Formally launched in 1981, CAAWS was founded to advocate for progressive change within Canada’s sport system. Its goal was to see the enhanced presence of girls and women at all levels and in all areas – as athletes, participants, leaders, officials, coaches and trainers.

The founders, many of whom remain active advocates today, were leaders in national, provincial and community sport and physical activity groups. Within two years, CAAWS was working to meet several defined objectives:

  • To make funds available for women’s sport and recreation programs and to eliminate discriminatory cutbacks.
  • To improve the status of girls and women in sport by lobbying legislators and private sector decision-makers.
  • To see that funds were not reallocated to “more important women’s issues”.
  • To have facilities and equipment available for women’s programs.
  • To establish sport as an area of concern to the women’s movement and bring women in sport into the mainstream of the movement.
  • To develop information, publications, and resources as effective vehicles for the promotion of girls and women and sport.

Milestones of the Early Years:

  • Participated in the historic Women and Sport and the Challenge of Change conference which drafted the Brighton Declaration on Women in Sport, endorsed on May 8, 1994 by 280 delegates from 82 countries, and subsequently endorsed by the federal government.
  • Key player in educating the sport community to understand and accept the benefits of gender equity principles by the Canadian Sport Council.
  • Created resources for use by sport organizations, Gender Equity Handbook, Women in International Sport, Achieving Gender Equity, a handbook for Canadian delegates to international federations, and issue papers dealing with such topics as Harassment in Sport, The Law, Sport and Gender Equity in Canada, Self-esteem, Eating Disorders, Evening the Odds: Tobacco, Physical Activity and Adolescent Women and Girls’ Participation on Boy’s Teams
  • Partner in the establishment of ProMOTION Plus, CAAWS’ sister organization in British Columbia.
  • Contributed to the development in 1986 of Sport Canada’s Policy on Women in Sport.
  • Worked cooperatively with the Coaching Association of Canada (CAC) on the innovative Commonwealth Games Women in Coaching Program. CAAWS was also instrumental in making the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria the first major international sporting event to make a commitment to gender equity, to fund an affirmative action program, and to adopt an harassment policy.
  • Collaborated with Canadian Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CAPHERD) in the development of the Gender Equity Schools Initiative project.
  • In conjunction with the CAC, the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union, Sport Canada, and the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association, sponsored the National Coaching School for Women, designed to create new opportunities within the sport system for women coaches.
  • As a member of the Harassment and Abuse in Sport Collective helped the Canadian sport community with the development of brochures, a guide and website to assist sport clubs and associations in confronting, preventing and responding to harassment and abuse.

CAAWS – The Later Years

Maturing, growing, keeping pace with evolving demands, yet remaining true to its founding principles, CAAWS continues to encourage girls and women to become active in sport and physical activity – as participants and leaders.

CAAWS’ goals remain similar to the original ones outlined in 1981:

  • Increase the numbers of girls and women becoming and staying active in sport and physical activity.
  • Increase the numbers of women in leadership roles in the Canadian sport and physical activity systems.
  • Increased recognition by the media and sport and physical activity organizations of girl’s and women’s achievements in sport and physical activity.
  • Increased numbers of partners working towards equity for girls and women in sport and physical activity.
  • Increased opportunities for girls and women in sport and physical activity internationally.

CAAWS continues to forge new relationships and partnerships by demonstrating the importance of sport and physical activity to the health and well being of Canada’s girls and women. CAAWS is an agent of change within the sport and active living community using cooperation, collaboration and consultation to put gender equity on the agendas at all levels of the sport system.

The Founding Members of CAAWS

Betty Baxter, Ottawa, Ont. Micheline LeGuillou, Montreal, P.Q.
Tom Bedecki, Ottawa, Ont. Pam Lewis, Ottawa, Ont.
Wendy Bedingfield, Edmonton, Alta. Mary Lyons, Downsview, Ont.
Carole Bishop, Vancouver, B.C. Shirley Mardsen, Toronto, Ont.
Lyse Blanchard, Ottawa, Ont. Suzanne Mason, Fredericton, N.B.
Peggy Brown, Ottawa, Ont. Rose Mercier, Ottawa, Ont.
Elizabeth Chard, Halifax, N.S. Diane Palmason, Ottawa, Ont.
Monique Charlebois, Montreal, P.Q. Anne Popma, Burnaby, B.C.
Patricia Cormie, Whitehorse, YK. Joan Rapsavage, Hamilton, Ont.
Muriel Duckworth, Halifax, N.S. Jane Rattray, St. John’s, Nfld.
Laurel Goodacre, Red Deer, Alta. Dorothy Richardson, Edmonton, Alta.
Ann Hall, Edmonton, Alta. Sandy Straw, Hamilton, Ont.
Cheryl Hassen, Ottawa, Ont. Nancy Theberge, Waterloo, Ont.
Jo Hauser, Ottawa, Ont. Susan Vail, Ottawa, Ont.
Abby Hoffman, Toronto, Ont. Penny Werthner, Ottawa, Ont.
Mary Keyes, Hamilton, Ont. Nancy Wood, Ottawa, Ont.
Kathy Lane, Toronto, Ont. Pat Lawson, Saskatoon, Sask.
Marion Lay, Victoria, B.C. Sandra Kirby, Winnipeg, Man.