A Toronto area father is upset after being locked out of his daughter’s swim class for what he was told are “religious reasons,” according to the Toronto Sun.
“I spoke to a staff member and she told me that it’s because of Muslim women, that we’re not allowed to look at them or whatever,” 38-year-old Chris said Friday (he declined to give a last name). “I don’t think religion has a role to play in a public pool.”
The single father knew when he signed his daughter up for the 9-week course at the community center that it was a female class, but didn’t realize the gender segregation also reached the stands, apparently.
“She doesn’t have a lot of friends and I wanted her to swim with girls. I don’t know what parent wouldn’t want to watch their child participate,” he said, adding: “There were other fathers there who weren’t too happy.”
The Toronto Sun reached out to Local Councillor John Parker, who hadn’t heard of this specific case but called the complaint “legitimate,” adding that it raises a “fair issue.”
“We have to decide and we have to determine just what are the options that are available to us and how many hours are there in the day to allow the different options that communities want,” Parker said. “So far the pressure has been to provide hours for women only, this gives rise to the legitimate question: ought we to find time for mixed groups precisely to accommodate the concern that this parent has raised.”
City aquatics manager Anne Jackson seemed to stand by the rule.
“Without a female-only program, there would be women that wouldn’t be able to participate in swimming,” she said. “This is the way it needs to be in order to accommodate the programs. We’re not opening the door to one cultural group only — this is all females we’re accommodating.”
According to the Toronto Sun, there are mixed boys and girls classes where parents of both genders can sit in the stands, but they only run three days a week at the pool in question.
And it doesn’t seem like the public pool is going to change its policies any time soon, though they will try to make it more clear that “female only” swim classes don’t just pertain to the swimmers.
“I think that’s a fair criticism,” Jackson conceded.
[Front page image courtesy of Shutterstock. Subject not pictured.]