Sunday, March 3, 2024

Ottawa is clamping down on the air conditioning of the sports federations

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Virginia Whitehead
Virginia Whitehead
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This was announced by Federal Sports Minister Pascal St-Onge on Thursday at the House of Sports in Ottawa.

The Minister says the goal of everything we’re putting in is really the foundations for changing the culture in Canadian sports. The things we’ve heard is that there is a kind of omerta or law of silence.

After the many scandals that have rocked Canadian sports in recent months, the government wants to standardize governance practices and, above all, ensure that federations are more transparent and accountable.

We are told that there is not enough accountability within the system or transparency. Thus there, the boards of directors are required to publish their minutes and financial statements, after scrutiny and detail, on their website. The composition of the boards of directors is changed to avoid conflicts of interestindicate.

Some of the key principles that organizations should apply include:

  • The size of the boards of directors should be functional, and thus consist of 5 to 15 members (the ideal is 7 to 11 members);
  • At least 40% of the board members must be independent (receive no material benefits and be free from conflicts of interest);
  • The board of directors must consist of a maximum of 60% of the directors of the same gender;
  • At least one sports representative must be on the board of directors or at least be an observer;
  • The Chairman of the Board of Directors shall be elected by the members of the Board of Directors and shall be independent.

In recent years, the system has relied heavily on the goodwill of sports organisations. Going forward, Sport Canada will be the custodian of these key principles.

There are experts who will be recruited from abroad to help Sport Canada put in place reliable indicators and appropriate assessment tools, explains Pascal Saint-Onge. There will also be a sanctions process. When organizations do not meet standards, we will provide them with tools to help them do so. But when you don’t work, there will be fines.

It wouldn’t be surprising for unions to enforce the Governance Code since it has been in place since 2021. Some have already referred to it to ensure they are complying with good practices.

No public inquiry into Canadian sports

For several weeks now, the Quebec Block has been calling for a public inquiry into Canadian sports. Some athletes also consider this exercise necessary to clean up a system that has been left unattended for a long time.

However, it was not in the minister’s plans to announce a public inquiry now.

However, she says there will be one in due time.

I remain as determined as I was when I spoke about it before the Commission on the Status of Women to give an answer to the athletes who make these requests, says Pascale St-Onge. What we’re announcing today is actually a reform of the sports system, but there are still things to come. Among other things, there are reports from the Commission on the Status of Women, of the Heritage Commission that there will be recommendations. We will consider it seriously and I am committed and have the same determination to meet the athletes’ request for a national investigation.

Minister St-Onge also reminded everyone that, since 1 April, all Nationals athletes can refer to the Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner to report cases of abuse or mistreatment in order to receive support.

This is a big step forward. Previously, the mechanisms had to be put in place by the organizations themselves. There was a perception that the survey results were not sufficiently independent. We must do more for prevention and education. Not only do we want to deal with abuse or mistreatment, we want to prevent it.

It is expected that a record of the penalties imposed on coaches will be made available to the public.

The idea is that members of the public, athletes, parents and organizations will be able to check if coaches have already received a pending penalty. Once complete, it should be removed from the public side, but organizations will still be able to check if the coaches they want to hire have already been sanctioned. The work is underway, and we want to get there as quickly as possible.

At the same time, Minister St-Onge wants to raise the standards for accreditation and selection of coaches in national sporting organisations. It specifies that coaches from foreign countries will also have to undergo training in the values ​​and standards of Canadian sport before they can be hired.

So that all stakeholders can target problematic situations and know how to act, the government will invest $1 million in promoting and using tools to counter abuse in sport.

It’s simple, we have to do bettersummed up the minister.

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financing

Another point of contention raised by some members of the sporting community is the issue of federation financing. It is closely linked to the performance of athletes through Own the Podium. The paradigm is questioned arguing that the pursuit of medals at any cost is detrimental to the athletes’ well-being or even their health.

A woman is sitting and listening to two other people

Minister Pascal St-Onge (centre) speaks with athletes Alison Levine and Jonathan Vermeet.

Photo: Radio-Canada/Josie Ann Tellon

The Sports Minister notes that this aspect is part of a broader reversal in Canadian sports policy.

There is still work to be done, particularly with our Own the Podium organization, to review a little bit the way we are funded and what we value most in the athletic system. So there will be a publication of Canadian sports policy that should address these issues, in particular the definition of excellence, the values ​​that we value and then what do we value through the sports system? And so, there is still work to be done.and concluded.

Consultations with the sports community are ongoing and a review of the Sports Canada policy is expected in the coming months.

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