On Monday, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault issued a letter of support for Bujold, asking the International Olympic Committee Executive Board to reconsider a decision to deny her appeal.
“The Government of Canada is committed to creating an environment in which women and girls can safely and confidently engage in sport at all ages and all levels,” his letter read.
“Much like the International Olympic Committee, we have set a target to achieve gender equality in sport and we fund research to increase the representation and participation of girls and women in sport. A critical part of that inclusive and encouraging environment is ensuring that inspiring women like Ms. Bujold can achieve the same accolades as their male counterparts—regardless of their family status.”
Bujold, who competed for Canada at the Rio Olympics, has been ranked as high as No. 2 in the world.
After competing in Brazil, she planned to have a child with an eye toward preparing for the 2020 Games.
“I think when you’re a female athlete, that’s something you have to think about. You have to think about the four-year cycle. You have to think about, OK, well, ‘what events do I need to attend in order to qualify?’” she told Global News recently.
“And you have to kind of try to plan it as best as possible. So, yeah, that’s definitely what I did. I sat down with my husband and we looked at a schedule and said, ‘OK, this makes the most sense. So let’s try to do it in this time frame.’”
After giving birth to a daughter, those plans would ultimately be derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, as it not only caused the postponement of the games but also cancelled a qualifying tournament which was to be held last month in Argentina.
The IOC was forced to determine how athletes qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Games, and it chose to use previous events from 2019 and 2018.
This left Bujold sidelined since those were the years in which she had her daughter and was preparing her body for the return to competition.
“The decision by the IOC to only consider rankings for three events held during an 11- month period in 2018 and 2019 as qualifiers for the Tokyo Games represents a huge systemic failure,” Guilbeault said in his letter. “Making the decision to become a mother in 2018 should not penalize Ms. Bujold from having the opportunity to compete in Olympic Games based upon a specified timeframe decided retroactively by the IOC, a timeframe where Ms. Bujold was pregnant and then on maternity leave caring for her new child.”
Bujold and her lawyer, Sylvie Rodrigue filed an appeal to the International Olympic Committee which they lost earlier this year.
They have since filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but there are now less than 70 days until the Opening Ceremony.
Bujold has also received support from tennis legend Billie Jean King as well as another famed former Kitchener Olympic pugilist, Lennox Lewis.
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