Ottawa unveils plan to fight harassment, abuse, discrimination in sport

Minister announces investigation unit and toll-free confidential helpline

A safe space for Canadian athletes and kids who participate in sport has been a long time coming.

That was part of Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan’s message in announcing both an investigation unit and a toll-free confidential helpline on Wednesday, major measures in an effort to combat harassment and abuse in sport.

“This was Week 1 my priority, as an athlete, coach, and judge all my life,” Duncan told The Canadian Press. “When you train athletes your No. 1 job is to protect their health and safety. It’s your No. 1 job.

“So when I came into the role, I wanted to put our athletes at the centre of everything we do. And I knew we needed to help our athletes from the beginning — that there be a confidential safe place where they could go.”

The investigation unit is an arm’s-length, third-party program set up through the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada, an independent organization that already functions in helping resolve disputes in the national sport community. Canadian sport organizations can access the unit for independent investigations on reports of harassment, abuse or discrimination in sport.

READ MORE: Feds set to develop code of conduct for sport in Canada

The helpline — 1-888-83SPORT (77678) — is for victims and witnesses of harassment, abuse or discrimination. The line, which is already up and running, will be staffed by counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists, seven days a week, 12 hours a day.

“I have been clear there can be bystander effect. If you see a child being hurt or harmed, it’s all of our jobs to speak up,” Duncan said. “So having this confidential phone line where you can report cases, they are professionally trained people … who will listen. It’s safe, confidential, in both official languages, and they will say where you can go next, whether it’s to the police, whether it’s to child protection services, it’s to provincial or territorial resources, but you will actually have someone say ‘This is where you go next.’”

Wednesday’s announcement is the latest move by Duncan, who appointed a working group on gender equity to study issues such as sexual abuse and harassment after she was appointed sport minister in January of 2018. The government also recently partnered with Canadian athletes rights group AthletesCan for a study on abuse and discrimination and sport.

There have been several high-profile sexual assault and harassment stories recently in Canadian sport. In June, Allison Forsyth was among several former members of Canada’s ski team who spoke publicly about the abuse suffered at the hands of former coach Bertrand Charest in the 1990s. Charest was convicted last year of 37 offences of sexual assault and exploitation.

“As a victim of sexual abuse, I am extremely encouraged by these two new programs,” Forsyth said in a statement Wednesday. ”It is critical that our sport system has a safe place for athletes to report instances of abuse and an ethical and legal investigation process. These is a strong sense of urgency to take action. We are not seeking perfection; we are seeking progress to ensure a safe, healthy sport environment for all athletes in Canada.”

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Duncan Christian Chargers third at Islands

The Duncan Christian School Chargers senior boys volleyball team wrapped up their… Continue reading

Lake Flashback: Tragedy strikes the Lake, RCMP call in Sikorsky chopper, and thieves leave their tools behind

Three accidental deaths in one grim week, and air crane required to save fish from wrecked truck

VIDEO: Lake Cowichan fire department celebrates long service

The annual event sees several earn awards as well as the retirement of Ray Bourassa after 30 years

Hal Kerbes back in Chemainus for a favourite holiday blockbuster

Veteran actor comes out of retirement to play Kris Kringle and make us believe in Santa Claus

’Tis the season for holiday cheer with a Ken Lavigne Christmas

Enjoy the magic of the season with the region’s largest indoor snowball fight

VIDEO: B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

Seguin lifts surging Stars to 4-2 win over Canucks

Dallas is 6-0-1 in last seven outings

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

Batten down the hatches: Wet and windy weekend on the way for coastal B.C.

Environment Canada issues special weather warning for Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island

BC Liquor Stores to move fully to paper bags by March

Vancouver Island to be the first to convert to paper bags in November

Tolko shuts B.C. divisions for two weeks over holidays

Head office to close from Dec. 23-27; two weeks’ downtime runs Dec. 21-Jan. 6

B.C. government working with RCMP to address $10 million in budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

Port Moody mayor says stayed sex assault charge related to ‘awkward date’

Rob Vagramov said charge was related to a string of dates in 2015

UBC conference draws fire over speaker from Chinese tech company blacklisted in U.S.

The company that has been blacklisted by the U.S. over links to the repression of China’s Muslim minority

Most Read