Gymnastics Canada response to Minister St. Onge’s funding freeze announcement

Last night, Minister St. Onge made announcements regarding her decision to temporarily freeze funding to Gymnastics Canada until an agreement is signed with the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC)/Abuse Free Sport.  Minister St. Onge’s public statements reiterate our collective efforts toward ensuring that athletes and participants in Canadian sport are truly served by an independent complaint mechanism and educational body.

Gymnastics Canada has had several meetings with Sport Canada and Sport Minister St. Onge’s office in respect to the organization’s commitment to the OSIC/Abuse Free Sport process and in our engagement of the McLaren Group for the development of a “Culture Review Roadmap” that takes into account historical matters, engagement with survivor groups, policy and procedure reviews, and a holistic and pro-active approach for change.   Gymnastics Canada, in alignment with our member associations, have been and continue to be transparent in all of our Safe Sport efforts including our updated policies, procedures, and in our educational efforts. We remain committed to address abuse and maltreatment through an independent, formal and legally tested complaint management process.  As importantly, Gymnastics Canada has and will continue to provide professional victim support services to all those in need as a result of abuse or maltreatment matters that are brought to our attention through the formal complaint process.

We agree with “Gymnasts For Change” that a safe and welcoming environment for all participants in sport is of paramount importance, and that we must continue to be vigilant in eradicating any opportunity for negative, inappropriate or abusive behaviour to occur.  The engagement of the McLaren Group speaks to our shared commitment of creating a holistic environment by collectively building a “roadmap” towards effective and sustainable behavioural and cultural change.

The recent open letter from “Gymnasts For Change” speaks to timelines of dialogue and action at both the Gymnastics Canada and Sport Canada level.  The matter of athlete and participant welfare have been central and integral to all we believe in at Gymnastics Canada, and it has been at the forefront of our internal Board and member dialogue for many years.  In that time, Gymnastics Canada and its member associations have coordinated and updated our respective Safe Sport policies and procedures, we have collectively received and dealt with a large number of complaints and concerns that have all been managed through independent processes, and we have been successful in suspending or expelling individuals who have clearly broken respective Codes of Conduct.  In all that time, Gymnastics Canada has consistently highlighted the obvious potential conflict of interest in the national body being responsible for the process and advocated for an alternate choice. We are relieved and grateful that the new OSIC/Abuse Free Sport mechanism will be managing these concerns in the future.

It is important to note that over 55 National Sport Organizations (NSO’s) and Multi-Sport Organizations (MSO’s) have been working tirelessly with the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) to finalize a core service agreement.  As soon as that agreement is finalized between the NSO’s, MSO’s and SDRCC, Gymnastics Canada will be signing accordingly.

The sport system is facing significant complexities as we commit to modernize our approaches and practices. As leaders in the sport of gymnastics, we will continue to do our very best to adopt evidence-based practices and remain committed to working through any issues openly, fairly, and in alignment with our values. We believe in the integrity of the process being led by the McLaren Group to help us create a holistic path forward and look forward to learning from this process and sharing the results with our community.