Sport for Life CEO speaks out following abuse report

Child advocate Sheldon Kennedy (left) shakes hands with Sport for Life CEO Richard Way (right) during a meeting held in Victoria last week to discuss abuse in sport.
Photo by Will Johnson

The numbers are staggering. A recent CBC news report has revealed that at least 222 coaches involved in amateur Canadian sports have been convicted of sex offences that involve over 600 victims in the past 20 years. The Sport for Life Society stands with Canadian Sport Minister Kirsty Duncan, who said the news broke her heart, and echoes her calls for large-scale reform.  

“These numbers are shocking, but at the same time we’re not really surprised. We’ve known that abusers exist within the sport world since Sheldon Kennedy awakened the nation to what was happening 20 years ago,” says Sport for Life CEO Richard Way.

“We support the calls to create a Pan-Canadian strategy to fight back against abuse in sport and treat all abuse survivors with the same degree of respect and importance.”

Part of Sport for Life’s mandate is working to ensure that Canadian sport organizations improve the quality of sport, which includes offering safe environments. Since 2004 we have worked to create a sport and physical activity system that supports the needs of all participants. Recently our directors met with Respect Group, Sheldon Kennedy’s child advocacy organization, to brainstorm ways the two organizations can support one another and ensure athletes can pursue their dreams free from the interference of abuse.

We believe the issue is so enormous that the solutions will require buy-in across sectors to make a significant difference in the lives of participants. The time for change is now, and Sport for Life looks forward to continuing to work with national to local organizations to be a catalyst for the large-scale systemic change which is required to adequately tackle this issue.

“Clearly the education approach over the last two decades has not created the safe environment we desire for our children,” says Way.

“It is time to require mandatory coach certification, mandatory Respect in Sport training, as well as ensuring sport leaders have and understand Safe Sport policies within their organization.”

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