Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Dear Friends of the Centre,

Like many of you, we were deeply saddened to read CBC’s investigative piece on the prevalence of sexual abuse in sport in this country.  Equally sadly, I cannot say we were overly surprised. 

In our role in the High Performance system in Manitoba, we occasionally come across situations where athletes, coaches or administrators are subject to harmful behaviours.  Most often, they come in the form of outdated beliefs about “toughening” athletes and the physical and emotional trauma those coaching practices might entail.  More and more of our work is rebuilding athletes after, or sometimes while, their sport environment has harmed them.

While it is rare that we have sexual abuse disclosed to us, I want you to know what we have done, and continue to do, to ensure that CSCM is a safe place for all who come in contact with it.  Our path began, as too many of these do, several years ago as a discussion that arose about the toxic environment at one of our partner organizations. For me, it was a very awkward conversation; I certainly did not have the language to describe what we were hearing and how to talk about it in a professional context. I think it was difficult for our staff.  There was some crying. There were, for me anyway, some shocking revelations about the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace and the ineffectiveness of policy when it does not dovetail with culture. This point is critically important to us at CSCM. It is, and will always be, more important that we live a culture that minimizes the likelihood of harmful behaviours to the greatest extent possible, rather than having the perfect policy that ensures we win any court case that results.

I am proud to say that we have come a long way since those first, stilted, steps.  Discussions around current issues of abuse in the sport landscape are commonplace at CSCM.  We have had Sandi Kirby, Olympian and co-founder of Safe Sport International work with us on several occasions.  Some of you will know that CSCM was one of the original Manitoba-based sport organizations to sign on to the True Sport movement, promoted by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. Just this past week, the wonderful people at the Canadian Centre for Child Protection hosted our entire staff in a workshop that capped the completion of their Commit to Kids certificates. We are immensely proud that all staff have completed the program. Of course, vigilance and learning do not end. Later this week, we will be meeting as a staff to determine our next steps in ensuring our environment is a safe one for all who come in contact with us. In October, we have the opportunity to meet with Gloria Viseras, another Olympian and Spain’s first whistleblower in the realm of safe sport.  She will share with us her experiences as a gymnast and what sport organizations can do to advocate for the welfare of their athletes.

It is also important to me that we hear from you on this topic. Is there something you think we should do? Is there something we should know? Is there anything we can help with?

Finally, I want you to know that we have and will continue to intervene on behalf of athletes (or any member of our community) who are placed in harm’s way.

Faithfully,

Jeff Powell | Olympian / General Manager, Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba
Direct Line: 204.474.7148 | Email: media@cscm.ca