The B.C. government is pumping $500,000 into its safe sport program amid numerous reports of abuse and maltreatment in Canadian sport.
The half a million dollars is in addition to an initial investment of $250,000 into the Play Safe B.C. program back in 2019-20, said Melanie Mark, who is B.C.'s minister of tourism, arts culture and sports.
"Athletes have a right to play safe," Mark told The Canadian Press. "Abuse is in all of our communities and it's insidious and it's dangerous.
"We need to have people understand what we're looking for. What are the signs of maltreatment in sport, what are the signs of discrimination and harassment?
"This fund is aimed to build capacity for the sport sector, who have been calling on government to build that capacity. Tool kits don't get made on the side of a person's desk, websites and training, all of those components are part of capacity."
Mark was flanked by federal sport minister Pascale St-Onge at Wednesday's announcement in Burnaby.
Since St-Onge took over the sport portfolio in October, her ministry has been awash in complaints of abuse in Canadian sport. She's called the situation "a crisis."
"I said a few months ago when I started this mandate and being really preoccupied with the well-being of our athletes, everyone in a leadership position has to stand up to change the culture of sport and the culture of silence, so that we can prevent the situations of abuse and maltreatment that we're hearing about in the past few months," St-Onge said in a phone interview following the announcement.
"We all know that abuse happens all across this system, whether it's at the community level or at the national level. So everyone in their own jurisdiction, in their own organization and leadership roles has to stand up and take concrete action first of all to prevent this situation from happening, and then making sure that there's a safe space that the athletes can turn to when they are facing abuse and maltreatment."
As of Oct. 15, 2021, all provincially funded sport organizations in B.C. were required to adopt a universal code of conduct as well as provide complaint reporting and safe-sport information on their websites.
All 71 provincial sport associations have done so and nearly 1,000 sport leaders and board members have completed a course designed by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection to safeguard children from sexual abuse, according to a statement from Mark's department.
"I'm a parent. My kids play sport. I want to know that they're safe," Mark said. "With respect to money, there's a cost to doing nothing.
"There's a cost to leaving people to fend for themselves and try to navigate where they need to go if they need to report maltreatment."
St-Onge said in March that in her first five months in office, allegations of either maltreatment, sexual abuse or misuse of funds were made against at least eight national sport organizations.
She's currently holding Hockey Canada's feet to the fire for its handling of alleged sexual assault the night of a 2018 gala event in London, Ont.
Revelations that the country's governing body quietly settled a civil lawsuit with the plaintiff this year, and that the unnamed eight junior hockey players allegedly involved may be playing in the NHL now, has caused a furor.
Hockey Canada executives appeared before a Canadian Heritage Standing Committee in Ottawa on June 20 and more hearings are scheduled for July 26-27.
St-Onge froze Hockey Canada's federal funding until the organization can produce recommendations for improvement by an independent third-party law firm hired by Hockey Canada, as well as a detailed plan for culture change.
Hockey Canada must also be signatories to the new office of the sports integrity commissioner.
St-Onge also ordered a financial audit of Calgary-based Hockey Canada to review expenditures reported to Sport Canada. The on-site audit is scheduled to conclude Thursday. A draft of the report is expected in August.
"Today's announcement shows that a lot of people in the sport system have been shocked and horrified by all the stories we're reading and learning about," St-Onge said. "A lot of people are ready to step up and break that culture of silence.
"I sure hope that Hockey Canada is one of the organizations that is going to make the deepest and the most important change in their own organization because the story we heard recently is unacceptable."
Manitoba made a safe-sport announcement last week with the investment of $250,000 to develop a Pathway to Safer Sport Program.
All coaches working in the province's kindergarten to Grade 12 system, as well as school staff, must complete online training from Respect Group, which teaches people to recognize and prevent bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination.
The Canadian sport helpline is 1-888-83SPORT and the email address is info-abuse-free-sport.ca.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2022.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press