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Board of Inquiry decision requires Barrie YMCA to offer equal services to women

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December 7, 2000

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For immediate publication

Toronto - Chief Commissioner Keith Norton announced that a Board of Inquiry decision released yesterday on human rights complaints against the Barrie YMCA makes it clear that facilities such as the YMCA must provide equal services to men and women.

The two complainants, Ellen Anderson and Lucia O'Neill, had complained that women could become regular members of the Barrie YMCA but they were unable to buy premium memberships that were available to men.

"Women have the same right to programs and the services that come with such programs," stated Chief Commissioner Norton. He added that, "Denying services on the basis of sex is a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code."

Men who belong to the premium membership category are entitled to use a separate change facility which has many amenities that are not available to regular members. These include a whirlpool, steam room, fitness equipment within the change area, unlimited towel service, controlled access and a favourable member-to-change-room-size ratio. Since women are not offered a premium membership in Barrie, there is no comparable facility with similar amenities for women.

The order of the Board of Inquiry requires that Barrie YMCA build a women's facility, comparable in size and amenities to its men's premium membership facilities by September 1, 2001. After hearings began this year, the Barrie YMCA developed draft plans for a women's "membership plus" facility.

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François Larsen