B.C. Sports Organizations Address Abuse in Sport

Jun 27, 2018

Following the recent removal of a publication ban, several female ski racers bravely spoke out about the sexual assault they suffered from their former coach. In coming forward, these former athletes want the sport community to curtail its abuse of power.

The citizens of B.C. should know that its sporting organizations are taking concrete steps when it comes to eliminating harassment and abuse in sport. As a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness and participation of sport, viaSport is committed to working with leaders at all levels to advance positive change. Abuse prevention is a long-term task, with national, provincial and local alignment required.

On June 6th, viaSport announced a collaboration between provincial sport leaders and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection to provide additional support to the organizations responsible for protecting young athletes. Easy access to tools and training to support education and policy development and implementation plans for all provincially funded non-profit sport organizations, their staff and volunteers will start to be implemented next month.

Last week, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Canada’s Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, unveiled new measures that apply to national sport organizations to eliminate harassment, abuse and discrimination in sport. She also talked about the importance of meeting with her provincial and territorial counterparts to create a pan-Canadian solution. 

Both here in B.C. and at the national level we are headed in the right direction but there is more work to be done. There is still a gap within the Canadian and provincial systems. There needs to be a fully-funded objective third party that a victim or bystander can reach out to, and who can deploy expert staff to investigate a complaint or incident.

Sport Canada is looking to the sport federations to fill this gap. However, reporting abuse within an organization doesn’t always work. There is too much inherent bias that results in the organization putting its own interests, or those of the sport, before the interests of the children. Creating meaningful change demands the delivery of timely, accurate evidence verified by an ombudsman or committee that does not have a vested interest in self-preservation. This can be done in a cost-effective manner.

All of us need to take action and learn more about what is required to keep B.C.’s children safe.

Safeguarding goes beyond the criminal record checks, beyond all the policies that check the box – ensuring safety really means a culture shift within the organization and with all of those who are part of your sport community.

All of us need to act with the courage and conviction that we see from the victims who are speaking up, and do everything we can to keep children safe. We are also encouraging parents to be more active and ask their sport provider about safety protocols. 

Together, #AbuseFreeSport is possible. 

Sheila Bouman is CEO at viaSport B.C., an independent not-for-profit organization, created with the support of the Provincial Government in 2011 to lead the province’s sport sector to build a stronger, more effective system in British Columbia.