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Sport Canada to stop survey after complaints of discrimination against transgender athletes

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Sport Canada says it will discontinue a commissioned survey on inclusion in sport after receiving a letter signed by over 200 members of academic and sport communities saying it was discriminatory toward transgender athletes.

Canadian soccer stars Quinn and Erin McLeod were among those who signed the letter asking Sport Canada to withdraw financial support for the survey.

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Athlete Ally, an organization advocating for equal opportunity in sport regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, said in a release that the “Canadian High Performance Athletes 1” survey uses language that discriminates against transgender athletes.

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An outreach email obtained by The Canadian Press says the survey is part of research commissioned and funded by Sport Canada that is investigating the views of high-performance female athletes regarding the inclusion of trans athletes in female categories.

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“Sport Canada has heard the concerns and met with the partners who raised them to discuss how we can move forward,” they said in a statement to The Canadian Press.

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“Sport Canada is committed to inclusion, and that is why we are trying to ensure that all voices are heard on questions of inclusion in sport.”

Among the alleged problematic language in the survey was the phrase “biological males” in reference to trans athletes, which Athlete Ally says “demeans and devalues trans women’s identities and humanity, and ignores scientific research demonstrating that the athletic capabilities of transgender women are not comparable to those of cisgender men.”

The survey was being conducted by researcher Catherine Devine, who carried out a survey of 15 female British Olympians in 2019 in response to the International Olympic Committee’s guidelines for transgender athletes.

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A June 2019 article by British newspaper “The Guardian” said the survey found 11 of the athletes who took part agreed with the view that “it can never be fair for transgender athletes who have been through male puberty to compete in female sport,” with another declining to answer.

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Quinn, an ambassador for Athlete Ally, became the first openly transgender athlete to win an Olympic gold medal when they helped the Canadian women’s soccer team top the podium at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

“As a transgender athlete who has proudly represented Canada on the Olympic podium, I am dismayed to see Sport Canada funding research that perpetuates deeply harmful stereotypes about transgender athletes,” Quinn said in a release.

“Especially given the onslaught of legislation and policies banning transgender youth from sports, we need research that dispels myths and misinformation and that promotes inclusivity, not discrimination.”

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