MONTREAL - A hockey association south of Montreal has irked parents by banning girls from playing alongside boys.
Hockey Richelieu says it instituted segregated hockey in the Atom division to develop its girls' hockey programs.
But parents say the move, which takes effect next season, is discriminatory.
"We're in Quebec in 2011, not in Taliban country!" said Marc Louis-Seize, whose eight-year-old daughter is the only girl on her team.
"They want girls to play with girls, that's passe."
The decision will force girls to quit their teams at Hockey Richelieu and sign up with local squads that offer girls' hockey. Some parents say they'll be forced to drive long distances for practices and games.
Jacques Hebert, executive vice-president of Hockey Richelieu, says he's aware of the complaints but says that segregated hockey is necessary to keep women's teams alive.
"The problem is that women's teams are losing good people, creating an imbalance, and the product is diluted," he said.
Quebec's ice hockey federation says 6,500 girls play the sport in the province, and official Yvan Dallaire says it's gaining popularity.
"In the '80s, a 12-year-old girl was playing on the same team as an 18-year-old girl because there weren't enough players," he said. "Today, not only can girls have their teams, but more and more leagues tend to separate the girls from the boys, such as soccer. There is nothing sexist about it."
Hockey Quebec has received some calls from parents who are upset about Hockey Richelieu's decision.
"We have referred them to their local association, which has a certain autonomy," said Dallaire.
Hockey Richelieu says it won't go back on its decision despite the complaints.
"It's a done deal," says Jacques Hebert. "If some girls have to travel too far to (play), they may qualify for an exemption. Otherwise, the girls will play with the girls."