Children’s sport should be free of abuse, discrimination, and bullying. The reality is that safe sport has not always been guaranteed for kids. In recent years, high-profile news stories in Canada and the United States have revealed that many athletes have suffered sexual abuse from coaches and other adults as children.
In response to these revelations, the Canadian government announced on July 6 that it had selected the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) to establish and deliver a new Independent Safe Sport Mechanism (ISSM). The main objective of the ISSM is to oversee the implementation of the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport [PDF].
The announcement followed a call for proposals in 2020 to identify the best-suited organization to lead the new initiative. The selection of the SDRCC came in recognition of its expertise and experience in the domain of promoting safe sport.
“We have heard the calls from the sport community for a safe, independent and trusted space to address maltreatment in sport,” said Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault in the announcement.
“It is crucial that victims feel that they can speak out, call attention to harmful behaviour and challenge the system to be better. This new independent mechanism will give them the opportunity to do so in a supported environment.”
The ISSM is a “significant step forward in providing … trusted and fair processes for preventing and responding to future cases of harassment, abuse, discrimination and harmful behaviour,” stated the government press release.
Once established, the ISSM is intended to provide a safe and independent place for victims to report incidents: “It will provide support and guidance to victims, conduct independent investigations of reported incidents, identify appropriate penalties, and conduct fair and transparent hearings and appeals.”
It has become well-recognized that more needs to be done to ensure the safety of all participants, especially children, in Canadian sport. The creation of the ISSM reflects the heightened commitment to ensure that everyone involved in sport in Canada can do so in a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment.