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December 20, 2023

Club Circular and FAQ


Gendered Athlete Registration

Swim Ontario (“SO”) is proud to be an organization that is committed to being an open and inclusive organization. We continue to welcome all participants to our organization regardless of their gender expression and identity.

Swimming Canada and SO believe swimming is for everyone. People of all shapes, sizes, genders, beliefs and backgrounds should have the opportunity to swim to the best of their ability. SO recognizes and appreciates our Member Clubs’ continued commitment and initiatives for diversity and inclusion in the sport.

It has come to SO’s attention that registration policies as they relate to transgender athletes have resulted in some media and public attention in recent months.

Despite those attempts to disrupt our organization, we will continue to offer quality programming opportunities with the expectation that our registrants continue to treat each other with respect and dignity and keep our sport environment free from harassment and abuse.

We have prepared this information in consultation with SO legal counsel and are sending this circular to assist clubs with responding to questions you may encounter in relation to gender-based registration of athletes. We hope you will find this a helpful resource for the continued development of diversity and inclusion initiatives at the club level.

As always, SO is available as a support to Member Clubs and your athletes, staff, and volunteers.

What Laws and Rules Apply to the Use of Washrooms and Change Rooms?

The owner of the facility in which an SO activity takes place sets the rules regarding change room and washroom use. Most facilities used by SO events are operated by municipalities, universities, colleges and other public institutions that are familiar with Ontario Human Rights laws.

Under Ontario Human Rights laws, an individual has a right to access a bathroom or change room based on their lived gender identity. While some individuals may feel more comfortable in a universal/gender-inclusive change room, the presence of such a change room does not take away the right of an individual to use a change room that aligns with their gender identity. A trans person who identifies and lives as a man should have access to the men’s washrooms and change rooms. A trans person who identifies and lives as a woman should have access to the women’s washrooms and change rooms.

A trans person’s right to use a changeroom based on their lived gender identity is not diminished because others express discomfort or transphobic attitudes.[1]

Media perpetration of the myth that trans women are a danger to cisgender women and girls is harmful and has no basis in evidence. Trans individuals themselves are at risk of harassment and violence when using gendered facilities.[2]

For absolute clarity, a transgender woman using a women’s change room is treated the same at law as a cisgender woman using a women’s change room. Allegations of criminal indecency based on the use of a change room are harmful and not based in law.

When do the World Aquatics Gender Registration Requirements apply? Why are Swimming Canada’s and Swim Ontario’s Registration Procedures different?

SO has an inclusive approach to gender-based participation in sport that must follow the Registration Procedure and Rules set by Swimming Canada. Swimming Canada’s registration rules were developed in keeping with Canadian Human Rights values and applicable human rights legislation in Canada. Swimming Canada has the jurisdiction to set its own registration rules for domestic competitions. World Aquatics rules apply only when an athlete participates in trials for or in an international World Aquatics designated competition, or seeks to set a World Aquatics record.[3]

How does the SO Code of Conduct apply?

The SO Code of Conduct and Ethics for all Participants Including Parents/Guardians (“Code of Conduct”) sets the minimum conduct standards expected by SO for anyone participating in SO or Member Club sanctioned events. During the registration process, all registrants agree to abide by the SO Code of Conduct. It would be a violation of the SO Code of Conduct to fail to show respect towards any individual based on their gender identity or gender expression. We encourage Member Clubs to review and familiarize yourselves with the Code of Conduct. Some relevant provisions include:

4) Individual’s Responsibilities

All Individuals have a responsibility to maintain and enhance the dignity and self-esteem of Swim Ontario Members and other Individuals by:

A. demonstrating respect to individuals regardless of body type, physical characteristics, athletic ability, sex, gender, ancestry, color, ethnic or racial origin, nationality, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, religion, religious belief, political belief, disability or economic status;

H. Refrain from any behavior that constitutes psychological maltreatment or harassment, where harassment is defined as comment or conduct directed towards an individual or group, which is offensive, abusive, racist, sexist, degrading or malicious.

Member Clubs may have their own Codes of Conduct that may also be applicable.

What is Criminal Hate Speech?

In addition to being contrary to the SO Code of Conduct, the willful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group is prohibited under the Criminal Code of Canada. Should you become aware of an individual who is promoting hatred against an identifiable group, other than in private conversation, it should be reported to the police.[4]

What is Defamation?

Member Clubs should be aware that recent court decisions have found that making comments and spreading reports that perpetuate negative stereotypes and myths about members of the 2SLGBTQI+ community is not speech that is protected from a defamation lawsuit. An individual, group or organization may be sued for defamation by participating in such activities.[5]

What Should a Club Do if it Receives Hate-Based or Discriminatory Communications?

Do not respond to the message, even if it originates from a known club registrant.

If a Member Club receives any communication contrary to the SO Code of Conduct from a club member or other SO member, the Club should contact SO Chief Operations Officer, Darin Muma, at darin@swimontario.com.

The wilful promotion of hate against an identifiable group is a criminal offence. If a Member Club receives communications from anyone that amounts to the wilful promotion of hate against an identifiable group or threats to the safety of anyone, the Member Club should contact the police and Darin at SO.

Can a Swimmer Identify as Being a Younger Age to Compete in SO Sanctioned Competitions?

No, and that has never occurred. It is common for Masters-aged swimmers to compete in Open Age competitions. In the Open Age category, seeding is done based on qualifying times and not age. There is no upper age limit for Open Competitive registration. As a result, it is common for swimmers of different ages to swim together in the same heat as their times are similar.

Final Word

Transgender athletes have been welcome and active members of the Swim Ontario community for many years. It is Swim Ontario’s expectation that our registrants treat each other with respect and dignity and keep our sport environment free from harassment and abuse.

This would include not targeting members of our community based on assumptions about their identity.

[1] 13.Preventing and responding to discrimination | Ontario Human Rights Commission(ohrc.on.ca)

[2] See Jody L. Herman “Gendered Restrooms and Minority Stress: The Public Regulation of Gender and its Impact on Transgender People’s Lives” (2013) 19(1) Journal of Public Management and Social Policy 65 online: Journal of Public Management and Social Policy

[3] 2023-2024-National-Registration-Procedures-and-Rules-Manual-December-2023.pdf(swimming.ca) at ss. 4.16-4.18.

[4] Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985,c. C-46 at s.319(2); Hansman v. Neufeld, 2023 SCC 14 at para. 87.

[5] Hansman v. Neufeld, 2023 SCC 14 and Rainbow Alliance Dryden et al. v. Webster, 2023 ONS 7050.

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