older age group, where officials in peewee boys leagues would earn $50, while peewee girls officials only earned $45.

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Referee Pay Gap Nova Scotia
Under the Hockey Nova Scotia referee minimum fee structure that was approved in 2014-15, referees officiating female games were paid less at every level. Hockey Nova Scotia
Referee Pay Gap Alberta
Hockey referees in Alberta are paid the same for officiating both male and female leagues up until bantam. Hockey Alberta

Amy Walsh, executive director of HNS, says the minimum pay scale is not being implemented for the 2019-20 season, as individual associations are determining the rates based on what they can afford. Walsh says the structure is a guide, and this is the first year without the pay structure since it was approved in May 2014.

The original pay scale is under review, according to Walsh, with a goal to “establish equal pay for equal levels.”

“We’re just collecting data right now of all the rates across the province so that we can then support these associations with more of a standard of a base rate,” she said.

READ MORE: ‘I just think it’s not right’ — N.S. soccer referees paid more for male than female games

Walsh says pay scales are reviewed every five years and a new fee structure will be revealed in May 2020. She says that as the game changes in the province, the fee structure changes as well.

“The landscape of the game looks different. Our all-female league is relatively new,” said Walsh. “The new female atom AA just came in a few years ago. We just implemented (atom to midget) female B, so we are trying to, obviously, look at this now that the landscape does look different.

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“We obviously want the goal of equal pay for equal levels and ensure that it’s equitable across the board.”

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A Global News investigation recently found that Nova Scotia soccer referees are being paid less when they step on the pitch for female games than they are for male games. Under Soccer Nova Scotia’s referee fee structure, that is consistent on almost every age level.

N.S. soccer referees paid more for male than female games
N.S. soccer referees paid more for male than female games

The association’s referee development officer says the disparity in pay is due to the level of referee that’s needed, and a combination of the referee’s skill level and the level of the game being played is used to determine pay.

Walsh says HNS has, especially in recent years, placed an additional focus on increasing the number of female officials across the province.

“Currently, we only have 10 per cent of our officials are female, but we’ve made great strides and we’d be leading the country in that area,” she said. “We have females officiating at the highest levels now … so we’re doing lots of work to really grow the female side of officiating.”

“The female game is a huge area of focus for us and a huge opportunity for growth.”

HNS also notes that its governance model has faced changes since the original referee fee structure was established. The association now has three female hockey associations as well as four additional female hockey zones that will one day become stand-alone female hockey associations.

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READ MORE: Hockey Canada is dropping ‘midget,’ other traditional minor age group names

Walsh says information gathered from these associations across the province will play a factor in the rollout of the new pay scale next year, which will be revealed at the annual general meeting in May.

“Our goal is roughly equal pay for equal levels. And that’s the direction we’ll definitely be going in.” 

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Canada’s path to sport equity

Back in February, Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan announced a secretariat with a goal of achieving full gender equity in sport by 2035. The federal government says the secretariat will be tasked with developing, implementing and monitoring a gender equity strategy while also addressing abuse, harassment and discrimination in sport.

Shawn Harmon, a policy analyst with Dalhousie University’s Health Law Institute who recently published a paper on gender equity in sport, says that for equity to truly be achieved, it all starts at the community level.

“That’s where you start to lose people, is in the lower levels,” he said, “If people don’t feel like they’re welcome or they’re safe in sport at the community level, they’re not going to go into varsity, they’re not going to go into that sort of more competitive and upper level of sports. So there are all kinds of things that can be done.”

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Harmon says that starts with a frank, sometimes uncomfortable conversation.

“We don’t have good spaces to have value-based conversations about what we are trying to achieve through sport and what we want our sport to look like, whether it’s soccer or whether it’s skating or whether it’s whatever sport,” Harmon said.

“Without having the conversations about why this is happening, then it’s hard to try to justify.”

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READ MORE: Sex abuse, harassment cases lead feds to develop code of conduct for sports in Canada

Harmon says the whole discussion falls back on sport being a cultural activity meant to unite society rather than tear it apart.

“What we’re trying to achieve through the funding of sport is social cohesion,” he said. “If we’re not achieving that because of the way we’re structuring our leagues or the way we’re supporting our leagues and paying for those who are active, then we need to talk about that. We need to wonder why that is.”

— With files from Sarah Ritchie