‘Self-regulation is not working’
Canada falling behind on policing abuse and harassment in sports, new study finds
Sheldon Kennedy’s sexual abuse case against hockey coach Graham James rocked Canadian sport in the late 1990s, and Canada stepped up, writing one of the strongest sexual harassment and abuse policies in the world, experts say.
But 20 years later, most believe Canada has fallen asleep on the job. When it comes to protecting athletes, the country now lags behind the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom, according to a recent report.
The ongoing trial of gymnastics coach Dave Brubaker plus high-profile cases involving Alpine Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee are proof.
What’s going on when the lights of Canada’s arenas and gymnasiums are dimmed? And why have people remained mum about it?
“What we had was really progressive in the mid-’90s to early 2000s, and it’s just become stale,” said Peter Donnelly, a kinesiology and physical education professor from the University of Toronto.
“Now we know a lot more about the way abuse occurs in sport. We have a much better sense of how tracked the athletes are once they’re in the system.
When their parents have committed so much money and time to it, when very often the abuser has groomed their parents, kids and young adults feel trapped. They’re getting closer to their dream and this is happening to them.”
Brubaker is the former coach of the national women’s
gymnastics team. He’s pleaded not guilty to sexual assault and invitation to sexual touching at a trial that will resume next month in Sarnia, Ont.
In June, Canada’s Sport Minister Kirsty Duncan announced that national sports organizations (NSOS) would lose funding if they didn’t immediately disclose to her office any allegations of abuse or harassment. She also said having an independent third
party investigate all allegations of abuse will be a requirement for government funding.
In their recent paper, however, Donnelly and fellow U of T professor Gretchen Kerr say those policies have been in place since 1996 as part of the Sport Canada Accountability Framework. They’re just not being adequately applied.
Examples of high-profile cases in Canada at thestar.com/sports
Former gymnastics coach Dave Brubaker, left, leaves the court house with his lawyer Patrick Ducharme in Sarnia, Ont., Oct. 23.GEOFF