Twins get their way

ROCHELLE SQUIRES -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:15 PM ET

Identical twins Amy and Jesse Pasternak scored a win over the Manitoba High School Athletics Association yesterday and can try out for a boys' school hockey team.

The 17-year-old sisters were also awarded $3,500 each in compensation for "loss of dignity" and will be given extra coaching at no charge to improve their game in a ruling announced yesterday by the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.

The sisters -- who have been trying out for the boys' team at West Kildonan Collegiate this past week and will find out Tuesday if they made the squad -- were delighted with the ruling.

"Personally, it means a chance to try out for the hockey team and continue where we left off two years ago," said Amy, who is a goalie and stopped playing two years ago when denied an opportunity to play on the boys' team at her high school.

Despite facing intense public scrutiny, Jesse said it was worth it -- even if they don't make the team.

"It's worth it for the young girls we've coached in the past, it's worth it for the girls coming up in the hockey program who want to pursue the same path we have," said Jesse, who plays defence and also hasn't played in two years.

Independent adjudicator Lynn Harrison's decision came after a two-week human rights tribunal in June where the sisters argued for the right to play on the boys' squad.

The MHSAA denied the twins the opportunity to play with the boys because their school offered a girls' team.

Harrison ruled that was discriminatory and not justified on the basis that other alternatives were available to the twins.

This ruling only affects hockey but the adjudicator encouraged the MHSAA to examine how relevant its gender rules are in other sports.

Boys will not be allowed to try out for girls' teams as a result of the ruling.

MHSAA executive director Morris Glimcher said it's too early to know what the ramifications will be.

"My concern is this could result in a decline in participation of girls' sports and I don't think that would be good for anybody," he said. "The big thing is the ruling is not consistent with the goals of our association and with the evidence that we called.

"We had a lot of what we thought was expert evidence and none of that seemed to impact the decision."

Winnipeg High School Hockey League president Mike Wake said the sisters are welcome in the boys' league.

"As far as high school hockey is concerned, I would like to see a team field the best players in their school," said Wake, who coaches St. James Collegiate's female hockey team. "Whether they're girl or boy, it doesn't matter to me or our league."

Dianna Scarth, executive director of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, is happy with the ruling.

"We hope this will send a strong message to young people, particularly young women, that where they see discrimination happening in their workplaces or schools, there are ways of addressing that," Scarth said.

Victor Bargan, MHSAA's lawyer, said the ruling may have adverse and wide-reaching consequences for other sports.

An appeal is being considered.

The MHSAA is responsible for covering its legal costs and the compensation awarded to the Pasternak twins.

Bargan said the financial implications will effect the MHSAA, which is in charge of ensuring all students in Winnipeg have opportunities to play sports.

"This is not a government agency with deep pockets," he said.


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