Towards a holistic environment
Sport organizations from around the world are grappling with the need to review, change and modernize policies, coaching philosophy, and governance systems. While we believe in the positive impacts that sport can have on building character, shaping positive values and fostering inclusive cultures for society as a whole, a growing number of participants are sharing stories of maltreatment. We must, collectively, come to terms with outdated approaches that may not sufficiently meet the needs of participants in the 21st century. The sport of gymnastics, due to the young age of the vast majority of its participants has been especially scrutinized over horrific allegations of abuse, neglect and other forms of maltreatment. Gymnastics Canada is committed to being among the sport organizations who want to make things right. As sport leaders, we must continue to listen to those that have been subjected to maltreatment, work together as a collective to address the issues, and put in place the necessary standards to modernize our sport system. We must do so by uniting through a shared vision and common values. When we do so, excellence on the field of play will follow.
The sport of Gymnastics has had significant public attention on issues related to athlete wellbeing. Gymnastics Canada and its member organizations are committed to being sector leaders with respect to safety in sport, and have been working to enhance our collective policies, procedures, processes and governance to ensure that we do everything possible to prevent maltreatment, reduce harm, and foster a healthy training and competition environment. We acknowledge that there remain gaps, largely due to outdated governance practices and funding models. As we navigate this challenging and complex environment, we must also communicate our safe sport commitments.
There have been many public posts and media stories speaking about a toxic environment in Gymnastics. We are grateful to those that have helped to surface these issues, including the media. We are committed to work with all our members and participants to ensure positive change, and that is why we have been one of the first NSOs to sign up to the OSIC/Abuse Free Sport program and why we have also embarked on an Independent Culture Review Roadmap process with the McLaren Group. As these initiatives unfold, we continue to encourage all individuals to report their welfare concerns to the confidential GymCan Safe Sport Hotline or to the confidential Hotline operated by the SDRCC.
Our vision for Gymnastics Canada is to be a trusted partner alongside our PTSOs and Clubs by creating a participant-centered environment that is respectful, equitable, and inclusive. In addition to the independent culture review roadmap process we have commissioned, we have taken many other measures to more proactively create a shared commitment to safety in sport, based on respectful principles, policies, and procedures. This also includes educating people on all available options for seeking help when they feel unsafe or maltreated. We are committed to ongoing system improvements to ensure we are doing everything possible to promote and foster a safe and welcoming environment.
We want to acknowledge over 700 Gymnastics clubs, and thousands of volunteers, coaches and professional leaders who are programming positive daily gymnastics and active play opportunities for over 300,000 young Canadians across the country. We all have a role in keeping sport fun, safe, and healthy and we will continue to work towards a better environment for all involved.
We have created this document to share some of the ways we are working towards a safer and more inclusive environment for all participants.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- How has Gymnastics Canada responded to the concerns regarding abuse and maltreatment in the sport?
- In 2017, Gymnastics Canada and its Member Organizations recognized the need to address Safe Sport matters in a more coordinated and transparent manner. Since then, Gymnastics Canada has:
- Worked with our provincial and territorial organizations to update and align all Safe Sport policies and procedures
- Implemented a “Reciprocity Agreement” across the country that ensures that all member provincial and territorial gymnastics associations are reporting and sharing information related to the outcome of Safe Sport complaints (including the publication of a “Suspended/Expelled Members” list)
- Collectively worked with other sport leaders, the SDRCC, and Sport Canada towards the implementation of independent Case Management systems across the country
- Worked together with our provincial and territorial partners on Safe Sport education initiatives at all levels of the sport.
- At the National level, Gymnastics Canada has:
- Signed the OSIC/Abuse Free Sport agreement that provides for a nationally coordinated and fully independent complaint management process.
- Identified a full-time staff role dedicated to lead Safe Sport programming
- Initiated meetings and educational webinars for all national level participants focused on a greater awareness of a safe and welcoming sporting environment
- Continue to update our policies and procedures as they relate to the implementation of all Safe Sport programming (including Case Management).
- Signed on to the “True Sport” movement that promotes fairness, inclusion, excellence and fun in all sporting activities (https://www.cces.ca/true-sport).
- Worked closely with the Coaching Association of Canada in updating our coach education materials to properly reflect the latest Safe Sport research and methodology.
- How does Gymnastics Canada manage complaints? The complaint management process has evolved significantly since 2017. Gymnastics Canada has complied with all Sport Canada requirements as a federally funded NSO and has also been committed to updating our process to ensure we are adopting leading practices. For instance, since 2018, Gymnastics Canada has implemented a complaint management process that is completely independent of Gymnastics Canada staff and board involvement. An overview of the process can be found here: https://gymcan.org/uploads/programs/gymcan_complaint-management-process_en.pdf
As of December 2nd, 2022, Gymnastics Canada will use the services of OSIC/Abuse Free Sport for any complaints that fall within the Universal Code of Conduct for Maltreatment in Sport (UCCMS) – information can be found here: https://abuse-free-sport.ca/
- How does Gymnastics Canada ensure that its Safe Sport Policies and Procedures are current and sector leading? With legal assistance, Gymnastics Canada did a full overhaul of our Safe Sport policies and procedures in 2018-19 – these are listed on the Gymnastics Canada website (https://gymcan.org/programs/safe-sport/policies).
It is appropriate to have full policy review every 3-4 years, especially in an environment such as Safe Sport policy where new methodologies and principles are emerging quickly. Since that time, Gymnastics Canada has been implementing our Safe Sport procedures in line with these policies and, at the same time, have been monitoring changes in best practice and trauma-informed programming to update our procedures as necessary. With the engagement of the McLaren Group, there will be the opportunity for a fulsome review of the policies and procedures and learn from our community about ways we can make improvements that aligns with OSIC/Abuse Free Sport requirements. As well, through the OSIC/Abuse Free Sport agreement, all Gymnastics Canada Safe Sport policies and procedures will be adjusted to ensure full alignment with the UCCMS.
- The group “GymnastsForChange” have called for an independent external investigation of Gymnastics. The entire sport system needs to modernize and the same is true for how sport is governed and led in Canada. The call for an “independent external investigation” by Gymnasts for Change and others who have called for systemic changes, could be better served if the government called for an independent Inquiry into the State of Sport.
Until such time as there is a collective modernization of the sport system, Gymnastics Canada has taken its own progressive steps to deal with the need to modernize its culture by engaging the McLaren Group in an independent process to assist in developing a “Culture Review Roadmap” that can be utilized by all leaders in Gymnastics towards long term sustainable cultural change. This world-leading organization has been lauded internationally for Mr. McLaren’s integrity in investigating matters pertained to doping in Russia. We felt there would be no better person to lead the important work here in Canada than the McLaren Group. As we trust professionals to audit our financial system, we have placed our trust in Mr. McLaren and his colleagues to help support our commitment to understand, learn, and make the necessary changes. There have been external investigations into Gymnastics culture conducted in numerous countries around the world- which have resulted in many recommendations. It is important that Gymnastics Canada recognize these recommendations and work with our respective provincial and territorial member associations to determine how these recommendations may fit into the cultural review process for Canada. It should be noted that the McLaren Group is also reviewing all the external investigation reports to date as they build their final report to Gymnastics Canada.
It is also important to note that Gymnastics Canada and the McLaren Group have reached out to GymnastsForChange, as have the government, to engage towards positive change in Gymnastics, whether it be through interviews and input into the McLaren Group report or in moving forward with OSIC mechanisms for sport environment assessments. To date, they have chosen not to engage in any of these opportunities provided. Finally, Gymnastics Canada is in regular contact with the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) and is working in concert with their Safeguarding Committee to ensure that Canada is seen as both a leader world-wide for culture change but to also remain current on the latest international research and best practice processes pertaining to Safe Sport.
- Does Gymnastics Canada keep a fund dedicated to payments to claimants of abuse and maltreatment? Gymnastics Canada has never paid a claimant for abuse and maltreatment allegations, nor do we have a separate fund to pay for claimant allegations of abuse and maltreatment.
Gymnastics Canada, like most not-for-profit organizations, maintains a fiscal “reserve fund” solely for the purpose of ensuring financial stability for the organization should any dire economic situation occur; for instance, the recent COVID pandemic forcing all clubs to shut down and resulting in a significant reduction in revenue for Gymnastics Canada.
Gymnastics Canada maintains insurance coverage at the highest levels possible, and that are in line with annual “risk assessment” reviews for the organization.
- How does Gymnastics Canada fund its Complaint Management System? Gymnastics Canada is solely responsible for properly funding its independent complaint management system. There are no government funds available or used in managing this system.
Gymnastics Canada forecasts possible costs annually based on known active cases, and builds these costs into its annual budget. All costs to manage the process come from self-generated revenue internally to Gymnastics Canada. Gymnastics Canada provides full transparency on its annual Case Management costs through its annual audited statements (available on the GymCan website).
- What is the status of Gymnastics Canada’s government funding since it was frozen in July? Gymnastics Canada has fulfilled the requirement put in place by the Minister to release government funding for this year – that is, the requirement to sign up to the OSIC/Abuse Free Sport program. This agreement was signed by SDRCC and Gymnastics Canada on October 18, 2022 and the full OSIC/Abuse Free Sport program will come into effect by December 2, 2022, at the latest.
- When will the McLaren Report be completed and what steps will Gymnastics Canada take to implement a “Culture Review Roadmap” and other recommendations anticipated in the McLaren Report? The McLaren report will be released as a public document in late January 2023 by the McLaren Group directly. Gymnastics Canada will review the recommendations stemming from the report and will then meet with its Provincial/Territorial leaders (including athlete and coach representatives) to review the document and determine how best to implement the recommendations. Gymnastics Canada will also develop a public reporting document on a semi-annual basis that will provides updates on progress towards the implementation of all the McLaren Group recommendations.
- How can Gymnastics Canada reassure the Canadian public of the continued safe environment for children participating in Gymnastics? The Member Associations of Gymnastics Canada – the Provincial and Territorial Gymnastics Associations – have been at the forefront for leader/coach education, volunteer screening and club governance and development tools. We continue to collectively bolster our screening and Safe Sport protocols both within the training and competition environment, but also are building out stronger safeguarding mechanisms at all levels for athletes/participants to flourish in safe and welcoming environments.
Changing culture is a continuous process. We will not be content until we are confident that any mindset that could contribute to a negative environment is eradicated from the sport. We know that we have to continue to take long and hard looks at how and why participants enter into the sport, what tools and resources are available to all at the club level to better understand the parameters and expectations for engagement and, ultimately, to continue to engage the parents and guardians of young children in active roles in the development of their child.
We encourage all clubs to share their detailed programming and safe and welcoming environment plans with parents. We encourage all parents to engage and educate themselves in the positive benefits of gymnastics. Finally, we support all participants to speak up should they feel a level of discomfort or concern.