Unigym de Gatineau accuses city’s lack of action to cause gender inequality in sports
On March 8 – International Women’s Day - Unigym de Gatineau held a press conference to express its frustration regarding the city’s failure to build a new gymnastics facility in Aylmer and address how this lack of infrastructure creates gender inequality in sports. Dubbed a hugely important subject for the organization, Unigym de Gatineau noted that the city’s lack of action on the issue is hurting its ability to attract more kids to the sport, and encourages athletes to drop out of gymnastics at a young age.
Having fought for 17 years to convince the city to build a new 20,000-plus square foot palestra in Gatineau’s west-end, the person in charge of Unigym de Gatineau in the Aylmer sector, Marie-Eve Poitras told the Aylmer Bulletin that it’s once again local kids who are being penalized for the city’s ineptitude or lack of interest.
Founded in 2010, Unigym de Gatineau is a non-for-profit-organization formed with the amalgamation of four local clubs and is currently one of the leading gymnastics clubs in Quebec and Canada and the largest sports club in the city, according to its President Martin Bisson. Bisson explained that Unigym is one of the first local organizations to provide gender wage equity programs, social benefits, and retirement pension programs for its employees. He added that the organization has become very popular and needs more space to accommodate its high level of demand.
Bisson argued that the city’s inability to respond to public demand is contributing to young athletes dropping out of gymnastics. He stated that two adolescent girls out of three practice less than seven hours of physical activity per week, adding that competitive sports are comprised of 25 per cent less women than men. “That fact that we don’t have a new palestra has an impact on that,” Bisson said.
Noting that Gatineau boasts around 7,000 gymnasts, 70 per cent of whom are women, Bisson noted that 5,500 local youths practice ice sports - insinuating that the city reflects sexist values. “What I can do is let the numbers talk,” Bisson said, stating that the city has invested around $145 million dollars in ice sports infrastructure for the next five years compared to roughly four million in gymnastics facilities.
--Speaking from experience
Marilou Gosselin, an 18-year-old nationally recognized gymnast spoke on the importance of gymnastics on her growth and the significance of having a proper place to practice growing up - noting that she’s spent more than 10,000 hours inside local training facilities with familiar faces where she’s lived countless memorable experiences.
Featured in a recently published 30-second ad to educate people on the issue of sexism in sports the Gatineau-native emphasized the importance of providing athletes the tools they need to succeed, notably the proper facilities to practice the sport they love – which the city is failing to do.
With the organization since 2018, Unigym Director General Jean-Paul Caron recalled the city’s initial plan to build a palestra beside the 041 school being built in the Plateau – noting that it should’ve already been built by now if it hadn’t fallen to the wayside.
Caron stated that the city needs a new palestra in the Plateau district to serve both Aylmer and Hull gymnasts.
--How to support the cause
Hoping to send a message to local politicians and sensitize the population on the matter, Unigym de Gatineau invites people to sign its online petition demanding TK available via the following link - https://www.change.org/p/conseil-municipale-de-la-ville-de-gatineau-le-masculin-qui-l-emporte-sur-le-f%C3%A9minin-dans-le-sport-%C3%A0-gatineau-c-est-assez?fbclid=IwAR3ZKU-4D63gFaXeB-j0LeQMgPztbEFDVJYb8s0GMfkEDWsSKjAc-GNt8WU.
“Masculine winning over feminine in Gatineau is now enough,” Bisson said.