Female ski jumpers to seek leave to appeal to Supreme Court of Canada

A group of female ski jumpers will take their fight to be part of the 2010 Winter Games to the Supreme Court of Canada.

VANCOUVER — A group of female ski jumpers hope to take their fight to be part of the 2010 Winter Games to the Supreme Court of Canada.

A lawyer for the women said they filed a request before the country’s highest court Tuesday seeking leave to appeal two lower court decisions that found the Charter of Rights does not apply to which sports are included in the Olympics.

The decision to appeal was made in part because the issue of discrimination is bigger than one event at the Games, said a spokesperson for the women.

“It’s even bigger than women’s rights. It’s human rights,” Deedee Corradini, the president of Women’s Ski Jumping USA, said in an interview.

“Internationally, it has implications for whether organizations can come into a country, such as the (International Olympic Committee) and ignore the constitution of that country.”

The Games are about two months away so the women are asking the Supreme Court to expedite their decision on whether they’ll hear the case and then also make a fast decision.

“I recognize that this is a tough road,” said Ross Clark, the lawyer for the women.

“We may not succeed, on both grounds. Even getting leave is a tough thing, one in 10 are successful.”

One of the more recent speedy decisions out of the Supreme Court came in a May 2008 case revolving around the now-dead $52 billion privatization deal for BCE Inc.

The clock was ticking down on the deal and the Supreme Court gave leave to appeal, held a hearing and gave its decision within a month.

But that was the exception, rather than the rule, said William Black, professor emeritus at University of British Columbia’s law school.

The court usually takes months before it decides whether it will hear a case and then months more before an actual hearing date is set.

There are just over two months until the Olympics.

“In light of the fact that the issues are relatively complex and unique (in ski jumping), I’d be a little surprised if the court gave an instant ruling,” said Black.

Even if they did, giving the women what they want might be difficult, said Black.

“Given the timeline, it’s probably going to be pretty hard to include the women. You can’t tell countries you have a week to come up with a team,” said Black.

Clark said the men’s ski jumping teams aren’t picked until late January so if the court gave a decision in mid-January, a women’s team could be assembled. Corradini said the women have been competing on their circuit and will be ready for the Games.

Olympic organizers have said they have no contingency plan in place in the event that a court rules women’s ski jumping must be held or that men’s events cannot be held.

Among the other things they’d need to factor in would be ticketing, security, space for the athletes in the villages, transportation for them and spectators to the event and when it could be held.

The legal basis for the appeal comes from part of the B.C. Court of Appeal’s decision that hosting the Games was not a benefit of the law and thus protected by the charter.

The women are also appealing the decision that the choice over which sports are included at the Games is made by the International Olympic Committee, who is not governed by the charter either.

“It is a case in which a non-governmental body (VANOC) is brought before the court as a result of policies which neither it nor any Canadian authority has the power to change,” said the appeal court ruling.

“VANOC simply does not have the power to determine what events are included in the 2010 Olympic program,” the panel of three appeal court judges wrote in their unanimous decision.

There were initially 15 ski jumpers involved in the case against the 2010 Games when it began in May of 2008.

Only 13 are putting their names to the Supreme Court request; one woman left the case prior to the B.C. appeal and Corradini said retired Canadian jumper Marie-Pierre Morin couldn’t be reached in time.

The IOC voted in 2006 not to include women’s ski jumping at the 2010 Games because according to the rules in place at the time, the sport was not developed enough. There are also Olympic rules around how far in advance of an Olympics a sport can be added to the program.

The women counter that since then they have held enough international events to qualify for consideration as an Olympic sport and that they are asking for only one event at the Games, which wouldn’t be difficult for the organizers to accommodate.

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