Breakthrough Winners 2003


Ottawa, ON.- The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) has honoured five individuals and organizations with its 2004 Breakthrough Awards. The annual awards recognize exceptional accomplishments that break through traditional barriers and pave the way for girls and women to participate in sports and physical activity at every level. This year’s winners, who range from people involved with community level programs to people working at the national level producing television broadcasts, were recognized for their activities in the year 2003.

France St-Louis – Individual Provincial/Community Award

At the age of 40, France St-Louis retired from the Canadian Olympic Program to launch her own hockey school and to develop the sport-school program for women’s hockey. During her twenty-year sporting career, she dominated in two sports: lacrosse and hockey. A five-time world champion and recipient of numerous individual awards, she has made an immense contribution to women in sport and particularly to women’s hockey.

Currently the honorary president of the Montréal Axion Hockey Team of the National Women’s Hockey League (WNHL) she is also the assistant coach of Québec’s Women’s Junior Hockey Team (under 18). Continuing her dedication to the sport of hockey, she has been acting as the official spokesperson for Women’s hockey in Québec since 1999. A teacher by profession, she is the head coach of the Women’s Sport Schools Program at the De Mortagne High School in Boucherville. During the summer, France operates her hockey schools and makes a point of employing young women hockey players to work with her. Her dedication to the young female athletes who take part in these hockey camps is remarkable. She assists families with decisions about scholarships and their future in hockey. She will drive long hours to see their games the next season, making a point of visiting the dressing room, and encouraging the young players to continue working hard and to play with drive, determination and dedication. She has been and continues to be an inspiration to young female athletes and hockey players in Canada.

Ceilidh Royals Girls Softball Association – Organization Provincial/Community Award

Since it began in 2002, this Nova Scotia organization has seen girls softball grow from the initial group of 20 young girls playing to four teams now in operation, Mite, Squirt, Peewee and Bantam. It was initially started by Janet MacIsaac, a mother with three children of her own, when she saw that the girls softball program had died out. She re-introduced the sport at the Squirt level, and drew players from across several small communities. Parents assisted with fundraising, and after several bottle drives, tag days, and ticket sales they had raised enough money for some equipment, uniforms and provincial registration.

In its first season, the team had to travel long distances to find other teams to play, yet managed to play enough exhibition games to prepare for provincial championships. They placed fourth out of eight teams that first season. In 2003, all the current players wanted to continue, and others wanted to join. They created both a Squirt team and a Peewee team. More fundraising took place to purchase new equipment, and to pay for registration and travel expenses. Both teams had fine seasons, and after much hard work placed second provincially, in their respective divisions. The girls have been inspired by seeing other girls teams well supported, coached and equipped, and the community has rallied around them to encourage girls team sports. They are excited to have quadrupled their membership to begin the 2004 season with teams in four different age groups.

Kathy McAdam – Media Provincial Award

Kathy McAdam has had a dramatic input on female hockey, not only in the lower mainland of British Columbia, but throughout the entire province. She has been working for hockey teams in BC for more than 30 years and has been a keen observer and solid supporter of the women’s game for more than 15 years. From 1999 to 2003 she wrote regular columns about female hockey at all levels for BC Hockey Now, giving voice to the growing numbers of participants. She has followed and written about the Canadian Women’s National Hockey team providing consistent and comprehensive coverage. Traveling throughout British Columbia to tournaments and events, she has done her best to provide media coverage for female hockey. She has developed relationships with players, officials and administrators in the community that have helped expand the coverage of female hockey.

She helped the NWHL Vancouver Griffins hockey team develop its media relations plan, and her support in building relationships between the team and local media was invaluable. Her support of the UBC women’s varsity hockey team brought media attention to the possible cutting of the program and she helped to rally public support for the continuation of the team. Involved as a parent volunteer, she was also a member of the board of directors of the Richmond Girls Ice Hockey Association. During her years of involvement, McAdam has taken every opportunity to promote and support female hockey, through her contacts in the media, the professional hockey community and all levels of the sport, to provide a place for the women’s game. She has made significant ongoing contributions to the hockey community in British Columbia.

Deb Sanderson, Sportsnet – Media National Award

For years Deb Sanderson has been one of the top sports production executives in Canada, and she has been a trail blazer for women in senior television production positions in Canada. Currently Director of Live Events for Rogers Sportsnet, Deb oversees Canada’s busiest producer of live sporting events. Her portfolio includes NHL and Junior Hockey, NBA Basketball, Soccer, Lacrosse, Baseball and many other sports. She sets editorial direction, hires producers, directors and commentators and makes sure over 200 hours of live event programming goes to air flawlessly on Sportsnet’s four regional feeds.

Prior to her current position, she was Managing Producer of the Pacific region, building production capacity in Sportsnet’s most successful area and lobbying successfully for added focus on British Columbia. Her passion for developing sports has raised the profiles of lacrosse and soccer on Canadian television. She lobbied for more coverage of lacrosse and is a major factor in the National Lacrosse League’s success. Another of her major projects was the 2001 FIFA Under-19 Women’s Soccer Championship. The championship game of that tournament remains the highest rated broadcast in the history of Rogers Sportsnet. She continues to be an avid supporter of women in sports broadcasting, encouraging and promoting other women to assume visible roles in sports television in Canada.

Pioneers and Founders of Women’s Interuniversity Sport – Marion Lay ‘Herstorical’ Award

The Marion Lay Herstorical Award honours the long-term positive influence of an individual, group or organization whose herstorical contribution has broken down barriers to equal participation in sport and physical activity. In December of 1968 a group of women developed a proposal for the conduct of national championships under the auspices of a new organization – a Canadian Women’s Intercollegiate Athletic Union (CWIAU), to be a parallel Union to that of men’s activities. These representatives of the existing four Intercollegiate conferences saw the initial and primary role of the CWIAU to develop a system for the management of national women’s intercollegiate events. One year later, in December of 1969, the new group placed their proposal before the then Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union (CIAU), in Toronto. The CIAU accepted this new national intercollegiate governing body, and the CWIAU was recognized by the Universities and the Fitness and Amateur Sport government agency.

The founding members of the CWIAU were Marilyn Pomfret, UBC, Pat Lawson, USask., Pat Jackson, USask., Pat Davis, Waterloo, Anne Hewett, Toronto, Mary Lyons, York, Mary Keyes, McMaster, Gladys Bean, McGill, Barb Mullaly, UPEI, and Lorraine Thurrott, Moncton.

From this time forward through until the 1978, the CWIAU was the governing body of women’s intercollegiate sport representative of all the Universities in Canada. In 1978, the CWIAU and the CIAU amalgamated to be representative of a single national sport body governing intercollegiate sport in Canada.

Today, the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) is responsible for the women’s and men’s interuniversity sport championships, manages the basketball, volleyball, swimming, field hockey, ice hockey, cross country, track and field, wrestling, soccer, and rugby national championships. Largely because of the work of these pioneers, the CIS of today has progressive policies including a mandated 50:50 gender composition on its board, the mandated representation of both genders at the AGM in order to receive two votes/institution, and an equitable number of participation opportunities for men and women. The current CIS is a gender equitable organization, promoting the opportunities of women in sport.

These women who had the foresight to create more and better opportunities for women at Universities are, indeed, pioneers and went well beyond the norm at that time. Young women today represent half of the CIS’s menu of services and sport offerings and reap the benefits of the dedication of these founding pioneers for women’s sport in Canada.

CAAWS established its Breakthrough Awards in 1986. They honour individuals and organizations whose accomplishments push the limits and enhance the participation of girls and women. Recipients of the awards since then represent a virtual who’s who of Canadian women and men who have challenged traditions and empowered girls and women to participate more fully in sport and physical activity.

This year’s awards will be presented at appropriate gatherings across the country, and will be presented by CAAWS Board and staff members. Visit for more information on this year’s winners, and a list of previous Breakthrough Award winners.