Sport Canada Implements New Oversight Body and NDA Ban

May 18, 2023

By: Admin

Sport Canada Implements New Oversight Body and NDA Ban's article image

Sport Canada has unveiled a range of measures aimed at reforming the administration of sports in Canada. The announcement has been met with mixed reactions, as it includes significant changes such as the establishment of an oversight body for national sports organizations (NSOs), a ban on the use of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), and the introduction of a public nationwide registry of sanctions levied against individuals and groups within those organizations.

The Toronto Star’s Steve McKinley reports that Minister of Sport, Pascal St-Onge, emphasized that these concrete measures are part of a broader effort to bring about a much-needed culture change in the sports industry. The new oversight body will focus on monitoring the governance, transparency, and accountability of NSOs and ensuring the implementation of recommendations and sanctions provided by the Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner. Non-compliant organizations will face financial consequences, as Sport Canada aims to leverage its funding to drive change within the sports system.

Rob Talach of Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers remains skeptical. He stated: "There's not a lot of meat on the bone here”. Talach represented and negotiated the settlement with Hockey Canada on behalf of a young woman in a sexual assault case involving members of the 2018 Canada World Juniors hockey team in London, Ontario. He believes that the changes lack concrete details, funding allocations, and found many aspects to be vague with promises of actions and far-out deadlines.

While Talach generally approves of Sport Canada’s ban on NDAs, which have been used to cover up abuse and maltreatment, he emphasizes the need for flexibility and a case-by-case approach. He says: ““I’ve said this a million times. There’ll be situations where (NDAs) are in the victim’s favour and we have to leave that release valve. You can’t be black and white on NDAs. But, but generally a good move.”

Talach acknowledges the importance of a public registry of sanctions but highlights the absence of a clearly defined zero-tolerance policy, stating that concrete measures and effective implementations are key. He suggests the establishment of a threshold where individuals accused and confirmed of misconduct would face a zero-tolerance instead of a slap on the wrist or suspension. Talach suggests this policy should include implementing a ban from all sports to prevent offenders from easily moving between different leagues and reoffending..

Others view the new changes as a step in the right direction. Bruce Kidd, a former Olympic distance runner and professor emeritus of sport and public policy at the University of Toronto, sees the creation of the oversight body and the potential financial repercussions for non-compliant NSOs as positive developments. Kidd, who previously authored a brief calling for similar changes, commends Sport Canada's commitment to the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport (UCCMS). He believes the UCCMS, which encompasses all forms of abuse, not just sexual abuse, is one of the most progressive codes of its kind globally. However, Kidd notes that the code's effectiveness hinges on improving awareness and understanding among athletes, coaches, and the general public.

Implementing the educational changes and ensuring involvement from provincial and local organizations might pose challenges. Currently, Sport Canada primarily funds national organizations rather than local or provincial ones. To foster a cultural shift in sports across the country, Kidd believes it is crucial to gain support from provinces and territories.

Sport Canada has faced significant scandals within its national sports organizations, including Hockey Canada, Canada Soccer, Bobsleigh Skeleton Canada, Canada Artistic Swimming, and Gymnastics Canada. The handling of sexual assault allegations involving the national men's junior team in 2018 led to widespread criticism and federal hearings for Hockey Canada. Similarly, Canada Soccer faced parliamentary hearings this year regarding allegations of sexual assault and financial mismanagement. These incidents highlight the pressing need for reforms and increased accountability within the sports sector.

While the changes have received a mixed response, with some viewing them as a positive step forward and others expressing skepticism, critics argue that more concrete details, better funding allocation, and a zero-tolerance policy are necessary for effective change. The involvement of provincial and local organizations and a focus on education and awareness are also seen as crucial in bringing about a cultural shift in the sports industry.

Published on May 18, 2023

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