The federal government wants to make sport safer for athletes

To protect Canadian athletes from abuse, the federal government will tighten its criteria for funding sports organizations.

Posted at 12:52 p.m
Updated at 2:51 p.m

Alice Girard bosses

Alice Girard bosses
The press

“Over the past few days, months, weeks, there have been many allegations of mistreatment and abuse that have made headlines week in and week out. These are things that are difficult to read, but which we must mobilize together to find solutions,” said Pascale St-Onge, Minister of Sport and Minister in Charge of Canada’s Economic Development Agency for the Regions of Quebec, immediately at a press conference on Sunday morning.

Sports organizations must now ensure they meet safety standards if they want federal funding. Specifically, they must join the Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner.

The Office will operate independently to receive complaints about alleged violations. If necessary, it will launch independent investigations and recommend sanctions against those found guilty of violations.

“This review is essential. This will allow us to strengthen the capacity to conduct follow-up and inspections to ensure organizations are upholding standards,” said St Onge.

Sport Canada will also establish a committee of athletes to increase their representation in the sports system. This committee will allow organizations to seek advice and better understand the reality of Canadian athletes.

Photo Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press

David Shoemaker, CEO and Secretary General of the Canadian Olympic Committee

Separately, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced on Saturday a $10 million investment in sports safety initiatives. “We are committed to working with athletes, sports leaders and other stakeholders to ensure this investment has maximum impact,” said David Shoemaker, CEO and general secretary of the Canadian Olympic Committee, on Sunday.

“Unacceptable Situations”

“We have all witnessed the numerous denunciations from athletes in recent months. I want to pay tribute once again to her courage. It is the strength of her voice that highlights unacceptable situations that compel us all […] to be better and to do better. I am convinced that these trips were essential to break the culture of silence,” said the minister.

In early March, a letter signed by more than 60 athletes was sent to the Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (BCS) Board of Directors raising issues in the areas of culture, safety, transparency and corporate governance.

In late March, a group of more than 70 Canadian gymnasts released an open letter asking the government for an independent investigation into the “toxic culture and abusive practices that persist in the gymnastics world in Canada.”

In May, Daniel Trépanier, Boxing Canada’s director of high performance, was openly accused by more than 100 signers of “cultivating a toxic culture” within the national program.

In the spring of 2018, eight young ice hockey players are said to have sexually assaulted a young woman in a hotel room. The gang rape reportedly took place hours after a gala hosted by Hockey Canada. On April 20, the young woman filed a lawsuit against the eight players, the league itself, and Hockey Canada. The lawsuit alleges Hockey Canada “ignored or failed to adequately address the abuse.” A confidential, out-of-court settlement was reached between Hockey Canada and the alleged victim in late May.

According to Mme St-Onge, trainers, staff and organizations must “ensure environments are healthy and free from abuse and mistreatment”.

With Nicholas Richard The pressThe Canadian Press and Agence France-Presse

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