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Fri, June 02, 2023

More than two dozen Canadian sporting organisations call on Trudeau to launch a national inquiry

More than two dozen Canadian sporting organisations call on Trudeau to launch a national inquiry

More than two dozen Canadian sporting organisations and activist groups have called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to launch a national inquiry into the toxic culture of abuse in sport in the country. 

Elite athletes appeared before a House of Commons committee Monday to accuse the federal government of doing nothing in response to abuse in sports and to demand a national public inquiry.

The athletes — who included Olympic boxer Myriam Da Silva Rondeau, football players Ciara McCormack and Andrea Neil, and fencer Emily Mason — told MPs about the physical and mental abuse they endured at the hands of coaches and others officials.

They said that abuse is rampant in multiple sports and they're calling for a fundamental re-think of how elite sports are governed in Canada.

“To date, more than 1,000 athletes from over 14 sports have called for a national inquiry. Their demands have been echoed by Scholars Against Abuse in Canadian Sport, Global Athlete, the Coaching Association of Canada, Canadian Women in Sport, Own the Podium, and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. Many sport organizations and agencies have openly said the system is broken and needs to be fixed. They, along with athletes, are begging for help.” a letter sent to Trudeau on Thursday 1st June 2023 said. 

McCormack told MPs she was forced to leave Canada for Ireland to escape abuse at the hands of Bob Birarda, a former Vancouver Whitecaps and national coach who recently was convicted of sex offences. She said she and others reported Birarda's abuse to Canada Soccer, the sport's governing body, but the organization protected this "known predator" for years.

She claimed Canada Soccer is riddled with "rampant conflicts of interest ... zero oversight" and financial mismanagement, and added that such allegations should be probed through a national inquiry. 

She wondered aloud how seriously Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge and her government are taking the problem. "Is she even watching? Is the prime minister watching? Are they watching?" she asked MPs. "It's so disappointing. I feel ashamed to be a Canadian."

Emily Mason is a former fencer who is now part of Fencing for Change Canada, a group that represents current and past Olympic and national fencers. She said her sport has a culture of "toxicity, bullying and abuse."

She told MPs of one coach who allegedly hosted female athletes at his home for a training camp only to bring out sex toys for a live demonstration.

Myriam Da Silva Rondeau, an Olympic boxer and Pan American Games silver medallist, was one of 121 boxers who wrote an open letter to Sport Canada last year calling for the resignation of high-performance director Daniel Trépanier. He resigned four days later.

Da Sila Rondeau told MPs that she's now being sued by someone she accused of creating a toxic sporting environment. She said the legal costs, combined with the costs of intensive therapy to help address mental health issues, have stretched her financially.

In May Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge announced several reforms which aim to ensure sport in Canada is safe and sports are held to account but many have said the proposals do not go far enough. 

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