On March 17 of this year, two-time Olympic sailor for Canada who had joined the national sailing team’s coaching staff, Lisa Ross, hopped on a video call with Sail Canada’s CEO, Don Adams, and High-Performance Director, Mike Milner, when she was instructed to pack her bags and return to Canada following the news that she was terminated. Ross was in Andora, Italy, coaching Canadian sailors at the European championship when she was preparing to take off to Spain for her following competitions and training camps. This video call took place only nine days after she informed them that she was pregnant and intended to take a maternity leave.
Ross’s initial statement on May 29 read:
“On March 8, I told Sail Canada I was expecting my third child.
Nine days later, I was abruptly fired while working in Europe, halfway through a six-week training and competition block.
At the time, I was the only female coach within the nine-member [High-Performance] coaching staff, a group [that] had recently added two new male coaches.
I love my sport. I love representing Canada and hope to inspire the next generation of young Canadians. I love the challenge of supporting my team to reach their full potential and perform under pressure. Starting legal action to get my job back and speaking about this situation publicly are not decisions I made lightly…”
Now, a legal controversy is brewing following Ross’s termination. However, Sail Canada has responded:
“Sail Canada is aware of recent social media posts and media reports regarding the termination of Lisa Ross. In light of these reports, we wish to provide the following comments to our internal members:
• In February 2023, Sail Canada made the decision to eliminate Ms. Ross’ coaching position for financial reasons and terminate her employment in accordance with her employment agreement. Due to decreased funding for certain programs, Sail Canada has been forced to reduce its resources and program offerings.
• Sail Canada made this decision, sought legal counsel, and prepared relevant documentation prior to Ms. Ross informing Sail Canada of her pregnancy in March 2023. The elimination of Ms. Ross’ position was based on internal financial analysis, and neither her pregnancy nor her gender had any role in her termination.
• Although the decision to eliminate the position had been made and termination documents were prepared by the end of February 2023, Sail Canada waited to communicate its decision to Ms. Ross until the conclusion of the 2023 ICLA European Championships in order to avoid any impacts on training or competition for its athletes and members.
• Sail Canada is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to equity, inclusion, and diversity in sport. Sail Canada is supportive of employees who are or want to become parents and provides a flexible workplace with pregnancy and parental leave policies in accordance with employment standards legislation.
We sincerely wish Ms. Ross all the best. As this is a legal matter, Sail Canada is unable to provide any further comment.”