Not all OHL teams kept up with sexual violence training — but the Rangers have

·3 min read
Unlike some other OHL teams, the Kitchener Rangers have continued on with the league's Onside program this year.  (Dan Hamilton/Kitchener Rangers - image credit)
Unlike some other OHL teams, the Kitchener Rangers have continued on with the league's Onside program this year. (Dan Hamilton/Kitchener Rangers - image credit)

An OHL program to combat violence against women is proving to be a success among the Kitchener Rangers, though not all teams in the league have been as diligent in keeping players up to date with the program.

According to the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, an independent organization that has been tracking the OHL Onside training, some teams stopped after the onset of COVID-19.

While the Rangers did pause training during the height of pandemic, the most recent session was held in March, said Jacob Pries who runs the program for the Rangers on behalf of the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region.

"It shows that the Kitchener Rangers are interested in continuing these conversations and they see the importance of having their players talk about these things and learn more about what they can be doing to prevent sexual violence in the community," Pries told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

The connection between hockey culture and sexual violence against women is being made after allegations of sexual assault against some players from the 2018 world junior team.

In May, Hockey Canada settled a lawsuit involving a woman who alleges she was assaulted by eight team members. After that news became public, the organization subsequently reopened the case with a third-party investigation.

Submitted by Jacob Pries
Submitted by Jacob Pries

The OHL Onside program, which began in 2016, was co-created by the Rangers, said Pries. The two-hour workshop happens once a year. It examines gender roles, male stereotypes and sexual violence.

"This program is, I think, essential for young athletes, especially young men who are in sports — not just in hockey — because there tends to be a culture in sports and also in hockey where players and coaches don't call out some of that bad behaviour that normalizes sexual violence in our communities," said Pries.

CBC News reached out to the Kitchener Rangers about the program, but the team declined to comment.

Pries says the OHL Onside program is a great first step but thinks more needs to be done.

"We know that two hours once a year isn't enough for the players," he said. "And so, we would love to be able to do more with the players on a regular basis."

"We also know that the staff, the coaches, the senior staff in the organizations would also benefit from some sort of training because we need the coaches and the staff to also call out behaviour and to be the leaders for the players as well."

The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press

More programs needed

He said that in order to make significant changes that will last, the messages taught need to be ongoing instead of being a one-time thing each year.

"We think that it would be really great if the sports associations, the leagues, as well as some of those corporate sponsors that may have withdrawn their funding for Hockey Canada, and federal and provincial governments, would invest more in supporting survivors and supporting the prevention work," said Pries.

CBC Kichener-Waterloo contacted the OHL about its Onside program twice did not receive a response by time of publication.

In email to CBC London, a spokesperson said the program had "resumed across the OHL this season" and that the teams were speaking with facilitators about expanding it in the 2022-23 season.

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