Breakthrough Winners 1998


OTTAWA—Equity activist Ann Peel of Toronto and the Sault Ste. Marie Associated Canadian Travellers are the winners of the 1999 Breakthrough Awards, announced today by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS).

The Breakthrough Awards were established by CAAWS in 1986 to recognize exceptional accomplishments that ‘break through’ traditional limits and pave the way for girls and women to participate.

Early in her career as an internationally ranked race walker, Ann Peel began to demonstrate the courage and integrity that earned her the reputation as one of Canada’s most effective advocates of equity in sport. In the early 1980s, she drove the successful fight to have women race walkers a fixture of every major sporting Games. In 1991, her persistence sparked the federal government to agree that pregnancy would no longer be treated as a career-ending event, but would be treated the same as any other long-term absence from training. One year later, she pulled together a group of committed athletes to create Athletes CAN, the only independent athletes’ association in the world, and served as its chair until 1996. Through her leadership, the organization quickly made its presence felt. Among her accomplishments was the winning of improved financial assistance and educational benefits for athletes receiving assistance from the federal government. A lawyer, her volunteer legal work representing athletes grew into “The Sport Solution”, which offers high performance athletes advice on a wide range of problems. She is also a leader in the fight against the gender verification test used at Olympic Games, harassment and abuse in sport, and the discrimination against girls and women in public funding for sport and recreation.

Twenty-five years ago, the Sault Ste. Marie Associated Canadian Travellers (ACT) launched the A.C.T. Sports Award Banquet to honour the Ontario city’s best female high school athletes. The banquet came about through the efforts of the late Harvey Morrison, who was affronted by the inequity of support and recognition going to male athletes while high-achieving females stood in the shadows. In explaining the award scheme in 1974, Morrison said: “girls in athletics have been overlooked for too long and we figured it was about time to get more people applauding [their] endeavours” In the intervening years, the profile of girls’ sport in the “Soo” has grown steadily, growing numbers of female athletes from the city are achieving local, national, and international success, and the banquet is the premier event for female sports and a model for other communities.

Ann Peel will be presented with her Breakthrough Award at the 1999 Canadian Sport Awards on March 18 in Toronto. The Breakthrough Award for the Sault Ste. Marie Associated Canadian Travellers will be presented on June 9 at the 1999 A.C.T. Sports Award Banquet in Sault Ste. Marie.