Safe Sport Summit


Speaking Notes
The Honourable Kirsty Duncan 
Minister of Science and Sport
Ottawa, ON
May 8, 2019

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Good morning, bonjour.

Thank you to the extraordinary and tireless Lorraine Lafraniere for your kind words, and for the opportunity to speak with you today.

And now let me acknowledge that today we gather on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishnabeg [a-nish-i-na-bay].

Let me begin by recognizing all those who have suffered abuse, those who might be suffering now, and all those who continue to hurt.  … My heart goes out to you all.

Know that there is help available, and that we’re going to do everything possible to end abuse, discrimination, and harassment in sport.

I want to thank all those who have had the courage to break the silence.

They come forward because they want athletes and children protected.  …  They also love sport, and they know that better sport is possible.

We are all aware of the recent CBC investigation that revealed 600 victims under the age of 18, over a 20-year period.

The numbers are no doubt much higher, as sexual abuse is a very under-reported crime, and no sport is immune. And we know prevalence of harassment and discrimination is greater.

Yesterday, AthletesCAN released its study on the Prevalence of Maltreatment among Current and Former National Team Athletes study.

It was important for us to request and fund that study. It gives us the hard data we need to make well-informed decisions to make sport safer in Canada.

And I want to thank AthletesCAN and the University of Toronto on their work.

This study shows us that a systemic culture shift is required to eliminate maltreatment, including sexual, emotional, and physical abuse, neglect, harassment, bullying, exploitation and discrimination.

We have reached a watershed moment in sport in Canada.

That same CBC investigation identified at least 340 coaches across Canada who have been charged with sexual offences against minors over the 20-year period. … Of those, 222 coaches have been convicted.

And there are currently at least 34 trials against coaches before the courts.

We must recognize that abuse is a long-standing problem in sport, and that we must tackle it head on.

And that’s why we’re all in this room today.

We must put our athletes of all ages and all abilities first; and they must be at the centre of everything we do.

Together, we must do the hard work of changing sport culture. …Let me be clear, there is zero tolerance for abuse, discrimination, and harassment, and we must all speak up and speak out against any abuse.

And let me emphasize that I do not want to hear, and I quote, “that’s just the culture of our sport.”

No. … Abuse, discrimination, and harassment are not part of sport, they are learned behaviours, learned culture that became normalized over time, and it is time for both behaviours and culture to change.

It is completely unacceptable to call athletes by demeaning names, touch them in an inappropriate way or to abuse/misuse a position of authority and trust in any manner. …Athletes are people first, and they are deserving of respect and dignity.

A “new normal” is possible; a “new normal” is a must.

And we all have a duty to care. … That means if you see something, you have a responsibility to report. …

There can be no bystander effect, as there is nothing more important than protecting our athletes, our children, our youth.

That’s why over the last year, we have put in place new measures, including most recently, a national, confidential helpline and a third-party investigative unit to address cases of abuse, discrimination, and harassment in sport.

If there are athletes, former athletes, or witnesses out there who are hurting or worried about something they have experienced or seen, I encourage you to reach out to the Canadian Sport Helpline, which provides professional listening and referral services.

These actions build on previous measures we’ve taken over the last year.

This work started when we launched the Working Group on Gender Equity in Sport…when I brought together 12 sport champions to provide concrete actions to achieve gender equity in sport and make sport safe.

Building on this, we are creating a Gender Equity Secretariat within Sport Canada to develop, implement and monitor initiatives and ensure positive outcomes across the Canadian sport system.

Last June, I announced tough new measures for federally funded sport organizations and made it clear that the Government of Canada would withhold funding if they did not put in place specific measures to foster healthy and safe sport environments.

And with the Red Deer Declaration…which we signed this past February with the provinces and territories…we made clear that all Canadians have the right to participate in sport in an environment that is safe, welcoming, inclusive, ethical and respectful.

I want to thank the provincial and territorial Ministers for their unequivocal support of this file and their commitment to act based on the Red Deer Declaration.

In recognition of the important work we’ve been doing and the work left to be done, in Budget 2019 our government committed to invest another $30 million over five years for safe sport.

That will enable Canadian sport organizations to advance safe, accessible, ethical and equitable sport and ensure a higher standard sport experience for Canadian families, athletes, coaches and other participants.

This comes on top of the $30 million invested in Budget 2018 to achieve gender equity in sport by 2035.

And achieving gender equity in sport is a contributor to safe sport, as we know the gender imbalance in coaching and leadership.

Which brings us to today.

With our initial investment of more than $200,000 to the Coaching Association of Canada, we started a national conversation through a series of regional summits.

These summits have included athletes, coaches, child advocates, researchers, experts, sports organizations and governments from across the country.

And today we have arrived at the national Safe Sport Summit.

We are here to talk about another building block, the next step in the systemic culture shift in sport in Canada – a model nationwide Code of Conduct.

The Code of Conduct will serve as a basis for how we treat our athletes, and as a model for common sanctioning for those who breach the code.

The code, at its most basic level, must absolutely meet legal requirements. … But I am hopeful that the code will go further and meet or exceed international best practices.

As you work together, I challenge you to keep those we have failed to protect front and centre in your deliberations. …I ask you to be bold, and really question whether what you are putting forward is ambitious enough, and whether it will truly protect our athletes and children in sport.

The Code of Conduct is an important step toward harmonized action that will help prevent abuse in all sports, at all levels. And it will be available to any sport organization in the country to make their sport safer.

We are looking forward to receiving the input and feedback from the CAC’s Safe Sport Summit Series and this National Summit, as well as the work of the NSO Safe Sport Task Force.

It is my strong desire that you are thinking about ways to protect our athletes, children and youth, such as mandatory background checks for coaches, officials, staff, the rule of two, the prohibition of sexual relationships.

You also need to be thinking about issues that might make athletes more vulnerable, like drinking/cannabis use.

It is important to remember that the code of sanctions will be enforced across the country. I recognize the challenges of creating a registry, but we need to get there so that we can eliminate maltreatment in sport – a coach will no longer be able to change clubs or even provinces or territories to avoid sanctions for inappropriate conduct.

The universal code of conduct will be important in making the culture change I have been talking about – namely, a shift to a new normal.

Think about it, a new normal. … What does the new normal look like to you? … To me, it’s better sport, better protections, duty to care, and real inclusion …women, girls, Indigenous peoples, racialized peoples, persons with disabilities, and the LGBTQ2 community.

I want to really recognize Lorraine Lafranière, CEO of the Coaching Association of Canada, who has been at the helm of the regional safe sport summits as well as this National Summit.

Lorraine, thank you for your organizing and heavy lifting, thank you for listening to the many stakeholders and viewpoints, and thank you for conveying our hope and confidence for a better future for our athletes and for sport in Canada.

I am enormously grateful to you, your partner organizations, and to all the staff of the Safe Sport Summit Series for the important work you have done! Thank you for everything!

I call on all of you to seize this watershed moment, and to develop a strong code of conduct and strong sanctions so that our progress to the “new normal” is rapid and sustained.

Now is the time to strengthen our resolve.

We have the right players and the right plans in place to make safe sport a reality.

And we will do this—by working together.

By taking action now. Because our children and our athletes deserve better.

Thank you. Merci.

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