Dozens of educators demand inquiry into sports abuse in Canada
A group of Canadian and global sport educators are calling on the federal government for an immediate independent judicial inquiry into sport abuse across the country.
University of Windsor Faculty of Human Kinetics professor Vicky Paraschak is among the “Scholars Against Abuse” who signed an open letter to the prime minister saying the government’s response to athlete abuse remains inadequate, and fails to address underlying factors responsible for maltreatment of athletes across the sport system.
“Our hope is that we’re adding our voices to those of the athletes,” Paraschak said.
“Because we know over the decades that this widespread abuse has been going on. It’s not the only thing that happens, but it’s the thing that takes away and undercuts Canadians who are participating in sport.”
The letter was signed by 91 individuals across 30 Canadian and 17 international institutions, echoing over a thousand Canadian athletes seeking meaningful change.
Paraschak explained whether it be sexual, physical or psychological, abuse continues to happen in sport in Canada.
“We’re asking for systemic change,” Paraschak said. “Certainly looking at best practices that we want to keep building on, but importantly trying to ferret out these patterns of systemic racism. Racism is a foundational kind of technique you can use to undercut the stability of an athlete.”
Parachak said while it’s important for athletes to be doing their best, it’s just as important for them to be healthy.
Dr. Vicky Paraschak holds a petition in Windsor, Ont. on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (Chris Campbell/CTV News Windsor)
Windsor West MP Brian Masse supports the idea of a review, saying there is negative repercussions involved in sports, both physical and psychological.
“It’s social, psychological, and it’s also physical, all the things that they’re dealing with in terms of sports, and if it’s not the right environment, then we owe it to ourselves to try to improve that and having an organized attempt is a is a bold and a good initiative,” he said.
Masse also suggests considering supports for trainers and coaches as well.
“We relied upon too many people just being able to kind of wing it as they go and not have the proper supports,” he explained. “And there’s amazing coaches out there that have been doing amazing things. But there’s no doubt that we probably could have some more supports for coaching and training in particular is really hard, especially with concussions.”
Meanwhile, Give and Go Sport, which advocates for athletics as part of a healthy lifestyle is encouraging kids to play multiple sports.
“We just know that the incidence of abuse in sport physical, mental, emotional, sexual, is reduced with additional participation in other sports,” said executive director and co-founder Mark McGuire. “Because the children themselves have an understanding of what the norm is. What’s acceptable and what isn’t.”
The Windsor-based group is producing a docuseries alongside the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and in partnership with Respect in Sport, telling CTV News it will focus on how exploring more than one sport can help athletes and families identify abusive red flags.
“There needs to be education and that takes place at the kitchen table with mom and dad. It takes place at school with educators. It takes place with the sporting organization in the community,” McGuire said. “It’s just really this information needs to be circulated.”
He noted the first documentary is set to premier in late 2023, with more documentaries targeting coaches and parents more specifically in 2024.