A surge of national sports organizations is expected to sign up with the new Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner in the coming days, or their funding could be cut off.
Headed by lawyer and former artistic swimmer Sarah-Eve Pelletier, the office was established as a remedy for Canada’s safe sport crisis.
Athletes have been testifying before parliamentary committees in recent months about the sexual, emotional and physical abuse they have experienced while playing their sport at the highest level.
Most national sports bodies have an internal process for complaints, which athletes say leaves them at risk of retaliation and further abuse.
The Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner (OSIC), which is an independent division of the Sports Sports Dispute Resolution Center of Canada, was established to move the complaints process away from NSOs.
‘Significant step towards’
Canadian Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge on Saturday set the limit for any national sports organization that receives federal money to become a signatory and comply with the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Abuse in Sport (UCCMS). ).
“We expect all national sports organizations to become signatories to the Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner by April 1, 2023,” St-Onge told The Canadian Press in a statement on Thursday.
“I am very proud of the great progress that has been made in just a few months. Almost all NSOs are now members of OSIC, and this is a significant step towards a safer sports system in Canada.
Of the 63 national sports organizations that receive money from Sport Canada, 41 were listed as signatories as of Thursday and another 15 have pledged to comply soon.
“We need action from sports organizations,” Pelletier told The Canadian Press.
“We need action from everyone in the Canadian sports system and we need action to be diligent, but as efficient as possible, to really affect the change that is needed and the advancement of safe and inclusive sport for all.”
Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, which underwent a leadership purge last year, pushed back its original compliance date of January 17 because it wanted more time for a leadership transition.
“We’re not going to talk about individual NSOs and where we are in negotiations with them,” said Marie-Claude Asselin, executive director of Canada’s Center for Sports Dispute Resolution.
“We can tell them that we are in communication with all of them. Sometimes there is a delay between the signing and the actual implementation because they need time to finish some of the obligations of the agreement.
“We give them a grace period of a maximum of three months. They are in the process of signing the documents, but the effective date could be after April 1. We have a number of agreements that are already signed to go into effect on Friday. and Saturday.”
CLOCK | Cline, McCormack call for a change in how abuse in Canadian sports is reported:
The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees, the Canadian Games Council, the Canadian Coaches Association and the seven national sports institutes are also among the signatories.
Once signed with OSIC, the sport and the people who participate in it are bound by the UCCMS, which covers grooming, neglect, physical, sexual and psychological abuse, as well as retaliation, failure to report mistreatment, accusations false and abuse of power.
Illegal sports betting, conflicts of interest, team selection or athlete assistance program (carding) are not included in the OSIC framework.
The federal government’s 2022 budget, St-Onge’s first as sports minister, provided $16 million to fund OSIC during its first three years of operations.
OSIC began hearing complaints and reports on June 20, 2022, but quickly ran into jurisdictional issues because the complaints came from sports that were not yet signatories.
It admitted 25 percent of the complaints and denunciations in its first quarter and 33 percent in the second quarter.
OSIC’s first quarter of 2023 ends on Friday and Pelletier expects an increase in the total number of complaints received.
A complaint previously inadmissible for jurisdictional reasons can be reopened, Pelletier said.
“It does not prevent a matter from being resubmitted or a person requesting that it be reexamined,” he explained.
“Ideally, this is something that we would try to do without a person having to file a new complaint. From an OSIC perspective, the goal is to prevent people who have been harmed from having to file reports and things like that many times because that It can be a cause of trauma.”
Cracks remain in the system.
The Canadian taxpayer is the largest single funder of high performance sport to the tune of more than $200 million annually.
Pelletier and St-Onge urge provinces and territories to become signatories, or establish an equivalent reporting mechanism, to close the gap.
Volleyball Canada was the only national sports organization as of Thursday to bring its provincial and territorial associations to OSIC, but Sport Nova Scotia also joined.
“We will not enter into signing agreements with individual provincial sports organizations,” Asselin said. “We are entering into an agreement with Sport Nova Scotia, which is a multi-sport umbrella organization in that province.
“Provincial sports organizations will sign an agreement with Sport Nova Scotia. They will be subject to the UCCMS and Abuse Free Sport’s complaint handling process.”
OSIC also has its critics. Some feel that it is not independent enough from the sport.
“I think we need a grievance mechanism, but it has to work outside of sport,” former gymnast Kim Shore told a parliamentary committee in Ottawa earlier this week.
The Gymnasts For Change Canada co-founder spoke about the verbal and physical abuse she experienced as a child athlete, and the continuation of trouble and abuse she witnessed in sport as an adult.
“OSIC was developed by long-standing sports academics, sports leaders,” Shore said. “They’re all sports and they’re being funded by Sport Canada, which is problematic right there. Take it outside of sport.”