Scales should be banned from children’s gyms. Parents should be allowed to watch. Acceptable behavior rules should be posted on gym walls with a toll-free number to report violations.
They may sound like basic safety precautions for children playing sports, but they don’t exist on a general scale in Canada. In what Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge has called a “crisis” of safe sport, many current and former athletes say the country is long overdue for a cultural overhaul.
More than 1,000 gymnastics, boxing and bobsleigh / skeleton athletes have called for independent investigations of their sports in recent weeks, and former gymnast Amelia Cline filed a collective action proposal last week against Gymnastics Canada and six provincial federations.
Plaintiffs argue abuses dating back to 1978, arguing that organizations have created a culture and environment in which abuse could occur and have failed to protect athletes, most of them minors, against them.
St-Onge said it has received reports of abuse and mistreatment or misappropriation of funds against at least eight national teams, including rugby and rowing.
The outpouring of stories sparked conversations, shared experiences, and suggestions for corrections.
Ciara McCormack was the footballer who first publicly accused Canadian under-20 female coach Bob Birarda of inappropriate behavior; he pleaded guilty in February to four sexual offenses involving four different people.
He said parents “must have access to their children’s training environments.” Few gymnastics facilities allow parents to watch.
McCormack also believes that confidentiality agreements involving misconduct should be eliminated, making it mandatory to educate athletes and parents about the aspect of abuse and how to report infringements. He also suggested an athlete-led organization with a direct line and disciplinary procedures, similar to those of teachers or doctors, in which cases of misconduct are recorded and accessible.
“(National sports organizations) have taken advantage of having all the power and all the resources resulting in immense harm, and I think it is imperative that athletes receive power, resources and voice in the system from children as rec athletes to children. national team athletes, ”McCormack told The Canadian Press. “It’s long overdue.”
Kim Shore, a former gymnast and mom of a former gymnast, said she’d like to see bathroom scales banned from gyms. The gymnasts claimed that the public weigh-ins left them with severe emotional scars years later on their body image.
He also suggested a register of offenders. Several national sports organizations, including Skate Canada and Athletics Canada, have suspended coaches and athletes listed on their websites.
But there are a lot of holes, including the inability to follow coaches at the grassroots level or even at the provincial level. Coaches suspended or allowed to quietly leave a club, province or national team can often simply switch to another or even another sport.
In her 32-page class action proposal, Cline claims she sustained numerous injuries during training, including back and neck injuries and fractures to her wrist, hand, fingers and toes. He claimed that his coach, Vladimir Lashin, overstretched his hamstring to the point that he detached from his pelvis.
Cline told The Canadian Press that BC Children’s Hospital staff knew her by name.
“It’s kind of telling when they say, ‘Oh, it’s you again, you’re back,'” said Cline, who left the sport at age 14 and is now 32.
Lashin did not respond to a request for comment. He coached the Canadian national team at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Gymnastics Canada appointed him national team coach and high-performance director of the women’s arts program in 2009. He resigned in 2010.
Sport Canada announced this week that its new Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC) will be operational starting June 20. The office will receive and address individual complaints for violations of the University Code of Conduct to prevent and address maltreatment in sport.