Canada’s Sports Minister Expects Wave of Complaints

Canada’s sports minister is expected to have more complaints when the new Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner begins its mandate later this month.

The country’s first Sports Integrity Commissioner, Sarah-Eve Pelletier, began receiving and resolving complaints on June 20.

The US Center for SafeSport, founded in 2017, says it received 5,000 reports and sanctioned more than 600 individuals in its first three years of operation.

During Pascale St-Onge’s first five months as Canada’s sports minister, allegations of abuse, sexual abuse or misuse of funds were brought against at least eight national sports organisations. in what she calls a “crisis”.

St-Onge has established the Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner (OSIC) as an independent entity to investigate reports of abuse.

St-Onge told The Canadian Press. “I know there’s going to be a lot of phone calls just because of the stories we’ve heard over the past few weeks and months.

“I’m really moved by the stories we’ve heard.

“I’m very happy that we will have an independent mechanism. I know that the first few years will be difficult, but what I hope is that we can have a future in athletes, as soon as the situation arises. happens, they know. (where) they can go so we can intervene as quickly as possible.”

This year’s federal budget provided $16 million to fund OSIC’s operations over the first three years.

Sport Canada contributes more than $1 million annually to the Sports Dispute Resolution Center of Canada (SDRCC), which provides arbitration and mediation services to resolve disputes.

By comparison, the US SafeSport Center’s funding envelope for 2020 is $18.2 million, of which the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee contributes $11.5 million. “

“We will be closely monitoring how things go, if resources are available,” St-Onge said. “We’ve funded SDRCC. This additional $16 million over the next three years, we’ll see how it goes.

“This new mechanism is a top priority for me, that it works.”

All national sports organizations will be bound by a common code of conduct. St-Onge says she is meeting with NSOs about safe sport.

“They all know that it’s a really big deal, that I won’t tolerate the situations and the stories that we’ve heard,” the minister said.

“They all know that we’re working towards a cultural change, that they have to be a part of it. We’re going to raise the bar on what we expect from them, how they should be. needed to prevent those situations from happening.”

St-Onge backs Basketball Canada’s “Learn about the Signs” campaign announced Thursday in Ottawa during the Canadian Elite Basketball League game between the BlackJacks and the Scarborough Shooting Stars. Minister attended the game.

The campaign, sponsored by Sport Canada, features an ad that dramatizes malicious behaviour.

“We can’t be in every gym in this country, but we can hold every gym accountable,” said Basketball Canada CEO Michael Bartlett.

“Our work has to use our loudspeakers, our platforms, our marketing muscles, our resources, to get the basketball community’s attention on what is acceptable and what is acceptable. nothing, so they have the right to point out unacceptable behavior and have the tools and resources available to them to know what to do in those situations.

“We’re doing this because our job is to be at the forefront of identifying and sharing and promoting right from wrong.”

Bartlett prepared the ad campaign to potentially prompt people to report abuse and abuse cases in the sport of basketball.

“I wouldn’t be upset, disappointed or embarrassed about our sector if all of a sudden the cases started popping up because I really think in some cases maybe this campaign will give people confidence to move forward,” he said.

“No sport is perfect. No ecosystem is perfect. There is a disconnect of values ​​everywhere that we can’t control, but we can do it. something about it.

“I want our sport to take the lead in doing something about it if something is to be offered to us. Creating that marker of confidence in the basketball community is a goal here. .”

St-Onge said: “It’s a good sign that an organization as large as Canada Basketball will do something around that topic. Based on the latest stories we’ve heard, one of the issues is in the sports system is the culture of silence.

“People have kept quiet about those situations. Speaking of which, it’s a really important first step.”

This Canadian Press report was first published on June 3, 2022.

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