Ottawa unveils plan to fight harassment, abuse, discrimination 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.

READ MORE: Feds set to develop code of conduct for sport in Canada

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.’”

Wednesday’s announcement is the latest move by Duncan, who appointed a working group on gender equity to study issues such as sexual abuse and harassment after she was appointed sport minister in January of 2018. The government also recently partnered with Canadian athletes rights group AthletesCan for a study on abuse and discrimination and sport.

There have been several high-profile sexual assault and harassment stories recently in Canadian sport. In June, Allison Forsyth was among several former members of Canada’s ski team who spoke publicly about the abuse suffered at the hands of former coach Bertrand Charest in the 1990s. Charest was convicted last year of 37 offences of sexual assault and exploitation.

“As a victim of sexual abuse, I am extremely encouraged by these two new programs,” Forsyth said in a statement Wednesday. ”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.”

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Why Langley coach Neil Brown was inducted into the BC Basketball Hall of Fame

He described his record as a ‘perfect storm’ of championship girls’ basketball teams

Ride For Doug Muscular Dystrophy fundraiser to proceed

It will be shorter and much of it will be online due to COVID-19 restrictions

Abbotsford football star Samwel Uko dies at age 20

Panthers star running back dies on May 21, cause of death not yet known

LETTER: Angels come to aid of elderly couple in distress

In the craziness of the moment, letter writer forgot to get names, and is anxious to say thanks

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping the Aldergrove Star to continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Bike shops busier than ever, but owners worry about stock supply issues

Uptick in cyclists brings new challenges for shops

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

‘Not a joke’: Promoter wants to rocket-launch man the length of White Rock pier

Brooke Colby says he’s building an eight-foot rocket in his backyard

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

Most Read