Minister of Science and Minister for Sport and Persons with Disabilities Kirsty Duncan is photographed in her office in Ottawa on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. After meeting with provincial leaders today, Minister of Sport Kirsty Duncan will meet reporters about her plans to address harassment, abuse and discrimination in sport. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Canada’s Minister of Sport Kirsty Duncan: More anti-abuse work to be done

Preventing coaches, officials from moving to another province after allegations of abuse on list

Kirsty Duncan knows there’s still work to be done.

Canada’s Minister of Science and Sport has made ending abuse and harassment in sport her priority since taking over the portfolio in January 2018. The ministry has instituted a series of initiatives, including establishing new policy for national sports organizations, funding the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada to create an investigation unit, and setting up a toll-free confidential tipline for athletes and witnesses to call if they experience abuse.

“I want people to know that this work is being acted on right now. It continues. That this doesn’t stop. It’s been a priority for our government,” said Duncan. “My No. 1 priority is ending abuse and protecting athletes of all ages and abilities and protecting our children.”

A series of sexual abuse trials in Canada and the United States have rocked the world of sports in the past decade. The criminal trials of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, ex-Canadian national ski coach Bertrand Charest, Larry Nassar, a former doctor with the U.S. Gymnastics team, and most recently Dave Brubaker, the former director of the Canada’s women’s gymnastics team, have put the issue in the spotlight.

Duncan’s action items — creating a code of conduct with sanctions and finding a way to prevent coaches or officials from freely moving to another province or club after allegations of abuse — are a work in progress. But she points out that there are two major hurdles for her.

The first is that, with October’s federal election looming, time is running out for her to complete the task. The second is that although she has jurisdiction over national and multi-sport organizations, as a federal minister she can do little below the national level.

“When it comes to provincial levels and club level, I have to work with my colleagues across the country because there are constitutional issues,” said Duncan. “I have to work in partnership with sport ministers and with all stakeholders to move this forward.

READ MORE: Ottawa unveils plan to fight harassment, abuse, discrimination in sport

“It is about culture change. It doesn’t happen overnight. What I can tell you with the NSOs is that the agreements we have signed they now stipulate that funding will be withheld if they do not act on any abuse.”

Bruce Kidd, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Toronto who is in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame as an Olympic runner, has worked with Duncan and the Ministry of Science and Sport on a number of issues. He participated at the Safe Sport Summit that Duncan hosted in February ahead of the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta., where national sports bodies signed an anti-abuse declaration. He was also appointed to Duncan’s working group on gender equality in sport.

However, Kidd has been critical of the ministry’s anti-abuse measures, saying that they’re just “interim steps.” He wants the ministry to help establish a body to accept, investigate and adjudicate complaints, independent of both the sports organizations and the government.

“I think it’s got to be arm’s length from government because I think that is needed to give athletes and coaches confidence,” said Kidd. “The big fear is that if an abuser has a winning record and you’re building up to a major championship, an Olympics and so on, the responsible bodies will stall and not do anything.”

Kidd also points to USA Swimming’s banned member list, a website where the names of coaches who have been convicted of inappropriate behaviour are published for the benefit of other sports organizations, as an easy solution to the problem of intra-provincial communication.

However, Kidd’s not blind to the realities of an election cycle.

“If (Duncan) and the prime minister came out and said ‘the minute we are re-elected we will move to introduce the necessary legislation or mechanism to create a completely independent, comprehensive body,’ I would applaud that,” said Kidd, ”I would hope the other parties would embrace that, too. It would be fantastic if we gave that some broad attention during this election campaign.”

Duncan’s had other pressing issues to attend to as well. Creating educational programs about concussions to help with prevention and treatment for head injuries is a going concern, as is gender equality in sports.

“We keep coming back to culture, don’t we?” said Duncan. “Whether it’s the culture of abuse, where it’s a dirty secret to exposing this dirty secret and acting. Or changing the culture where athletes feel they have to push through an injury, feeling that they’ve got to compete, that is also a culture change.”

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 highlights lack of connectivity in First Nations communities

Many don’t have access required to utilize online platforms, says First Nations Technology Council

Salmon closures announced for Skeena and Nass watersheds

DFO notice expands on May 21 chinook ban throughout Skeena watershed

New traffic lanes for Six Mile west of Burns Lake coming soon

Construction to begin on lane extension and traffic improvement

Chamber names new board for 2020

And emphasizes that Houston is open for business

Houston to host high speed electric vehicle charging station

It will be installed and paid for by BC Hydro

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

State of Local Emergency declared for Boundary as communities brace for river flooding

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Most Read