US Judge Aquilina urges Sport Canada to heed gymnasts’ call for investigation


Canadian gymnasts remained steadfast in their calls for an independent investigation into the toxic culture and abuse of athletes, and angered that they were not offered a seat. sat during the recent roundtable of Canadian Sports Ministers.

A group of 71 gymnasts who wrote to Sport Canada a week ago has now grown to more than 300 signatories, and has the backing of US Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who famously presided over the abuse case. Larry Nassar sex abuser.

And in a statement on Monday, they questioned why Minister Pascale St-Onge had ruled out “the very athletes who have caused countless cases of abuse in their sport”.

St-Onge held an emergency roundtable on Thursday, calling abuse in sport a “crisis”. During his five-month tenure, St-Onge says there have been multiple allegations of mistreatment, sexual abuse or misuse of funds by at least eight national sports organisations.

In Monday’s statement, the gymnasts said they had yet to receive any direct communication from the Sports Secretary.

They wrote: “Unfortunately, the very athletes who caused this crisis did not participate, did not receive the official minutes of the meeting, nor did the Minister of Sport contact the sports leaders. encouragement to call for change.

The bodybuilder’s request for a third-party investigation was heard outside of Canada.

Judge Aquilina, who sent Nassar, a US gymnast, to life in prison following sexual assault allegations from hundreds of women, filmed a pro-Canadian video on Monday.

“I hear you, I see you, I support you, I am listening, I stand with you,” Aquilina said in the three-minute video.

“You matter, your voice matters – you’re not just speaking up for yourself, you’re speaking up for everyone who can’t come forward,” she said.

She called on Sport Canada and St-Onge to “gend off the appeals of athletes” and instigated a third-party investigation, where all documents were turned over and the athletes were known. speak and participate in the process.

The open letter from gymnasts comes a month after dozens of Canadian gymnasts called for the resignation of their national sports organization’s CEO and Chief Performance Officer. .

“Exercisers should not sit idly by in silence,” the letter on Monday read. “Our fellow gymnasts from the United States have followed/experienced their leadership following a similar path; Meetings were called, headline wars broke out, and the athletes’ cries were cast aside. American sports leaders and the government refused to act. If it weren’t for the strength of American gymnasts and their relentless calls for investigation and reform, their abuse would never have come to light.”

Last week, St-Onge said she is accelerating the implementation of a safe sports reporting mechanism, which will work through Canada’s Sports Dispute Resolution Center and that it will be mandatory for all. national sports organizations.

She swears it will be up and running by the end of spring.

“Tolerance is bravery to expose abuse. All the same,” the gymnasts wrote in Monday’s statement. “Zero tolerance is about allowing athletes to share their life experiences to help heal and close in and it is about bringing abusers to justice. It’s appalling that abusers and agitators are still active in Canadian gymnastics. Sport Canada and the Canadian government have an inherent concern obligation to protect the rights, freedoms and safety of children, youth and elite athletes. ”

The original letter from the gymnasts said there had been numerous complaints and even arrests for various forms of emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

Former Canada women’s team coach Dave Brubaker has been banned for life by Gymnastics Canada in 2021 following an internal investigation. Brubaker was found not guilty of sexual assault and sexual exploitation in 2019 after allegedly sexually assaulting a young gymnast years ago.

Brubaker denied the allegation.

His suspension remains in place.

Other coaches include Marcel Rene, who received a lifetime suspension from Gymnastics Ontario in 2021, and Rima Nikishin, who is currently suspended by the Alberta Gymnastics Federation pending an investigation of the complaints. The specific reason for those two suspensions was never explained by both fitness associations.

Former coach Michel Arsenault, who has faced multiple charges of assault and sexual assault in relation to five former Montreal gymnasts, has been allowed to stay in proceedings in 2021 after suspended by Fitness Canada in 2017.

Arsenault denied the allegations.

This Canadian Press report was first published on April 4, 2022.

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