Federal sports minister Kirsty Duncan and the Canadian athletes organization AthletesCAN called for change after an investigation by CBC News and Sports revealed at least 222 coaches involved in amateur sports in Canada the past 20 years have been convicted of sex offences involving over 600 victims under 18.
Duncan said the probe “broke my heart,” and that “no athletes should ever have to live through sexual abuse or harassment.
“This has helped shine a spotlight on the seriousness of abuse, discrimination and harassment in sports, and that in turn can drive change.”
My heart breaks for these athletes. I’ve made it clear since day one that keeping children and athletes safe from abuse, discrimination and harassment is my priority. <a href=”https://t.co/VmlE4q7G3Y”>https://t.co/VmlE4q7G3Y</a>
Noni Classen, the director of education at the Winnipeg-based Canadian Centre for Child Protection, has been asked by many clubs and sport organizations to advise on best practices for child safety. She told the CBC she is concerned by the “chaotic” hierarchy in sport, where “no one has authority over anything.”
Classen said national sport organizations (NSOs) may have great policies on paper, but have little way of effectively communicating rules and codes of conduct about the way a coach should interact with a child.
Last June, Duncan announced NSOs would have their federal funding withdrawn unless they:
- Strengthen their mandatory anti-harassment, abuse and discrimination policies;
- Immediately disclose any incident of harassment abuse or discrimination;
- Put in place an independent third party to address these cases; and
- Provide mandatory training to their members by April 2020.
“It is incumbent on all national sports organizations to step forward and speak out,” she said. “Canada’s young people depend on us, and they deserve better.”
‘Invest in safe sport’
AthletesCAN says it’s time to “invest in safe sport.” The association of Canada’s national team athletes will continue its push for a “Pan-Canadian” strategy to fight back against abuse in sport and treat all victims with the same degree of respect and importance.
LaBrie said AthletesCAN, the only fully independent and most inclusive athlete organization in the country, has called for and is working towards a unified strategy to address abuse in sport, including the development of a universal policy and code of conduct with standardized definitions and sanctions that span all levels of sport and jurisdictions.
“We need to implement best practices in training, education and support for all participants … as a sport community,” she said.
Sport is supposed to be a safe place for all. Coaches are trusted not only with performance,but with peoples lives.(physical health & mental well-being) It’s an innocent blind trust that when abused is unforgivable. needs to stop! Abuse/harassment of any kind can’t be tolerated <a href=”https://t.co/lrfXJZoILa”>https://t.co/lrfXJZoILa</a>
In December, Canadian Olympic wrestling champion Erica Wiebe told The Canadian Press she was lucky to have had “amazing coaches and amazing experiences” in her sport, but had also witnessed teammates struggle with safe sport issues.
‘I know there are problems across the system’
Gut-wrenching and infuriating.<br><br>The system is broken. <br>The “policies” in place do not work. <br>Things MUST change. <a href=”https://t.co/tSTe6v2awa”>https://t.co/tSTe6v2awa</a>
“As a former [gymnast] and coach, I know there are problems across the system,” Duncan added. “We must not condone a sport culture that promotes winning at all costs.”
LaBrie added sport requires an independent body to provide oversight and that the integrity of sport and safety of its participants depends on it.
“Until we can come together and recognize the harm being done in a fragmented system,” said LaBrie, “predators will continue to permeate our fields, our rinks, our courts, our tracks, our pools, our gyms and our strong sport culture.”