Canadian sports minister announces new measures to protect athletes from assault and abuse

In an effort to combat a safe sports crisis in the country, Federal Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge announced a number of new measures on Sunday morning to hold sports organizations across the country to account, with the ultimate goal of protecting athletes. against maltreatment and abuse.

During the Montreal announcement, St-Onge outlined a number of efforts to establish a framework that will make sport safer for all participants in Canada.

Effective April 2023, Sport Canada will amend its membership agreements with sports organizations that meet the new eligibility requirements of the Sport Canada funding framework.

There will be improved checks and balances and greater accountability that will directly affect sports organizations and their funding – sports organizations that receive federal funding will have to meet specific standards of governance, accountability and safe sport.

The new requirements and standards will be developed by Sport Canada in the coming months.

“We can’t change everything in a few weeks, but I wanted to follow our discussions and some of the ongoing work publicly,” St-Onge said.

“It’s important to keep this dialogue going and to be able to tell athletes, families, organizations and their staff that the community is actively working to find solutions. From the discussions I’ve had, it’s clear that there is a shared desire to improve.”

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A new committee will be established to advise the minister on matters related to safe sport in Canada. St-Onge says athletes will have a strong voice at the table, reinforcing its commitment to empowering athletes in leadership roles. Training resources for athletes will also be created to ensure athletes know their rights, including what services and support are available to them.

St-Onge also says she will continue to work with provincial and territorial sports ministers to better align safe sports frameworks at all levels across the country.

All of this comes in the wake of emergency roundtables the minister held in late March to discuss necessary changes to Canada’s sports framework. In recent months, athletes from gymnastics, boxing, bobsleigh and skeleton have written letters to Sport Canada asking for an independent investigation of their organizations.

St-Onge says there were a number of observations that emerged “clearly” from their deliberations over the past few months, including improving the accountability of sports organizations, better governance practices within the organizations and increasing the representation of athletes in the sports system. .

“Today’s measures are only part of the solution and build on the work that has already been done. We want a sports system where the wellbeing of athletes is just as important as their performance,” said St-Onge.

“We want a system that works for and with athletes. We want everyone to regain confidence in the system and the joy that sport brings to our lives.”

As part of the new measures announced, St-Onge said Canadian Sports Integrity Commissioner Sarah-Eve Pelletier will launch Phase 1 of her work from June 20. A budget of $16 million over three years has been proposed, with the aim of providing victims and witnesses of abuse a safe and independent place to report incidents.

St-Onge says the creation of the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC) is an important step to challenge the “culture of silence” and provide athletes with a reliable way to report abuse and assault.

COC makes $10 million investment

Meanwhile, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced a $10 million investment in safe sports initiatives a day earlier.

COC CEO David Shoemaker said in a statement that athletes and sports leaders find the current situation untenable.

“We all want a secure and accessible system that delivers results on the global stage. To get there, we need to work together to find and implement solutions,” said Shoemaker.

The COC says it will continue to work with athletes’ representatives, leaders of national sports organizations, Sport Canada, the Coaching Association of Canada, the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner and others to identify areas for investment, including prevention, education and governance. †

COC officials say the funding will also continue work they’ve already done in areas such as increased mental health support for athletes and staff, support for governance changes and greater representation of athletes, and finding ways to make a difference in basic level.

The announcement came during a three-day annual session held by the COC, which brought together the leadership, board of directors and leaders of the national sports organization. During the session, a series of conversations about safe sports were held.

“This is an important announcement from the COC and an encouraging step in the right direction for the entire Canadian sports system,” said Rosie MacLennan, two-time Olympic champion and chair of the COC Athletes’ Commission.

“In order for athletes to perform at their best, we need a system that is safe, equitable and that puts athletes’ mental and physical health first. This new funding and commitment to partnering with the athlete community will help achieve that priority.”

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