Canada’s sport minister expects an onslaught of complaints when the new sport integrity commissioner’s office takes office later this month.
The country’s first sports integrity commissioner, Sarah-Eve Pelletier, will begin receiving and handling complaints on June 20.
The US Center for SafeSport, founded in 2017, said it received 5,000 reports and sanctioned over 600 people in its first three years of operation.
St-Onge established the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC) as an independent body to investigate reports of abuse.
“We also anticipate a backlog,” St-Onge told The Canadian Press. “I know there will be a lot of calls just because of the stories we’ve been hearing over the last few weeks and months.
“I’m really shocked by the stories we’ve heard.
“I am glad that we will have an independent mechanism. I know the first few years will be tough, but I hope we can have a future where athletes know as soon as situations arise (where) they can turn, so we can intervene as quickly as possible.”
This year’s federal budget provided $16 million to fund OSIC’s operations for the first three years.
Sport Canada already contributes over $1 million annually to the Sport Dispute Resolution Center of Canada (SDRCC), which provides arbitration and mediation to resolve disputes.
In comparison, the US Center for SafeSport’s 2020 funding envelope was $18.2 million, with a contribution of $11.5 million from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committees.
“We’ll be watching closely how things go when resources allow,” St-Onge said. “We are already funding the SDRCC. That extra $16 million over the next three years, we’ll see how it goes.
All national sports organizations will be bound by a universal code of conduct. St-Onge says she has met with NSOs about safe sport.
“You all know that it is a really big problem that I will not stand by tolerating the situations and the stories that we have heard,” the minister said.
“They all know that we are working towards a culture change, that they have to be a part of it. We will raise the bar on what we expect from them and how they must prevent situations like this from happening.”
Urge reports of mistreatment and abuse
St-Onge is supporting Canada Basketball’s “Learn About The Signs” campaign, which was announced Thursday in Ottawa during a Canadian Elite Basketball League game between the BlackJacks and Scarborough Shooting Stars. The minister attended the game.
The campaign, funded by Sport Canada, features an ad dramatizing toxic behavior.
“We can’t be at every gym in this country, but we can hold every gym accountable,” said Michael Bartlett, Canada Basketball’s chief executive officer.
“Our job must be to use our megaphone, our platform, our marketing muscles, our resources to collectively bring the basketball community’s attention to what is and is not acceptable so that they have the authority to denounce the unacceptable behavior , and have tools and resources at their disposal to know what to do in such situations.
Bartlett is prepared for the ad campaign to potentially encourage people to report abuse and abuse in the sport of basketball.
“I will not be upset, disappointed or embarrassed about our sector if instances suddenly pop up because in some cases I actually think maybe this campaign will give people the confidence to come forward,” he said.
“No sport is perfect. No ecosystem is perfect. There is a separation of values everywhere that we cannot control, but we can do something about it.
“I want our sport to be at the forefront of doing something about it when something is put before us. Creating that mark of trust in the basketball community is a goal here.”
St-Onge said, “It’s a good sign that an organization as big as Canada Basketball is going to do something on this issue. Given the latest stories we’ve heard, one of the problems in the sports system is the culture of silence.
“People have been silent in the face of these situations. Talking about it is a really important first step.”