Feds Establish Investigative Unit, Helpline To Battle Abuse

Sport helps millions of Canadians across the country make new friends, stay physically and mentally fit, and express themselves. There is absolutely no place in sport for harassment, abuse and discrimination.

That is why the Government of Canada is putting in place a series of measures that will help keep athletes and youth in sport safe and free to enjoy it to its fullest.

Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan

Today, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, announced two new important initiatives to address harassment, abuse and discrimination in sport:

•An investigation unit for national sport organizations, multisport service organizations and Canadian sport centres to call in to have access to independent investigators for alleged incidents of harassment, abuse and discrimination; and
•A national toll-free confidential helpline for victims and witnesses of harassment, abuse and discrimination in sport.

The third-party Investigation Unit has been set up through the established Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC), an independent centre that serves members of the national sport community in helping resolve sport disputes. This new pilot service is key as it ensures that sport organizations are not investigating their own members.

The Canadian Sport Helpline was launched earlier this week and provides a safe place for victims and witnesses of harassment, abuse and discrimination, or simply to speak in confidence to a neutral third party to get the help they need. It serves as a professional listening and referral service.

These initiatives build on measures announced by Minister Duncan last June for federally funded national sport organizations. She made it clear that funding would be withheld if they fail to:

•take all necessary measures to create a workplace free from harassment, abuse and discrimination of any kind;
•immediately disclose any incident of harassment, abuse and discrimination that could compromise the project or programming;
•make provisions-within their governance framework-for access to an independent third party to address harassment and abuse cases; and
•provide mandatory training on harassment and abuse to their members by April 1, 2020.

As well, Minister Duncan recently announced the development of a Code of Conduct for all sports at all levels, from national sport organizations to community teams. This Code will serve as a basis for the management of harassment, abuse and discrimination cases and as a model for common sanctioning for those who breach the Code.

Minister Duncan also established a federal Gender Equity Secretariat to develop, implement and monitor a gender equity strategy for sport in Canada. The goal of the Secretariat is to bring about greater participation of women in leadership roles, coaching and officiating, which in turn contributes to greater safety in sport.

Finally, this builds on the recent Red Deer Declaration, agreed to by the Government of Canada and all provincial and territorial governments, to move toward the elimination of harassment, abuse and discrimination in sport.

“We are putting our athletes and children in sport first, from the playground to the podium, by creating a safe space for them to report incidents of abuse, discrimination and harassment. This is part of the systemic culture change we are creating so that everyone can experience the best that sport has to offer,” said Duncan.

“We are pleased to work with the Government of Canada and other partners to offer these new services to the national sport community and to promote a safer sport environment. We applaud the Government of Canada for taking concrete measures to protect our athletes and other participants,” said Marie-Claude Asselin, Chief Executive Office, Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC).

“As a victim of sexual abuse, I am extremely encouraged by these two new programs. It is critical that our sport system has a safe place for athletes to report instances of abuse and an ethical and legal investigation process. These is a strong sense of urgency to take action. We are not seeking perfection; we are seeking progress to ensure a safe, healthy sport environment for all athletes in Canada,” said Allison Forsyth, retired Olympic alpine skier and member of the SDRCC Advisory Committee.

Quick facts

•In the 2018 Federal Budget, the Government of Canada announced a target to achieve gender equality in sport at every level by 2035. This included an initial three-year commitment of $30 million to support data and research and innovative practices to promote the participation of women and girls in sport, and provide support to national sports organizations to promote the greater inclusion of women and girls in all facets of sport.

•The mission of the SDRCC is to provide expertise and assistance to the sport community to help prevent and resolve disputes at the highest levels in the sport sector. The SDRCC’s new independent Investigation Unit will operate as a pilot project until March 2020, at which time it will be assessed with a view to improve upon best practices.

•The Canadian Sport Helpline provides professional listening and referral services by phone or text at 1-888-83-SPORT (77678) or by email at info@abuse-free-sport.ca, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time, seven days a week.

•The Investigation Unit and the Canadian Sport Hotline are not meant to replace existing resources or other helplines, but rather to complement them to properly guide Canadians and sport organizations when they are facing issues of harassment, abuse and discrimination.

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