Government of Canada to Fund Study into All Forms of Abuse, Discrimination and Harassment of Athletes

News release

OTTAWA, March 7, 2019

Canadian athletes have the right to participate in an environment free from abuse, discrimination and harassment.

The Government of Canada recognizes that a systemic culture shift is required to prevent abuse, discrimination and harassment in sport, and is committed to working with the sport community to address this important issue.

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, is supporting AthletesCAN in conducting a baseline prevalence study to measure athlete experience with all forms of maltreatment, including sexual, emotional and physical abuse, neglect, harassment, bullying, exploitation and discrimination in Canada.

The study, conducted in collaboration with University of Toronto researchers, will help the Government of Canada make informed decisions to make sport safer in Canada and achieve the target of gender equity in sport by 2035. More specifically, the study aims to identify opportunities to further support athlete wellness, gauge the comfort levels of athletes when it comes to reporting incidences of maltreatment, and provide recommendations on new initiatives to address abuse, discrimination and harassment from an athlete’s perspective.

This investment builds on new measures announced by Minister Duncan last June for federally funded national sport organizations. She made clear that funding would be withheld if they fail to:

  • strengthen their mandatory anti-harassment, abuse and discrimination policies;

  • immediately disclose any incident of harassment, abuse or discrimination;

  • put in place an independent third party to address these cases; and 

  • provide mandatory training to their members by April 2020.

This study also follows a recent announcement by Minister Duncan to establish a federal Gender Equity Secretariat to develop, implement and monitor a gender equity strategy.

Minister Duncan also recently announced the development of a Code of Conduct that can be used in all sports at all levels, from national sports organizations to community teams. This Code will be complemented by a training program, an improved curriculum for certified coach training and a model for common sanctioning for those who breach the Code.

This builds on the recent Red Deer Declaration, agreed to by the Government of Canada and all provincial and territorial governments, to move toward the elimination of abuse, discrimination and harassment in sport.


“All Canadians have the right to participate in sport in an environment that is safe, welcoming, inclusive, ethical and respectful. I would like to thank AthletesCAN and the University of Toronto for working together on this study and providing us with the evidence we need to make well-informed decisions to make sport safer in Canada.”

—The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport

Since the last prevalence study of this kind more than 20 years ago, the climate with respect to awareness, understanding and disclosing of abuse has changed dramatically. These behaviours have become the most widespread threats to sport participants and the positive impact sport can have on society. By understanding the current high-performance athlete experience, we have a much better chance at identifying the gaps and building on steps to safer sport environment for all.”

Ashley LaBrie, AthletesCAN Executive Director

“The recent highly publicized cases of abuse and harassment in sport call for effective prevention and intervention measures. Before we design and implement such initiatives; however, we need to better understand prevalence rates for various types of harm and the nature of climate in which athletes train and compete.”

— Dr. Gretchen Kerr, Professor, University of Toronto, Vice Dean, Programs, School of Graduate Studies; working with AthletesCAN on this study

“As a former athlete, I have witnessed athletes from my sport and others experience many forms of abuse and maltreatment. While sexual abuse is prominent in the media, there are a variety of other ways athletes are physically and emotionally harmed. With this study, we are hoping to understand the occurrence of maltreatment amongst Canadian athletes as a first step in keeping them safe and having a positive experience while representing their country.” 

Erin Willson, retired Olympian synchronized swimmer and student researcher at the University of Toronto, working with AthletesCAN on this study

Quick facts

  • In the 2018 Federal Budget, the Government of Canada announced a target to achieve gender equity in sport at every level by 2035. This included an initial three-year commitment of $30 million to support data and research and innovative practices to promote women’s and girls’ participation in sport, and provide support to national sports organizations to promote the greater inclusion of women and girls in all facets of sport.

  • In April 2018, Minister Duncan convened a Working Group on Gender Equity in Sport to gather the experiences, perspectives and insights of 12 champions for gender equity in sport. The group’s mandate also included providing a range of views and advice aimed at better understanding and serving the specific needs of women and girls in sport.

  • The Government of Canada, informed by discussions held by members of the Minister’s Working Group on Gender Equity in Sport, is partnering with AthletesCAN to gather evidence about how sport is experienced by athletes to make sport safe in Canada.

Associated links


Daniele Medlej
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Science and Sport

Media Relations
Canadian Heritage

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