Gymnastics Canada responds to letter circulated by “Global Athlete”

To the members of our community and all those who care about healthy sport.

Gymnastics Canada was made aware yesterday of an “open letter” circulated by Global Athlete expressing concerns regarding abuse and maltreatment in gymnastics. To date, Gymnastics Canada has not received the letter but is aware of it being circulated.

While we are saddened to learn that dozens of athletes feel that we failed to address these issues, we are committed to continuing to educate and advocate for system-wide reforms that will help ensure all participants feel respected, included and safe when training and competing in sport. We agree that many more supports must be in place to address unsafe practices in sport. We agree that an external and independent organization must be established to oversee complaints. We also agree that more work is needed to create more humanistic approaches where participants can thrive. We are aligned with the signatories to the letter that we be part of the solution to bring about positive culture change, in Canada, and globally. To that end, we will continue to work with our national sport counterparts, our international body and other countries towards systemic and attitudinal change in the sport globally and in Canada.

As concerned leaders, we are troubled by the contents of the letter and recognize that, alongside other National Sport Organizations (NSOs), more needs to be done to ensure safety in sport at all levels. Matters concerning athlete welfare are fundamental to all NSO operations, principles and values. Any reports of abuse and maltreatment in sport are treated extremely seriously and managed within the policies, procedures and protocols that are well established through the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport (UCCMS) and specific NSO policies. Currently, it is apparent that there are gaps and inadequacies in the management of safe sport. Until the independent mechanism is formalized by the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) NSOs must manage all complaints through independent contracted experts. Gymnastics Canada has been, and continues to be, a long-standing proponent of the establishment of the Independent Safe Sport Mechanism and we continue to work closely with the SDRCC toward this united vision.

The sport of Gymnastics, globally, has been the subject of many independent reviews of malpractice and abusive behaviour that have been brought forward through both the criminal justice system and through the voices of brave individuals. Gymnastics in Canada is not immune to these issues, and Gymnastics Canada, as the governing body for the sport in Canada, has addressed every complaint or concern that has come forward to the national body.

By way of background, since 2017, Gymnastics Canada has worked with all its Provincial and Territorial Partners to establish a coordinated approach to policies and procedures regarding abuse and maltreatment complaints in gymnastics. In January of 2022, Gymnastics Canada issued a “Request for Proposal” to commission an independent Culture Review of Gymnastics that includes a review of national/provincial policies and procedures to ensure that they remain current and consistent with leading practices. In addition, we have created educational materials, adopted the True Sport Principles, and consistently hosted seminars and meetings with all national level athletes, coaches, judges and administrators to ensure the safety of all participants in the sport. Gymnastics Canada was one of the first NSO’s to publish a list of “Suspended and Expelled Members” on its website, with the majority of these names being added since 2017. And importantly, we were the first NSO to endorse and adopt the Respect in Sport program as an educational tool to help prevent maltreatment in sport.

Ultimately, we believe that adhering to the highest values and principles requires a communal effort. We commit to sharing the protocols and eventual recommendations from the forthcoming independent cultural review and welcome the opportunity to address the concerns raised by the signatories to the open letter through that process. We anticipate that the organization retained to conduct this review will be announced in the very near future.

Gymnastics Canada Board