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The newly announced reforms represent a step forward in making sports in Canada safer, but more needs to be done than offering a “Band-Aid solution” to regain the confidence of Canadian families involved in youth athletics. Yes, say experts and advocates.
Last week, federal sports minister Pascal Saint-Onge unveiled a list of measures to improve the accountability of national sports organizations and bring about a “culture change” for athletes.
Among the steps Ottawa is taking is the establishment of a public registry of people who have been sanctioned or suspended within the sports system, as well as new funding for screening national coaches.
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The government is also trying to ensure that non-disclosure agreements or non-disparity clauses cannot be used to prevent athletes and other sports participants from disclosing abuse or harassment they have experienced or witnessed.
“I think what we’re seeing is taking away little things like that and really addressing the big systemic issues instead,” said Laura Meissner, professor and director of the School of Kinesiology at Western University.
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He told Global News that it may come as a surprise to many parents that some steps, such as thorough screening of coaches, were not already being implemented.
Misner said it is a confusing and worrying time for Canadian parents who want to get their kids involved in sports.
“Parents are hearing a lot of things on the news and what’s happening, and it’s very murky waters.”
“They don’t fully understand what are the kinds of things they should be doing to make sure their kids are accountable and safe, and feel like they belong, by asking the right questions, signing up with the right programs.”
How will the Ban Registry work?
In recent years, a growing number of current and past athletes in Canada have come forward alleging misconduct and misbehavior, including sexual assault, in their sports.
Many of them, including dozens of gymnasts, have come forward and recounted their past experiences of facing abuse from coaches when they were young.
“I think with the barrage of stories about abuse in sports, it raises questions about the public’s trust in the sports system,” said Gretchen Kerr, dean of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education.
He said a public ban registry could help parents make informed decisions for their children and prevent the tendency of sanctioned individuals to jump from one sports club to another or between provinces.
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“The registry goes a long way in terms of providing transparency so that parents who are interested in registering their children for sports programs can check the registry to see if any names are recognized on that list.” Yes or No.”
However, implementation of such a registry to the public could run into legal challenges and privacy concerns, advocates say.
“There are all kinds of privacy issues that go with it,” Meissner said. “And how do we make this a situation that remains secure and still meets the privacy regulations associated with it?”
For example, in Canada the National Sex Offender Registry is not public.
Currently, only the Canadian Police Services have access to this database through their provincial and territorial sex offender registry centres.
Sport’Aid executive director Sylvain Croteau said a more creative way of using the sports registry could be to document the “positive practices” of coaches with annual statements about their training and references to improving accountability.
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“Training doesn’t have to focus only on coaches. Our young people, they need to be able to recognize what is acceptable or not,” Crouteau told lawmakers in French at a meeting of the parliamentary heritage committee on Monday.
“The administrators of our sporting organizations need to feel that they are accountable for the decisions they make.”
Within weeks of taking over Saint-Onge’s sports portfolio in October 2021, it faced a safe sports crisis.
Allegations of misconduct, sexual abuse or misappropriation of funds were made against at least eight national sports organizations in his first five months in office.
Amid an avalanche of complaints, calls have been made for an independent national public inquiry, which St-Onge has so far resisted.
Those calls were reiterated at Monday’s parliamentary meeting discussing safe play.
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Jeremy Luke, President and CEO of the Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport, said, “We believe an independent national inquiry is needed to examine the culture of sport and make recommendations to eliminate abuse in sport at all levels. ” meeting
Podium owner Anne Merklinger said the organization would conduct a public inquiry into the entire sports system in Canada.
Meanwhile, given the way sport is funded in Canada with a “win at all costs” approach, more steps need to be taken to ensure a safe experience for athletes, Kerr argued.
“As long as sports are financed on the basis of performance or number of medals or medal potential, regardless of the methods by which those medals are obtained, the scenario for prioritizing the health and well-being of the athlete It’s going to be really hard to replace.” Right.”
With files from The Canadian Press
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