Minister of Sport Carla Qualtrough said Tuesday she’ll be announcing a “formal, independent mechanism” early next week to review systemic abuse and human rights violations in Canadian sports.
Qualtrough made the comment in Switzerland at a forum being held at the UN. Many athletes, coaches and MPs in Canada have been calling for a public inquiry into abuse in sports.
“The process will be trauma-informed, human rights based and forward-looking,” she said in a speech at the Sporting Chance Forum in Geneva.
Elite athletes in multiple sports have accused the federal government of failing to act in response to reports of abuse. They’re among those who have appeared before House of Commons’ committees investigating the problem and have repeatedly demanded a public inquiry.
A parliamentary committee also recommended a public inquiry into maltreatment in Canadian sport.
Former minister of sport Pascale-St-Onge committed to doing “something to address athletes,” whether it was a public inquiry or some sort of “investigation,” before she was shuffled to another cabinet position this summer. The Bloc Québécois called on St-Onge last week to explain why a public inquiry had not been launched.
In other scenarios when the government was facing a crisis, it appointed people such as retired Supreme Court justices to independently review the problem. For example, amid the military’s sexual misconduct crisis, the government tasked retired Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour with reviewing the issue and releasing a report.
Earlier this year, Ottawa appointed former governor general David Johnston as an independent special rapporteur on foreign interference to probe China’s attempts to meddle in the past two elections, before he stepped down from the role amid controversy and a public inquiry was called.
Qualtrough did not say what the independent mechanism to investigate abuse in sports would look like during her comments in Geneva.
She said she’s also announcing a “series of immediate actions” to address issues that abuse survivors have exposed and underscored at parliamentary committees. One committee concluded in its final report that there has been a “long-standing pattern of normalizing abuse and maltreatment” in Canadian sports, Qualtrough told the audience.
“We need to embed accountability, integrity and safe sport into everything we do,” said Qualtrough. “Bottom line, culture change is needed.”
She said the government is also finalizing a new governance code that all national sport organizations must adopt.
“I would describe these actions as important first steps,” she said. “But we are in no position to self-congratulate in Canada. There is too much more work to be done.”
Qualtrough said change requires the government to listen to advocates, athletes, survivors, experts in child protection and community policing. She also said “we need to talk about things we’ve avoided talking about.”
“We need to talk about racism and misogyny and homophobia and transphobia. We need to talk about the negative, inappropriate and dangerous behaviour that has been normalized. The language used. The gestures. The mockery. The intimidation,” she said.
“We need to talk about roles and responsibilities, parents, athletes, officials, administrators, volunteers, fans, coaches and governments. We all have a role to play,”
The announcement will include what happens next with Canada’s abuse in safe sports program and the office of the sport integrity commissioner, Qualtrough said.
Bloc Québécois MP Sébastien Lemire said the “only conceivable option at this stage” is for the government to launch a public inquiry.
“The Trudeau government committed this in May of this year but has yet to fulfil its promise, opting instead to play with words and create mechanisms that deviate from the straightforward and clear demand of the sport community,” Lemire said.
Kim Shore is the co-founder of Gymnasts for Change Canada, a group dedicated to eliminating abuse in gymnastics. She said her group met with Qualtrough at the forum following her speech.
“We believe Minister Qualtrough is committed and sincere in her desire to right past wrongs,” she said.
“Calling for an investigation into the entire Canadian sport system that is fully independent of sport, trauma-informed and done through a human rights lens is the first step. It will, however, require ongoing consultation with survivor advocates for healing and prevention of future abuse.”
Source : CBC