Dynamic Chiropractic – August 10, 1998, Vol. 16, Issue 17

The Justine Blainey Story

Won Sexual Discrimination Case in the Canadian Supreme Court

By Editorial Staff
At the age of 10, Justine Blainey already knew what she wanted to do: play hockey in the men's Metro Toronto Hockey League. This wasn't just a case of wanting to "play with the boys." Even at that young age, Justine recognized the disparity between men's and women's hockey.

Back then (and still today) men's hockey in Canada was better funded than the women's game. The men enjoyed more ice time and played more games, which translated into the skill level for the men's league to continually improve. Women's hockey took a back seat and stagnated. Beside less ice time and fewer opportunities to compete, the women were not allowed to body check, a basic, physical aspect of hockey, and one that makes for a more exciting game for spectators.

Justine addressed a discrimination complaint to the Human Rights Commission. The commission essentially closed the door in her face, because at that time, the Ontario Human Rights Code specifically allowed sexual discrimination in sports. This forced Justine to take on the Ontario law. She went up through the Ontario court system until her plea was finally heard in the Canadian Supreme Court. While it took four years, hers was the fastest case in history to reach and be considered by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Along the way, Justine gained nationally recognition. People either admired her or hated her. It wasn't unusual for complete strangers to be rude to her. The emotions were so strong that for quite some time she couldn't go anywhere alone and feel safe.

Throughout the ordeal, Justine competed on the local women's hockey team, but even there, most of her teammates shunned her. Even some family members found it hard to understand.

Finally, Justine won the right to compete on the ice with "the boys." This is when the real test began. As she stepped onto the ice for that first game, she knew that every opposing player was out to show her that she didn't belong on the ice with the men. She took the hits and gave some back. But she kept on coming, game after game, until they began to respect her abilities instead of focusing on her gender.

Justine led the way for other women wishing to compete at higher levels. There are now about 20 females playing in the Metro Toronto Hockey League.

Today, Justine is a fourth-year chiropractic student at Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC), the only North American chiropractic college with a woman president. It seems that the bumps and bruises of hockey brought her to the profession: "My struggle for sport equality strengthened my idealism and courage, two qualities that allow me to recognize, appreciate and promote the natural healing powers of chiropractic. My personal struggles with both drug therapy complications and sport injuries led me to my family chiropractor, Dr. Howard Zanisch, who promoted chiropractic and equally often promoted my becoming a chiropractor."

Next year Justine will graduate with a CMCC class that is approximately 40 percent women. But she will enter a profession still largely dominated by men (please see "Cracking Chiropractic's Glass Ceiling" on page three of this issue). Recognizing this reality, she has a very positive attitude:

"I look forward with enthusiasm at the things women and men can create for chiropractic in the upcoming years. As chiropractic breaks new barriers, we need to work together."

Considering her experiences, Justine has a few thoughts on the growing number of women chiropractors: "We female chiropractors have the opportunity and the responsibility to 'mother the world.' With courage, conviction and outspokeness, we can lead our society away from the overdependency on drug therapy (which has led to drug complications becoming the second highest cause of death in America), and toward natural, nonintrusive, drugless health care -- chiropractic. Let's each of us keep our eyes open for young, intelligent, idealistic women and our ranks will grow and our chiropractic beliefs prevail."

When asked what she would say to the male chiropractors, she added: "Many North American males exhibit a passion for sport developed through their own activities and expertise and promoted by our societal, male mores. I encourage my male colleagues to activate and publically promote a similar passion for the principles of chiropractic and together, we chiropractors will forge our place among the primary healers of our society."

As she looks to graduation, Justine's only aspiration is to care for patients. Her goal is to open the Justine Blainey Wellness Center in partnership with her brother, David, and use a multidisciplinary team approach to care for her patients. She has seen how senseless discrimination can hold a person back and how teamwork can build on people's strengths. It's time for her to apply these truths to the health care marketplace.

Yes, Justine still plays hockey. She is a member of the Brampton women's team which includes U.S. and Canadian Olympic players. It's an amateur team (senior AAA) which is laying the foundation for the time when women's professional hockey will emerge.

And while she is still occasionally recognized as that woman who opened the door to men's hockey, she looks to the day when she can have her own chiropractic radio or television talk show. Having been in the media spotlight for so long, Justine would like to use what she's learned to open the door to chiropractic.


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