Good morning, everyone.
I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting No. 81 of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is taking place on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format pursuant to the House order of Thursday, June 23, 2022.
I have a bit of housekeeping. While public health authorities and the Board of Internal Economy no longer require mask wearing indoors or in the precinct, masks and respirators are still excellent tools to protect against the spread of COVID and other respiratory diseases, so they are recommended.
I'd like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that they are not allowed to take photos of your screen. Everything will be out on the public website, so you'll be able to see it there.
For anyone who is virtual, at the bottom of your screen there is a little icon—it looks like a globe—for interpretation. If you press it, it will give you the option of English, French or floor audio. When you speak, speak through the chair. Keep your mike muted when you're not speaking and to ensure that you do not speak unless you are asked to speak, or unless your name is called.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Tuesday, September 20, 2022, the committee is meeting to continue the study on safe sport in Canada.
I want to welcome witnesses this morning.
From the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, we have Jeremy Luke, president and chief executive officer; and Karri Dawson, executive director, values-based sport.
From Own the Podium, we have Anne Merklinger, chief executive officer; and from Sport'Aide we have Sylvain Croteau, executive director.
To the witnesses, you each have five minutes to give your statement, and then we will move to a question and answer period.
We will begin with opening remarks by Jeremy Luke for five minutes, please.
Thank you, Madam Chair, for the opportunity to speak to the committee.
My colleague Karri Dawson and I are pleased to be with you today to share perspectives from the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport on the critically important topic of safe sport in Canada. Today we will provide you with an overview of the CCES and speak to you about the importance of an independent national inquiry into the state of sport in Canada, along with the importance of education, prevention and culture change as part of the approach to create and maintain a positive sport culture.
The CCES is a national non-profit organization with a vision of fair, safe, accessible and inclusive sport. We have four main pillars of focus. The first is advancing values-based sport through True Sport. The second is fulfilling Canada’s commitment to the World Anti-Doping Code as the country's national anti-doping agency. The third is addressing the emerging threat of competition manipulation associated with gambling in sport. The fourth is offering ethical sport leadership through the development of tools and resources.
The CCES has worked collaboratively with athletes and sport leaders, as well as experts in sexualized violence, in an effort to address issues related to safe sport. An example of this is the work the CCES did in collaboration with sport leaders, athletes and independent academic experts to develop the first version of the UCCMS.
We recognize the substantial efforts being undertaken to address safe sport issues, including the implementation of the UCCMS and the establishment of the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner. We also recognize the positive steps towards a safe and accountable sport system, including governance, accountability, education and the sanctions registry announced by the last Thursday. We also recognize the enormous courage and effort of a multitude of former and current athletes to shine a bright light on abuse and maltreatment in sport.
However, more needs to be done. On July 25 of last year, the CCES board of directors wrote an open letter to the , calling for an independent national inquiry into the state of sport in Canada. We continue to believe an independent national inquiry is needed to examine the culture of sport and to produce recommendations on how to eliminate maltreatment in sport at all levels.
The commission of inquiry into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Canadian sport, known as the Dubin inquiry, led to the creation of the CCES in the early 1990s. This was a time when countries around the world, along with sport organizations, were grappling with drug use in sport and how to manage this public health issue. The Dubin inquiry enabled Canada to emerge from this era with clear recommendations that led to culture change in sport and established Canada as a global leader in protecting athletes’ health from performance-enhancing drug use. The same approach should be taken for safe sport.
We also believe there needs to be the same focus on education and prevention to drive positive culture change as there is on compliance, regulation and reporting. Our experience with anti-doping has demonstrated the importance of both detection and deterrence, as well as the impact of values-based education—which we call “True Sport”—to change culture and behaviour.
For safe sport, we need to prioritize a centralized and standardized approach to education, underpinned by a common set of values and principles, in order to ensure we eliminate the behaviours we don’t want and model the behaviours we do want. Often, this area of work is overlooked and under-resourced. For real change to occur, it must be prioritized.
Thank you again for the opportunity to provide an overview of the CCES and to share with you the importance of both an independent national inquiry and a prioritized focus on education, prevention and culture change. The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport stands ready to assist in any way possible.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Madam Chair, for the invitation to appear before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to elaborate on what we at Own the Podium do, how we do it and why we do it. It is an honour to be here.
It goes without saying that one safe sport issue in our system is one too many. We must all protect the physical and psychological safety of athletes and of everyone involved in high-performance sport in Canada. This may not be obvious to everyone, but it is an absolute non-negotiable.
OTP is a non-profit organization whose mission is to lead and to accelerate the development of Canadian sports, fundamentally, to achieve sustainable and improved performances at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We have two mandates. The first is to provide leading-edge technical support to national sport organizations. The second is to prioritize investment recommendations by making expert-driven, collaborative funding recommendations based on evidence. Values are, and always will be, the cornerstone for all decision-making.
As it happens, we are in the midst today of an internal review to include an organizational purpose and revised vision, mission and mandate statements that better describe our current approach and priorities. While it is early days in this process, the message is clear that our purpose must reflect the important role Own the Podium plays in supporting our country's sport system and its athletes as they inspire Canadians, not just in winning but in winning well.
OTP provides technical advice to all Olympic and Paralympic sport organizations. The funding recommendations made on behalf of the Government of Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee focus on helping athletes, coaches and sport organizations that show clear evidence of athletes or teams being on the podium pathway over an eight-year horizon. OTP does not financially reward sports for a medal performance.
We believe that high-performance athletes should be afforded the resources and the opportunities to pursue their athletic objectives safely and without regret. Our goal is to help all athletes get to the start line and to know that they have done everything possible to achieve their goals in an environment that promotes and protects their psychological and physical health and safety.
OTP knows that participant wellness—both physical and psychological—is a key prerequisite to everyone achieving their goals. We recently introduced a requirement that all NSOs must have a wellness plan for all participants in the high-performance program. We've also initiated culture assessments and have provided resources to support building positive cultures in the high-performance space. These are just two examples of changes we have made in our approach to protect the psychological and physical health and safety of participants in high-performance sport. I want to stress that the health, safety and well-being of all people in Canada's sport system—from the playground to the podium—are most important. This is not a “win at all costs” approach.
OTP believes it is important for Canada to do well on sport's global stage. Every Olympic and Paralympic Games inspires Canadians to be better versions of themselves, be it at school, at business, at home or in the community. Sport is about developing great people. Every Olympic and Paralympic Games introduces us to a whole new generation of role models for Canada. Every athlete achieving their personal goals through a healthy and an enjoyable journey is a champion for developing a healthier population, more active communities, and a prouder, stronger and united Canada. Sport has an important role in nation-building in our country.
While we must always pursue higher goals, our sport system has to be better at identifying its gaps, continuing to work together, supporting one another, and talking about what it does well and where we can be better. The system needs to demonstrate to Canadians the benefits of sport. Sport, when done right, is an incredible force for good.
It can make our communities better. It builds new generations of leaders. It's good for the physical and mental health of everyone involved, and so much more.
Significant work remains ahead of us, but change is happening. Creating a healthier, safer and more inclusive place for all is, and must always be, our top priority. This is not a choice. We must never settle for “good enough” in this area. We must always put people first, hold ourselves accountable regularly and drive further down this path every day to ensure all Canadians can enjoy the benefits of sport.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
On behalf of Sport'Aide, thank you for inviting us here today to share our vision, which is informed by our comprehensive, positive, accountable and sustainable approach.
Sport'Aide has been active in Quebec since 2018. As a leader, Sport'Aide offers initiatives that promote safe, healthy environments for Quebec athletes and other sport community stakeholders at both elite and recreational levels. We provide counselling, support and referral services to everyone who has witnessed or been a victim of physical, sexual or psychological violence. We also advise organizations in the sports, education, municipal and athletic recreation sectors. We do this by developing, perfecting and implementing education and awareness tools and activities.
Two weeks ago, as we were preparing to testify before this committee, we felt it was important to share the main conclusion we've drawn in the five years we've been promoting safe, healthy sport: our athletes' well-being has been sacrificed because of a blinding, money-driven obsession with results. Consequently, stakeholders have failed to take action and have sometimes even protected perpetrators. In short, as such incidents become more common and normalized, we see them as increasingly alarming and, frankly, discouraging.
Nevertheless, we decided to change the focus of our remarks following the recent public statement by , which made it clear we weren't alone in being aware of and concerned about this twofold problem. The minister's desire to drive a culture change by reforming our sport system, establishing a governance code and a registry of sanctions and investing in prevention is consistent with Sport'Aide's approach.
So today we're going to focus on a few recommendations to bring about real change in Canadian sport. The magnitude of this change calls for pragmatism and collective action. We are heartened by this collective awakening and by the fact that some nations have already achieved this goal in both sport and education.
Topping the list is Norway, proof positive that well-being, enjoyment and success can indeed coexist. Launched in 1988, the Norwegian reform prioritized development and the joy of sport. It changed Norway's sport culture and turned it into the most successful nation in history at the Winter Olympic Games.
With respect to preventing violence, the issue we are discussing today, Finland has mobilized 90% of its schools to reduce violence by more than 50%.
Inspired by these successes, Sport'Aide is here today to talk about its comprehensive, positive, sustainable and accountable approach.
Our approach is comprehensive, because this societal change requires commitment on the part of all stakeholders. To achieve results, we have to set up a structure that will bring about change at all levels, from young to old and, as we say back home, from Timbit to elite. Although some measures implemented at the national level are very valid, it is difficult to align them with provincial and local bodies without getting private sport involved.
Our approach is positive, because proven approaches focus on changing beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. Approaches based solely on repression and control, like those suggested last Thursday, have major limitations. That's why Sport'Aide already promotes an approach that prioritizes developing life skills, together with partners such as the Académie de baseball du Canada in Trois-Rivières, the Institut national du sport du Québec in Montreal, and the Montreal Canadiens.
Our approach is sustainable, because our actions must be part of everyday life if they are to last. This means investing in resources whose sole responsibility is to effect this change in federations and clubs. Let's be realistic: at this point, our organizations don't have the means to facilitate this kind of process. Investing in facilities is all well and good, but the time has come to invest in the people who bring these facilities to life. Let's remember that every dollar invested in an approach that promotes life skills yields a return to society of $11.
Our approach is accountable, because results-obsessed blindness is extremely problematic when it alone guides our actions and behaviours. Although last week's announcement on governance is a step in the right direction, we need to make sure accountability is central to the values system that dictates the course of action for Canada's sport system as a whole, thereby ensuring that at least as much attention is paid to athletes' well-being as to their performance. Unfortunately, because existing measures aren't properly evaluated, too many organizations think it's fine to just check the boxes.
Fortunately, things can change. We know that getting this societal undertaking off the ground requires collective effort, genuine will, and concrete, lasting action. I'll conclude with the following six recommendations: create a committee that represents stakeholders across Canadian sport; establish a structure that ensures effective interorganizational communication; base prevention efforts on developing life skills; increase and optimize funding for sport and make it more equitable for all; scientifically assess the impact of this culture change; and conduct an independent national inquiry.
Ladies and gentlemen, the game has begun, but it is far from over. That's why I'll end with this question: What legacy do we want to leave?
At CCES we use an approach called “true sport”. I believe the committee has heard of it before. It's our approach to values-based sport. It's an approach that is underpinned by a set of common values and principles that were chosen by Canadians. This dates back to the early 2000s. We did some public community research and found out that 80% of Canadians thought that sport was this wonderful, valuable public asset that could do all kinds of great things for our kids in communities, but fewer than 20% of Canadians thought that sport was living up to that potential.
We set out and talked to Canadians across the country. They chose the values of fairness, excellence, inclusion and fun as the four values to underpin. We developed a program called True Sport, with a variety of tools and resources that we take out to everything from communities to provinces and territories to national sport organizations. It's applicable to all sports at all levels.
In 2018 we had the opportunity to do another tour in partnership with the Public Policy Forum, called the “values proposition” symposium. We recanvassed Canadians around the shared set of values and principles and whether they were still relevant. We found that they were.
We're seeing that it is a good way to have system alignment to have a shared set of values and principles that underpin the sport experience, so that you can model the behaviours and expectations of everyone who has a part in the sport system.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I just want to say how amazed I am to see how far we've come in the year since I moved the motion to invite representatives of Hockey Canada to appear before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. I want to take a moment to thank all my colleagues and the witnesses.
I feel that people are hopeful and want to make change happen. I see evidence the will is there. Having said that, one of the ways to make these changes a reality is to have an independent public inquiry. Representatives of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport have said as much.
I'd like you to explain to us how this inquiry should be set up and what it can change, at this stage, so we can act on the recommendations and make the changes we would like to make in sport.
I'd like to point out that many athletes and groups of athletes have repeatedly and urgently called for just such an inquiry on social media.
Now I have a question for Mr. Croteau from Sport'Aide.
First of all, thank you for your leadership, foresight and long-standing commitment to safe and healthy engagement in sport.
I'd like to know your thoughts on the independent public inquiry, given that you're in Quebec. I'd like to know how the federal government and the provinces can find common ground through an independent public inquiry. Obviously, that can create tension. How do we make sure we set up a solid foundation for the inquiry to cover all sports organizations, from Timbits to the podium, as you put it?
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses. We appreciate their presence here today and their testimonies.
The fact is that our national sports organizations have been in crisis for a year now. As my colleague Mr. Lemire said, we are seeing a growing number of revelations that are causing tremendous harm to public trust in the national sport system. In addition to the cases of sexual abuse and sexual violence there is also the whole issue of financial transparency.
You all mentioned being in favour of a public inquiry. It is important. I think that is a recommendation that some people around the table will promote when the time comes to produce our report. It is essential.
On the topic of financial transparency, it is also a matter of protecting the victims and not requiring them to sign agreements that muzzle them. That is also something we need to discuss.
I want to ask each witness these questions around financial transparency that we have seen, notably with Hockey Canada and Canada Soccer. They have stunned Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Many sports organizations continue to use non-disclosure agreements to muzzle victims from speaking out if they so choose. An NDA should not be constructed in such a way that victims are unable to speak out if they so choose. We benefit, in this climate of crisis we have with national sports organizations, from victims telling us their stories if they so choose.
My question to all three organizations is, what should the federal government be doing to ensure financial transparency? We cannot have, as we've seen from testimony here at the committee, secret funds—funds that are hidden and not available either to members of the organization or to the public—or agreements that are signed, where it is not clear there's been transparency, even though, ultimately, it has cost the organization a lot.
Secondly, should the federal government be insisting that victims should be free to speak out if they so choose? Should the government ensure that any national sports organization does not impose an NDA on victims that does not allow them to speak out if they so choose?
I'll ask all three organizations those two questions.
For my part, I tend to question the entire Canadian sport system, not just the financial aspect.
Why not create a panel of stakeholders from various backgrounds and different layers of the sport system? We have to get out of the mode of dealing with the elite and national federations. Our support trickles down. Our local organizations and our athletes need to be heard. We need to be supported in this and there needs to be no stone left unturned.
As far as funding is concerned, there may be solutions we have not thought of yet. Earlier, someone alluded to sports betting, which seems to quite popular these days. Why would sports betting not serve the Canadian sport system instead of foreign interests? Why would there not be a national lottery to partially fund the Canadian sport system?
As for the non-disclosure agreements our young people have been forced to sign to date, Sport'Aide was outraged to find out about that. Whether we are young or not so young, when we are a victim of anything whatsoever it is hard enough to ask for help. If we are asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement to boot it is even harder. There is no need to spend two minutes in a victim's shoes to know what this means to them. I have not been a victim, but based on the testimony we are receiving, I can imagine the pressure of all this. We will put a stop to it.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here today. I find this interesting.
I have some questions for Mr. Croteau, naturally.
In her recommendations, the talked about a registry of sanctioned individuals. How do you picture this registry being implemented? There is talk of unacceptable behaviour, but where do we draw the line between unacceptable behaviour and acceptable behaviour? How many offences will a person need to commit before being registered? If complaints against a coach are admissible, will he automatically be added to the registry?
Is creating this registry a complex process? It is a rather sensitive exercise.
That is good, Mr. Croteau.
This brings me to training for coaches.
Today, given everything we know, coaches need to know how far they can go, where they need to stop and how they need to manage different situations. What is more, often the entire community is accountable because the coach, quite often, is pushed by certain people.
To me, training and follow-up are very important. How do you imagine proceeding on that?
To my knowledge, that does not exist in other provinces. The Canadian system has been put in place there.
In Quebec, the complaints officer system was set up in March 2021. So far, it has proven effective. It isn't perfect, and we knew that when we launched it in the fall of 2020. When I say "we,” I mean the Quebec government, the Regroupement loisir et sport du Québec, Sport'Aide and the Quebec sport community. Back when we announced the system, we were saying already that it could be improved upon.
After two years in operation, we are now realizing that some improvements need to be made. A committee has been struck and we are working together to determine what improvements we can make to the system. Although it is not perfect, the system has proven effective so far.
I'm going to have to intervene. I don't want to be disrespectful.
I have another question I want to ask, but thank you for sharing. I'd like to get some more information on it.
Racism in sport doesn't come up in these meetings often, with the major organizations. There have been individuals who have come to speak on the issue. If we do a study on safe sport, maybe you can provide us some advice on what the internal experience of the organization has been when it comes to diversity, inclusion, fairness and equity.
Specifically, what is your organization doing to combat systemic racism in sport, which many people say exists?
We can start with you, please.