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

Just Posted

Langford considers regulating sale of spray paint following string of vandalism

Regulations could involve restricting sale to minors, locking up spray paint

French Open at Bear Mountain serves a winner

The US Open is scheduled for Sept. 3 to 8 on the hardcourts at Henderson Park in Oak Bay

Union Club of B.C. votes in its first female president

16-year member Grace Van den Brink previously served as vice president

Convicted drug trafficker asks Victoria courtroom for chance to ‘turn this around’

Horst Schirmer sentenced for convictions on five counts of possession related to trafficking

Alzheimer Society calls for helpline volunteers in Greater Victoria

Charity is in ‘urgent need’ as calls on the rise

VIDEO: Trans Mountain expansion project gets green light, again

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the decision in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of June 18

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you support the government’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion?

The federal government announced Tuesday its approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline… Continue reading

Man to be sentenced for sexual abuse of young girl in Nanaimo

Stephen Mark Castleden also sentenced for child pornography-related charges

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

VIDEO: Firefighters stop blaze from spreading after BMW crashes at Saratoga Speedway

Victoria-based businessmen were ‘corner training’ on Father’s Day when incident took place

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

Most Read