Testimonies of abuse committed by athletes need to be turned into action: lawyers

Abuse-Free Sports works with federally funded sports organizations to address alleged violations of the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Abuse in Sport.

Canadian Football, Hockey Canada and Gymnastics Canada are among the national sports bodies facing questions from federal politicians and athletes about welfare and concerns about financial management.

“I think through the athletes, especially, and groups like Gymnasts for Change and people who have come forward, we’ve had a version of a national inquiry that counts nationally,” Peregoudova said. “Step 2 of all that is what do we do with all the knowledge we collectively have about the issues at hand?”

His comments to The Canadian Press came after he, lawyer Amanda Fowler and former athletes Chris de Sousa Costa and Josh Vander Vie participated in a panel discussing the governance of Canadian sports hosted by AthletesCAN.

An issue raised by Fencing for Change Canada at a parliamentary committee on safe sport was that a coach accused of misconduct at one club and leaving for another club had no history of their past behavior.

Fowler, in the panel discussion, said the issue was also replicated at the board level of national sports organizations (NSOs).

“The people who rule in an organization reflect its culture,” he said.

“We’ve seen some NSOs, even in the last year, where the CEO was ousted for pretty serious reasons and then you see them emerge in a different NSO a year later. It seems like they keep coming back. Like a cockroach that never dies.”

Fowler, who is a member of South African Olympian Caster Semenya’s legal team, said changes could be made to CEO hiring practices.

“It can be difficult at the CEO level,” he said of creating a list to monitor their movements. “But I still think at that level, you can have any number of mechanisms.”

The mechanism includes a vetting process regarding whether potential CEOs are ousted and what kind of culture they will bring, Fowler added.

Former sports minister Pascale St-Onge introduced several measures in May aimed at improving athlete safety including public recording of people who have been sanctioned or suspended in the sports system, limiting the use of non-disclosure agreements, making financial reports public and changing regulations. composition of the board of directors.

Fowler said he wants to see the long-term results of the measure.

“It would be good if we looked at how the mechanism works at the national level and see whether it works,” he said.

Fowler added the benefit he sees from a national inquiry is that it examines provincial sports bodies more closely for allegations of wrongdoing.

Peregoudova said she remains hopeful that athletes will continue to speak out and find resources to support them, such as Abuse-Free Sports.

“I want to see Abuse Free Sports do what it’s supposed to do,” he said. “I’m optimistic and I want to keep it that way.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2023.

Nick Wells, Canadian Press

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