Sport leaders meet in Ottawa, looking to prevent abuse of athletes

Sports leaders are meeting in Ottawa on Wednesday about creating a code of conduct and sanctions to help keep Canadian athletes safe from sexual abuse and other mistreatment.

“Safe sport is not just about the right type of equipment to buy. It’s about making sure that the club or the team that you’re joining has the right safety policies, the right screening policies, and most importantly the rule of two — so, two adults present at all time,” said Lorraine Lafrenière, chief executive officer of the Coaching Association of Canada, which is hosting the national summit.

A joint CBC News and CBC Sports investigation recently revealed at least 222 coaches who were involved in amateur sport in Canada have been convicted of sexual offences in the past 20 years, involving more than 600 victims under the age of 18.

Some 170 leaders from national sport federations, along with athletes and coaches, will meet at the Brookstreet Hotel in the suburb of Kanata. The summit will highlight work from other recent meetings across the country and will discuss a possible ban on sexual relationships between national sport organization-employed coaches and national team athletes.

“There’s absolutely a power imbalance in the coach-athlete relationship and that’s really what we’re trying to address,” said Lafrenière.

While the summit is starting with national athletes, it hopes the work can apply to all levels of sport down to the community level.

“So that means that parents and participants would see one code across the Canadian sports system and also discuss sanctions and potential universal sanctions for misbehaviour,” said Lafrenière.

AthletesCAN, which includes Canadian Olympians, Paralympians and high-performance athletes, will be presenting recommendations at the summit. It recently wrapped up its meetings in Toronto.

“We continue to try to deal with the fragmented system and so this next step is about bringing people together for more action, but not just action individually, but action collectively,” said Lafrenière.

Caroline Sharp, executive director of the Canadian Fencing Federation, will also attend.

“We’ve had a lot of consultations across the country … and I think it’s time now to come out with some concrete outcomes,” said Sharp.

Sharp said universal rules are important, especially in smaller sports organizations that don’t have many resources and rely on volunteers.

“I don’t think there’s any sport organization that’s not had some level of some degree of complaint,” said Sharp.

“We’re not experts, we’re not lawyers. We seek guidance, so I think these types of uniform policies … will really help us all.”

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