Gymnasts reiterate calls for investigation into toxic culture of abuse

Content of the article

Seven months after issuing an initial call to the federal government for an independent investigation into their sport, more than 500 current and former gymnasts are renewing their call for action.

Advertisement 2

Content of the article

Gymnastics for Change Canada, a group that has grown from an original 70 members, wrote an open letter to Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge on Wednesday, imploring her to take action.

Content of the article

« You have the power to initiate the legal investigation that the gymnasts are requesting, » the letter reads. “Every day without this action by the Canadian government is another day when children suffer the most despicable forms of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Every day without this action is another day when the sport’s brave survivors must find even more strength against a system that failed to protect them as children, now invalidates their experiences and threatens to leave the next generation behind. risk of horrible abuse. ”

Advertisement 3

Content of the article

Gymnastics Canada announced last week that it has signed an agreement to join abuse-free sport and work with the new Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC), which has been set up as an independent investigator one-stop shop for complaints. St-Onge froze funding for Gymnastics Canada in July, telling the federation it needed to speed up the OSIC signing process.

Content of the article

The minister said in a statement to The Canadian Press that her staff and senior Sport Canada officials have been in conversation with the gymnasts for six months.

« The experiences of survivors have guided the work I’m doing to reform the sport system, » St-Onge said. “We continue to work on the way forward for an independent investigation, and we have a tool that we can use immediately, which is (OSIC). This office can examine, right now, what happened and what is happening in specific sports.

Advertisement 4

Content of the article

GymCan also hired McLaren Global Sport Solutions (MGSS) in June to analyze GymCan’s national safe sport policies and procedures.


We apologize, but this video failed to load.

But Gymnasts For Change says neither the OSIC nor McLaren’s review are truly independent. They informed Commissioner Sarah-Eve Pelletier that they would not pursue an investigation through the OSIC, citing its limited resources, lack of independence, lack of subpoena powers, inability to enforce sanctions and its inability to compel participation or submission of documents.

« It’s also a new entity, an entity that we have to get a good handle on, » St-Onge said. “We listen to athletes and the sports community and work to ensure that OSIC has the power to meet the needs and privacy of survivors. I believe that the gymnasts who have had the courage to come forward and the approach that we take must be trauma-informed.

Advertisement 5

Content of the article

Last summer, gymnastics coach Jamie Ellacott was charged with sexually assaulting four girls between the ages of seven and 14 in Lethbridge, Alberta.

Abby Spadafora – who detailed in a public letter in May her own allegations of years of sexual, emotional and physical abuse in the 1990s – wonders if a federal inquiry could have stopped the Lethbridge assaults before they happened. produce.

“It was really hard to swallow. I didn’t sleep for days after (the allegations) came out, because we had already told the sports minister that gymnastics needed a real independent investigation that met judicial standards,” Spadafora said. « And I still wonder to this day that this could have been avoided if an investigation had been opened? »

Advertising 6

Content of the article

Gymnasts for Change wrote an open letter to the Minister for Sport on June 22 which detailed numerous examples of abuse, including the rape of children by coaches, sexual touching during stretching, sexual grooming under the guise of training, including gymnasts forced to kiss their coaches on the lips. as a sign of « respect », regular weighing and humiliation of children as young as eight years old, plus the provision of diet pills and laxatives, public berating of children as « fat, stupid and ugly » and forcing children to s lead to major injuries, including broken bones and torn muscles.

« Any of these examples should warrant the most urgent action by the Canadian government, » the letter said. “We are deeply disappointed that these examples have not stimulated action. As we have informed your office, these examples are not historic and the abuse continues today in gymnasiums across the country.

Advertising 7

Content of the article

Liberal MP and former Sports Minister Kirsty Duncan is pushing for a public inquiry that would examine the problem of abuse in all sports, much like the Dubin Inquiry which investigated doping in Canadian sport in 1989.

« Over 500 gymnasts call for investigation into sport’s toxic culture of abuse, » Duncan tweeted on Wednesday. “How many decades, how many stories, how many athletes does it take to come forward before we have an independent investigation into the sport?

Kim Shore, a former GymCan board member, said there was precedent. Several countries, including Australia and Britain, have conducted independent investigations. Australia’s was carried out by the Australian Human Rights Commission, while Britain’s Whyte Review was co-commissioned by UK Sport and Sport England.

Advertising 8

Content of the article

« It’s so amazing that in a wonderful country like Canada, there are so many capable entities stuck in apathy when it comes to child abuse, » Shore said. “Nine other countries have conducted independent investigations, many at the request of their governments, so what’s wrong? What more do we need to do as survivors to take action and protect children? »

The gymnasts said in Wednesday’s letter that they would continue to press for change and use their voice « to bring truth to power. »

“However, we know that without your action and leadership, our voices can only speak out against abuse – they cannot stop it. This is an important moment in Canadian history and one that will define your legacy as Minister of Sport. It’s time to act to protect every gymnast in Canada.

Check out our sports section for the latest news and analysis. Fancy a bet? Visit our sports betting section for news and odds.

Advertisement 1


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively yet civil discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments can take up to an hour to be moderated before appearing on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications. You will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, if there is an update to a comment thread you follow, or if a user follows you comments. See our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.


Back to top button