Posts in Respect in Sport

MORE THAN 1000 TOP CANADIAN ATHLETES INFORM PREVALENCE STUDY OF MALTREATMENT IN SPORT, safesport, respect group, sheldon kennedy, sport, coaching, safe sport canada, coach abuse, athlete abuse, abuse prevention, abuse prevention training

MORE THAN 1000 TOP CANADIAN ATHLETES INFORM PREVALENCE STUDY OF MALTREATMENT IN SPORT

May 8th, 2019 Respect in Sport

SOURCE: AthletesCAN

OTTAWA (May 7, 2019) – AthletesCAN, in partnership with University of Toronto, is pleased release a detailed report of the Prevalence of Maltreatment among Current and Former National Team Athletes study.

The online, anonymous survey was developed by Gretchen Kerr, PhD, Erin Willson, B.KIN, and Ashley Stirling, PhD in collaboration with AthletesCAN, supported by the University of Toronto and the federal government, and distributed by AthletesCAN to current national team members as well as retired national team members who had left the sport within the past ten years.

“All Canadians have the right to participate in sport in an environment that is safe, welcoming, inclusive, ethical and respectful,” says Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport. “This study shows us that a systemic culture shift is required to eliminate maltreatment, including sexual, emotional, and physical abuse, neglect, harassment, bullying, exploitation and discrimination. I would like to thank AthletesCAN and the University of Toronto for working together on this study and providing us with the evidence we need to make well-informed decisions to make sport safer in Canada.”

“While recognizing the numerous potential benefits that sport participation has to offer, it is also important to acknowledge that for some athletes, sport is a harmful experience, characterized by various forms of maltreatment,” says Dr. Gretchen Kerr, University of Toronto Professor. “This study looked at all forms of maltreatment including sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, neglect, various types of harassment, bullying and hazing. Although most of the attention to-date has been focused on experiences of sexual abuse, the findings indicate that athletes experience psychological abuse and neglect to a far greater extent than other forms. Most troubling are that neglectful and psychologically harmful behaviours such as the use of demeaning, threatening or humiliating comments, and denying basic needs such as food, water, and safe training conditions, are accepted as normal practices in sport,” she adds. “We wouldn’t accept such behaviours in any other walk of life so why should athletes have to endure these?”

764 current national team athletes and 237 retired athletes, completed the survey of which 61% of which were female. Additional self-identified, underrepresented groups included 10% racialized athletes; 12% athletes with a disability; 2% Indigenous; and 7% LGBTQ2I+.

“We know that sport has the power to inspire a nation, to build leaders and to unite Canadians,” says Dasha Peregoudova, President of AthletesCAN. “That is why we are pushing hard for the necessary change to address abuse, harassment and discrimination in sport. For those who have listened, the athlete voice has been a dominant one on the issue of safe sport for generations. Advocacy work around this issue over the years has included both the disclosure and reporting of various forms of maltreatment; recommendations and demands for change; and knowledge-sharing about the practices that have worked and shaped athlete experiences positively,” she adds. “However, we have not seen one central, independent and research driven survey of the athlete perspective on the issue of safe sport in more than 20 years. That has now changed. A report based on concrete data, collected from over 1000 national team athletes, is undeniable. It will complement the athlete voice in driving change in an unparalleled way.”

The survey produced a number of key findings that will inform the national conversation around Canada’s ability to address not only abuse, harassment and discrimination in sport but all forms of maltreatment.

HARMFUL BEHAVIOURS

The percentage of the top harmful behaviours reported to be most frequently experienced by current and retired athletes include psychological (17%, 23%); neglect (15%, 22%); sexual (4%, 7%); and physical (3%, 5%).

Of the current and retired athletes’ who reported experiences of at least one harmful behaviour in each category of harm, the percentage of the top harmful behaviours were neglect (67%, 76%); psychological (59%, 62%); sexual (20%, 21%); and physical (12%, 19%).

“This study has provided a snapshot of the depth and breadth of harm athletes are experiencing while competing for our country,” says Erin Willson, Olympian. “It is evident that this issue goes beyond criminal conduct to a wide variety of behaviours that impact both the physical and mental well-being of athletes. We, as high performance athletes, are in a unique position to speak to the wide scope of normalized behaviours we have experienced from grassroots to elite sport, but we are only a small portion of recreational and competitive athletes in Canada. If we have experienced maltreatment throughout our sport pathway, this study then brings into question how many other athletes are experiencing harm that are not yet at this level, or have dropped out because of abusive experiences before making it onto a national team?”

DISCRIMINATION

The most commonly experienced form of discrimination was gender discrimination with female athletes feeling they had fewer opportunities, supports and resources to advance their sport careers. Furthermore, 22% of self-identified racialized athletes experienced discrimination based on race.

“Based on the data collected, we know that racial discrimination exists in sport,” says Neville Wright, 3-time Olympian and Safe Sport Working Group member. “Due to the lack of awareness and reporting, this is a topic that does not receive enough attention, nor is it adequately addressed through policy or education. The system needs more leaders that have the ability to relate, empathize and deal with this issue. We must promote the equitable treatment of all sport participants and need to ensure under-represented groups feel supported and free to train and compete in a sport environment free from discrimination. Education and sensitivity training is a key step to recognizing and addressing racism in sport and I am committed to supporting this positive change in the months to come.” MORE

Canadian soccer leaders unanimously support Canada Soccer Safe Sport Roster, sheldon kennedy, respect in sport, safesport, soccer, abuse, coach abuse, athletes safe

Canadian soccer leaders unanimously support Canada Soccer Safe Sport Roster

May 6th, 2019 Respect in Sport

SOURCE: Canada Soccer

Posted on 4 May 2019 in Canadian Soccer Association

 

At the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Members in Québec City, Canada Soccer’s membership unanimously supported a suite of programs and initiatives that contribute to safe, fun and welcoming environments for everyone involved in the game.

The Canada Soccer Safe Sport Roster combines the benefits of mandatory certification for all coaches, a sophisticated Club Licensing Program, National Soccer Registry, Whistleblower Policy and Hotline, Code of Conduct and Ethics, and concussion protocols to create the best possible conditions for players, coaches, referees and administrators.

“The Canada Soccer Safe Sport Roster represents the continuation of a long-term commitment to making our sport as safe and enjoyable as we possibly can for all our participants,” said Canada Soccer President Steven Reed. “We’re seeing an unprecedented movement in this country that’s affecting the entire sport system. For soccer, this is a good start, and we’re committed to working closely with our membership and all stakeholders to deliver on all the components of the Safe Sport Roster.”

At the heart of the Canada Soccer Safe Sport Roster are mandatory certification requirements for every coach in the country. These include training appropriate for the age and stage of the players, specified courses offered through the Coaching Association of Canada’s National Coaching Certification Program, online Respect in Sport training, and adopting the requirements of the Responsible Coaching Movement.

“This is a strong signal from the country’s soccer leaders that the safety, enjoyment and development of our athletes is paramount,” said Peter Montopoli, Canada Soccer General Secretary. “It recognizes that there is more that needs to be done to ensure safe sport experiences for all participants, no matter the age, level of play or community. Making sport safer is more than just the right thing to do, it’s the only thing to do.”

“Minimum standards for coach training are absolutely essential to creating a safe environment for players,” said Jason deVos, Canada Soccer’s Director of Development. “We have a responsibility to ensure that investments are made by all member associations to help our coaches achieve those standards.”

Other initiatives include an expanded Club Licensing Program that provides a set of minimum standards for soccer experiences everywhere in the country, an education program to address abuse of referees, and a National Soccer Registry to track data related to player registration, development and safety.

Player safety is being further enhanced through nationwide implementation of concussion protocols.

“From my perspective as a pediatric neurologist, soccer in Canada has never been safer,” said Dr. Kevin Gordon, Member of Canada Soccer’s Sport Medicine Committee and a leading child neurologist. “Canada Soccer has put in place the gold standard for concussion protocols to prevent head injuries and to manage them as effectively as we can when they do occur.”

In addition to working with all member associations, Canada Soccer is committed to collaborating with other leading National and Multi-Sport Organizations towards making the entire sport system safer for all participants.

abuse, athlete abuse, Canada, Ontario, athletescan, olympic athletes Canada, respect, coach abuse, abuse free sport, safe sport, respect group, Sheldon Kennedy, parenting articles, making sport safer, keeping athletes safe

Canadian athletes want the lip service around safe sport to stop

May 1st, 2019 Respect in Sport

SOURCE: Devin Heroux · CBC Sports · 

The voices of some of Canada’s top athletes are growing louder when it comes to the issue of safe sport in the country: They’re tired of the talk and want action.

For the past two days at a building in downtown Toronto, Canadian Olympians, Paralympians and high-performance athletes from a number of sports have been speaking out, some for the first time, sharing their personal stories of abuse in sport.

But as much as the two-day safe sport summit has been about making a safe space for athletes to share their truth, there’s also a commitment to changing how safe sport policy is being created in Canada right now.

“There is a lot of hurt in this room,” bobsledder Kaillie Humphries said. “Coming together with other athletes to create change is so huge — because things need to change. As athletes, we need to feel safe.”

In January, Humphries told the CBC she has filed a harassment complaint with Bobsleigh Canada. In October, she announced she was stepping away from competition for a year, and admits now it is directly because of the harassment investigation.

Humphries is still awaiting the findings of an independent investigation into her case.

“My trust in the process and system is not great,” she said. “I’m seeing a lot of holes in the system in my own process that I’m falling through. And if I’m falling through them, there are others who are too.”

It’s been nearly three months since a CBC investigation revealed at least 222 coaches who were involved in amateur sport in Canada have been convicted of sexual offences in the past 20 years, involving more than 600 victims under the age of 18.

Since then, there have been a number of announcements from Canada’s sport minister, Kirsty Duncan, addressing ways to make sport safer for athletes, including a national, toll-free, confidential helpline for victims and witnesses of abuse in sport.

But Humphries, along with the dozens of other athletes in Toronto this week, feels as though they’ve been left out of the conversation.

“It has been one-sided until now,” Humphries said. “Athletes need a safe space to talk about this and provide input for change.”

That’s why AthletesCAN, the group representing Canada’s national team athletes, created its own national safe sport summit, taking place this week in Toronto. It is funded by the Canadian Olympic Committee, Deloitte, Canadian Tire Jumpstart and Respect Group.

“The frustrating part about this is it’s the first of its kind,” said AthletesCAN president Dasha Peregoudova. “We’ve been trying to put this together for a long time.”

Peregoudova said she hopes the two days of tough conversation will help empower athletes to continue to push for change and has created a safe space for people to talk about these issues.

“Sport integrity is at stake,” she said. “You can’t have a sport system without its key stakeholders. Those are the athletes. None of the other stakeholders — the organizations, the NSOs or other governing bodies  — don’t matter if there are no athletes.”

Athlete solidarity important part of process

Olympian Allison Forsyth, a former skier, has been the summit’s facilitator over the past couple of days. She knows all too well the horrifying reality of abuse in sport.

Forsyth said she was sexually abused by her coach, Bertrand Charest, in 1997 and 1998. For more than a year, she’s been speaking publicly about her abuse and her struggle with guilt, shame and anxiety as a result.

Charest was found guilty of 37 of the 57 sex-related charges he was facing and was eventually given a 12-year prison term. (Charest has been released from prison pending an appeal.)

Forsyth, now 40, said she was one of the athletes who came forward in 1998, when Alpine Canada first became aware of Charest’s sexual contact with several of his teenage athletes.

“I was told, ‘Do not say anything, because we would lose our sponsors,’ and it would end my career,” she said.

Forsyth said the problem still exists. She claims the funding models and self-serving interests of national sports organizations have helped silence athletes’ voices for years.

“The first thing that should have been called into action after the CBC report was an athlete summit,” Forsyth said. “We shouldn’t have had to do it ourselves. The fact that we had to self-organize is frustrating.”

Forsyth said so much of the policy being created is missing current athlete experiences and is not getting at the heart of what’s really happening in sporting environments across the country. But she said this week’s summit for athletes is giving her added motivation to keep pushing for change that reflects the actual realities of abuse athletes still face. MORE

 

THE MENTAL GAME, hockey Canada, sport, Sheldon Kennedy, sport, hockey, respect

THE MENTAL GAME

April 24th, 2019 Respect in Sport, Sheldon Kennedy

For Jonah Chambers, no other sport he’s played has been as challenging, both mentally and emotionally, as hockey

Scott Taylor
April 24, 2019

Jonah Chambers played volleyball and loved it, but he didn’t have to create a pre-game routine for himself. He was a decent rugby player, but he didn’t have to start his pre-game prep as early as he does at the rink.

Chambers is one of two outstanding netminders with the Calgary Buffaloes, who are representing the Pacific Region at the 2019 TELUS Cup.

Playing alongside talented Garin Bjorklund, the 17-year-old Chambers had a 1.80 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 15 regular-season games. He also played three games with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Calgary Canucks.

His coach, Brent Harrison is an on-ice performance coach at Skillz, Skating and Shooting Center in Calgary. He calls Chambers, “a great teammate, who has made the Buffaloes a very successful team this season.”

“He’s a really good kid,” said Harrison. “Most importantly he’s been a good teammate. We have two very good goalies and we decided, at playoff time that we’d go with our hot goalie, Garin. Jonah didn’t play a game in the playoffs and I think that was tough for him because when Garin left to play in the [World Under-17 Hockey Challenge], Jonah stepped in and carried us while Garin was gone.

“So, we rode the other guy throughout the playoffs, but Jonah was an outstanding teammate. He led the cheers for Garin and supported him every way he could. Jonah never complained and he handled the situation really well. You can’t have a successful team without people like Jonah on your roster.”

For Jonah, who grew up in Winnipeg, started playing goal at age nine because “I wasn’t a very good player,” and arrived in Calgary as a 13-year-old who knew virtually no one in his new hometown, being a part of this tremendous Buffaloes team has made it easy to be a supportive No. 2 netminder.

“I’ve found it’s really hard for a goaltender to be mentally tough all the time,” Chambers explained. “I like to go into every game thinking that I’m going to start. I always do my pre-game prep as if I’m going to play. Even as a back-up you have to be mentally prepared to play at all times.

“I also make it a point, as best I can, to keep it loose in the room. And in warm-up, when I get into the net and Garin is just skating around, I try my best to always challenge our shooters. I do my best to stop them in order to get their compete-level up. Goaltending is so much harder mentally than anything I’ve experienced in all the other sports I’ve played so I created my own pre-game routine that I have used for the past two or three years.

“It’s hard to be a backup. Everyone wants to play and I’m no different, but we have such a good team, Garin is such a strong goaltender and we have such a great room, that it’s easier for me to accept the fact that I might not play as much as I’d like.”

If Chambers sounds like a rather exceptional, caring 17-year-old, he is. And to him, the mental game is just as important away from the rink as it is on the ice.

“When I was at St. Matthews School in Grade 9, a counselor selected me and two classmates to attend a mental health conference,” he said. “I think he chose me because I was a hockey player and (former NHLer) Sheldon Kennedy would be there.

“A lot of the speakers there were excellent, but the speaker who really grabbed me was Sheldon Kennedy. The part that really took hold of me was when he was going through all that trouble at a high level of junior hockey and yet he couldn’t or didn’t speak up about it. Not being able to speak up is something that just got to me. MORE

Former youth track stars allege sexual abuse by high-profile coach, respect group, training, abuse, sport, prevention

Former youth track stars allege sexual abuse by high-profile coach

April 22nd, 2019 General News, Respect in Sport

Source: Vancouver Sun,

LORI CULBERT

Chris Dallin was a teenage track and field star who set two Canadian records in hurdles, won gold at the 1981 Canada Summer Games, and caught the eye of national coaches dazzled by his speed and strength.

On the outside, Dallin was a tall, attractive athlete with an intense determination to succeed and a growing collection of medals. On the inside, he said, he was wounded, struggling to understand why he had been “sexually assaulted” by one of the most important people in his life.

“It was the single most excruciatingly difficult event of my life,” the Ladner resident said.

“The world is basically your oyster. And then the world is a closed loop and there is no freedom — everything has been taken away from you in a matter of a second.

“I remember the sadness rolling over me. And the confusion.”

Dallin is one of at least five men who have provided statements to the Athletics Canada Commissioner’s Office, which is investigating sexual-abuse allegations against high profile track coach Ken Porter, who for 50 years turned hundreds of talented youth into the country’s highest performing track stars.

No criminal charges have been laid, despite a complaint being made to police in 2007, and none of the accusations has been tested or proven in court. Through his lawyer, Porter maintained his innocence.

“Mr. Porter categorically denies the allegations made against him. He has been a well-respected volunteer in track and field for over 50 years and has always conducted himself in a professional manner,” said lawyer Fady Mansour.

Postmedia has spoken to four of the men who contacted Athletics Canada, the national governing body for track and field. All were teenagers competing for the Edmonton Olympic Club in the 1970s and all were coached by Porter.

None of them told club officials, their parents or police about the alleged abuse at the time, because of a combination of shame, confusion and not wanting to ruin their chances of making the national track team or winning university scholarships.

“I should have told somebody. But when you are young and you want to be a great athlete and you know that your coach is your ticket to greatness, you will do anything to stay with him,” said Dallin, 56, a branding consultant who said he has struggled since the alleged assaults with low-self-esteem, major depression and anxiety. MORE

“We know better” Former NHL player and child abuse advocate Sheldon Kennedy spoke in Goderich on the importance of the ‘Safe Places’ program

April 3rd, 2019 Activity Leaders, Respect in Sport

Source: Goderich Signal Star

Kathleen Smith
More from Kathleen Smith

 

Rural Response for Healthy Children (RRHC) invited former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy to speak at the Knight’s of Columbus Centre last Friday.

Abused by a coach as a minor hockey player, Kennedy has been through therapy, treatments and dealt with his demons while on the road to recovery.

Kennedy has since become an advocate for children in Calgary and the nation, partnering with local organizations and the government to change legislator.

Working as an advocate for the Calgary and area child advocacy centre, Kennedy shared with Goderich that education is important in making social changes pertaining to tools needed in order to prevent abuse or support sexual abuse victims.

The Calgary and area child advocacy centre is a model of collaboration. Every case that the hospital receives gets triaged with each member of that advocacy organization to look at the entire picture.

Kennedy stressed the importance of sharing information between organizations and advocacy groups, in order to reach out to sexual abuse survivors early enough to make a positive difference in their lives.

“We know better today,” said Kennedy.

“The sooner we reach kids, the better chance we have of turning their life around and giving them a chance to follow their dreams.”

In five years, the advocacy group in Calgary investigated 7,900 cases, where 15 percent of these cases were from children services and 95 percent of these cases the children knew their abuser.

An even more devastating statistic showed that 45 percent of those kids were abused right at home.

Kennedy told the crowd last Friday that sexual abuse is one of the leading contributors to early childhood mental health issues and addiction.

Kennedy discussed the trauma he experienced as well as the work he has done including the creation of the Respect Group and how that evolved into the ‘Safe Places Project’.

‘Safe Places’ began in Swift Current, Saskatchewan and has since spread across Canada.

At a previous Goderich Town Council meeting Executive Director of RRHC, Selena Hazlitt introduced the ‘Safe Places’ initiative. Huron County is one of the first regions to implement the program.

Hazlitt shared with the Signal Star that research results on the impacts of abuse are staggering.

“We know that when abuse occurs, it increases the risk for long-term physical and mental health issues. If the victim seeks help and is not listened to, that risk level soars,” said Hazlitt.

“We know that when children and youth have a trusted adult in their life who responds and supports them in seeking help, the outcome for a healthier life is improved.”

In addition to emotional and mental impacts from abuse, financial impacts on adults who experienced abuse in their younger years can be monumental in regards to the cost of intervention or crisis level mental health and addiction treatments.

“By investing in prevention strategies, we can alleviate that financial pressure and more importantly give children and youth who are victimized a greater opportunity to thrive in their adult lives, contribute to their community and be loving parents,” added Hazlitt.

Hazlitt concluded that the community has an opportunity to utilize ‘Safe Places’ to become a well-informed place with adults who know how to listen and respond.

‘Safe Places Huron County’ increases public awareness and knowledge in order to effectively listen and respond to youth.

“It’s not about blame but it’s about responsibility to look out for one another and have the confidence to deal with issues properly if we suspect something going on,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy spoke on his childhood trauma, inflicted on him by a coach he trusted.

He stressed that the incident was sexual abuse but the impact was depression, anxiety, substance abuse, addiction and at times, self harm.

Shortly after Kennedy was abused, he began using in order to distance himself from the trauma.

It was only until he spoke out and accepted professional help that Sheldon began his road to recovery.

“We can’t fix people, but people support and invite them to get help and sadly there are many who don’t accept that invitation and we have lost a lot of people,” said Kennedy. MORE

Ottawa unveils plan to fight harassment, abuse, discrimination in sport

Ottawa unveils plan to fight harassment, abuse, discrimination in sport

March 26th, 2019 Respect in Sport

Minister announces investigation unit and toll-free confidential helpline

A safe space for Canadian athletes and kids who participate in sport has been a long time coming.

That was part of Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan’s message in announcing both an investigation unit and a toll-free confidential helpline on Wednesday, major measures in an effort to combat harassment and abuse in sport.

“This was Week 1 my priority, as an athlete, coach, and judge all my life,” Duncan told The Canadian Press. “When you train athletes your No. 1 job is to protect their health and safety. It’s your No. 1 job.

“So when I came into the role, I wanted to put our athletes at the centre of everything we do. And I knew we needed to help our athletes from the beginning — that there be a confidential safe place where they could go.”

The investigation unit is an arm’s-length, third-party program set up through the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada, an independent organization that already functions in helping resolve disputes in the national sport community. Canadian sport organizations can access the unit for independent investigations on reports of harassment, abuse or discrimination in sport.

The helpline — 1-888-83SPORT (77678) — is for victims and witnesses of harassment, abuse or discrimination. The line, which is already up and running, will be staffed by counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists, seven days a week, 12 hours a day.

“I have been clear there can be bystander effect. If you see a child being hurt or harmed, it’s all of our jobs to speak up,” Duncan said. “So having this confidential phone line where you can report cases, they are professionally trained people … who will listen. It’s safe, confidential, in both official languages, and they will say where you can go next, whether it’s to the police, whether it’s to child protection services, it’s to provincial or territorial resources, but you will actually have someone say ‘This is where you go next.’” MORE

keeping girls in sport, Sheldon Kennedy, respect, equality sport, coaching, coaches, Canada

Experts address issues around keeping girls in sport

February 26th, 2019 Respect in Sport

SOURCE: Red Deer Advocate 

BYRON HACKETT

Feb. 26, 2019 7:00 a.m.

Vicki Harber is hoping to make an impact outside the lines at the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

Harber, who has a PhD, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Alberta from the Faculty of Physical Education & Recreation and one of several panelists who has been invited to speak at Coach House in the Athlete’s Village at the Games.

Along with former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy, the duo discussed keeping girls in sport and recognizing women who coach in their Monday night fireside chat.

Harber, who is helping shape athlete development programs for young females across Canada was also here last week as part of the panel put on by the Coaching Association of Canada during Week one. She said the focus inevitably shifted to what the research is saying about how to keep girls involved in sport between the ages of 12 to 16.

Research on the topic is plentiful, she noted sometimes it can be as simple as finding a mentor, whether it is an adult or even an older student.

Another major factor in the dropout rate, or even getting girls involved in the first place is the notion sport is only for high-level competition. Harber said the community building aspect of sport is sometimes overlooked in our ultra-competitive society. When in reality, it could be a place for us to focus our attention if we want to keep young athletes involved longer.

“I think sport has lost its way a little bit, particularly community sport. Around making it more than just the high-performance pathway,” Harber said.

“We get extremely fixated on excellence at way too young an age. Girls in particular, because of some of their social circumstances – if they don’t feel like they’re a star performer, why the heck would they put themselves in that situation to begin with.”

That all is affected by coaching, which Harber noted is an important piece of the conversation as well. Not just high-level, elite coaches who push athletes to the podium, but ones who stress team and community building, hard work and dedication at all levels. That will help make better coaches down the road, but also younger mentors in sport for their peers.

“If they’ve had quality experiences and a coach that can help them feel a sense of belonging and this value piece. Not every athlete is going to be able to wear red and white or provincial colours. How can a coach create a culture that everyone can contribute?” Harber asked.

“We’ve heard stories along the way about athletes who haven’t made it into those higher levels of performance, but because of a wise coach will say, ‘I think you’ve got a really good eye for the game or you’ve got strong communication style, have you ever thought of coaching?’ ”

In the end, the conversations around sport, good and bad, are helping organizations, coaches and athletes alike. Advancing the conversation forward in order to push the boundaries about making sports a better place for everyone, is as important as the lessons learned along the way.

“The more we have conversations about it, I think the more normalized the whole thing becomes. We’re in some lightning rod times with various issues around sport and treatment of girls and young athletes,” she said.

“There’s no shortage of areas in which we can create dialogue over and as long as they are approached with some open minds, we can’t help but make things better.”

sport, abuse, abuse prevention, ottawa, funding for prevention, athlete abuse, safe sport, safe sport summit, code of conduct sport Canada, sexual abuse sport Canada, respect, respect group

Ottawa announces steps to eliminate abuse in sport

February 21st, 2019 Respect in Sport

SOURCE: CBC NEWS, With files from Jamie Strashin, Devin Heroux, Lori Ward and Doug Harrison

Federal government will invest more than $200K in helping develop a nationwide code of conduct

Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan and the Coaching Association of Canada announced two initiatives on Thursday in Ottawa to address abuse and harassment in sport.

Calls for action followed an investigation by CBC News and Sports that revealed at least 222 coaches involved in amateur sports over 20 years have been convicted of sex offences involving over 600 victims under age 18.

Duncan reiterated Thursday that the CBC News and Sports investigation “broke her heart.”

She announced:

  • More than $200,000 will be allocated for a Safe Sport Summit Series aimed at helping develop a national code of conduct.
  • The creation of a Gender Equity Secretariat, a department responsible with the development and implementation of a gender equity strategy.

In March, a series of regional workshops will be held across Canada that will include:

  • Provincial, territorial and national sport organizations.
  • Athletes.
  • Safe sport organizations.
  • Groups independent of sport organizations such as researchers and child advocates.

​A national Safe Summit in Ottawa will be held in the spring.

Sexual offences

The CBC News and Sports investigation involved searching through thousands of court records and media articles, and visiting courthouses across Canada. What emerged, for the first time, was a detailed database of sexual offences committed by amateur athletic coaches.

The charges include offences such as sexual assault, sexual exploitation, child luring, and making or possessing child pornography. Most but not all the victims were athletes training with a coach; in all cases, the accused was charged between 1998 and 2018, but the offences may have occurred earlier.

A number of high-profile sexual assault complaints involving national team coaches prompted Duncan to announce new rules last week in Red Deer, Alta.

Beginning in 2020, sport organizations that receive federal funding must have a policy to address abuse and provide mandatory training to their members. MORE

Sheldon Kennedy, mp Kristy duncan, ottawa, sport, abuse, sport abuse, coach, coach abuse, sport coach abuse,

Making sports safer for kids is a never-ending fight

February 19th, 2019 Respect in Sport, Sheldon Kennedy
The Star

 

On Wednesday of this week in Sarnia, gymnastics coach Dave Brubaker was acquitted of sexual assault and sexual exploitation. The former national women’s team coach had been accused by a former athlete, who was deemed credible by the court, but the judge cited police errors in the course of the investigation. Brubaker walked.

Also this week, the CBC released the results of a data-driven investigation that showed that over the past 20 years, at least 222 coaches in Canadian amateur sport had been convicted of sexual offences with more than 600 victims who were under 18 at the time of the offence. Some people who knew better professed to be shocked.

 

“This isn’t a shock,” says Sheldon Kennedy, the founder of the Calgary & Area Child Advocacy Centre. “The centre does 150 new investigations every month, and that’s just in Calgary. And they’re talking about 20 years.”

But the CBC spurred conversation, even if the conversation was already underway. Friday afternoon, Sports Minister Kirsty Duncan was in Red Deer, with her provincial and territorial counterparts, announcing The Red Deer Declaration, which they said committed to gender equity in sport by 2024, zero tolerance to abuse, and some other principles.

“Athletes must be at the centre of everything we do,” Duncan said. “They are not commodities. They are people, and they need to be respected.”

Principles are only a start, though; check the London Declaration of 2001. This is another try. Nothing like this moves quickly. But sometimes, it moves.

It is disturbingly easy to look at the sports system in Canada and especially the United States in a vacuum and conclude something is wrong. In 2018, doctor Larry Nassar was convicted of sexually abusing hundreds of girls in U.S. gymnastics, and the cover-up appears to have extended to both USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. In Canada, Brubaker skated, but national ski coach Bernard Charest was convicted last year of 37 sex-related charges.

There are many more examples. In December of 2018, Wrestling Canada took the unusual step of making an internal report on its culture — replete with harassment, sexism, sexual relationships between coaches and athletes and officials, among other problems — public. The federation expressed contrition, while detailing steps toward safer sport.

Like the #MeToo movement, it all has the feeling of long-hidden truths surfacing, and in concert with society, the urgency over the conversation has ratcheted up significantly in the past two or three years. There is as much urgency now as there has ever been. Skiers who were abused by Charest are suing Alpine Canada in Quebec for $1.35 million, including $450,000 in non-insured punitive damages.

“Don’t you think we can learn from what happened in the United States?” says Lorraine Lafrenière, CEO of the Coaching Association of Canada. “Didn’t USA Gymnastics have to declare bankruptcy?”

 

“There was no more room, and it was time for the explosion,” said one Canadian sports executive. “It’s cumulative.”

But it’s gotten better, too. Kennedy and his partner Wayne McNeil have been at the forefront of safety and training in sport for over 20 years, since Kennedy came forward after being sexually abused by his junior hockey coach, Graham James. They have seen everything evolve.

“We were laughed out of rooms,” says McNeil. “And people said it was a hockey problem or it’s not as big a deal. Today they say, we need this (coach and parent training) program as a recruitment and retention tool. And if you don’t have it, then that’s a problem.”

Kennedy talks about how it used to be all about catching the bad guy, and over the years he has come to realize prevention — strengthening the bystander, creating common and shared language on abuse, creating a culture that abhors criminal acts, but also bullying or discrimination or harassment, fostering a belief that safety trumps everything else — is critical.

“I think the gaps, from what we can see, (are in the) reporting structure and the follow-up structure,” Kennedy says. “Campaigns around telling people talk, talk, talk, and when people reach out for help that’s hard to find. That’s the gap. This has got to be an independent funded entity, that’s going to make sure that it handles these issues properly for all sports and youth-serving organizations across the country. It’s got to be robust.”

Duncan says they are working on a third-party reporting entity. It would cost money. Quebec tried something similar, and the system was overwhelmed. According to the CBC, the number of coaches charged and convicted virtually doubled from 1998-2008 to the following decade.

Which, most likely, is good news. Kennedy will tell you: The problem has been there all along. More cases almost certainly means more people are actually speaking aloud.


So what next? Duncan, a former gymnast and longtime dance coach, has been sports minister for a little over a year. Her government faces an election in the fall, and has had itself a tumultuous week.

“When I came into this role about a year ago, my number one priority was addressing abuse, discrimination, harassment in sport,” Duncan said in an interview this week. “It is a system problem, it is a culture problem.”

But she seems committed. Lafrenière says she has never seen as much interest on safe sport from any sports minister. Ahmed El-Awadi, the head of Swimming Canada and a co-chair of Duncan’s safe sport working group, thinks there is a chance for significant change. There are signs actual initiatives could be unveiled next week.

“Here’s what people need to understand: Predators will never be completely eradicated,” says Lafrenière. “So what they do is they find an industry — the Catholic Church, say — and take advantage of its weakness. Then they went to Scouts. They found a weakness and they used that. And that’s what happened in sport, because we’re such a volunteer-driven country in sport, which is beautiful but it’s also the problem. So yes, sport has a problem. But this is a bigger problem.

“Things like (#MeToo) have pushed it forward. I think that’s good. I think that’s a change we need to see in the sports system, and in every system. It’s allowed us to say out loud as a system: No, it’s not performance over safety.”

Beyond the independent third-party reporting system, goals could include a harmonized code of conduct, and a harmonized code of sanctions. There are already pilot programs to give poorer sports access to the investigative resources the bigger federations can afford, and that seems likely to become policy. In a country where the RCMP can’t legally publish the names of child sex offenders, El-Awadi thinks Swimming Canada has a solution. Coaches have to recertify every September, and starting this year will have to sign a waiver that specifies any disciplinary procedure will be noted, and will be published online.

“Hopefully, reading these articles (athletes) say, it’s OK,” says El-Awadi. “It’s OK to say something. It’s OK to tell. You don’t have to call us. You can tell your aunt, your friend, you can go right to the police. We hope that the more we do these interviews, the more they get inspired to say: I have a story. I need to tell somebody.”


Words, actions, policies, money: all of them are needed, some more than others. A chance to get better, is what this is. It isn’t pass-fail; it’s fail less, every year.

“We can create this, and this lightning-rod week will actually make people do it faster,” says Lafrenière. “If we have the same conversation two years from now and we have not done our job, then the system is at risk of being dissolved.”

Nobody believes complete safety will ever be achieved. But what’s the point of sports if it doesn’t protect our children as well as it can? Better can happen; it already has. It just can’t ever stop.

 

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