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Athlete Rep Spotlight: Sasha Beck – Triathlon

It’s Our Turn, AthletesCAN’s new marketing campaign focuses on the stories of athlete leaders across the 68 sports eligible for AthletesCAN membership. The campaign highlights a pivotal moment for a new era in sport governance, underlining the athlete representatives’ respective journeys into the athlete advocacy movement both in their careers and within their National Sport Organizations (NSOs).

Each week, AthletesCAN profiles a key athlete leader among its membership, highlighting how athlete representation has played a significant role in their career and within their National Sport Organization.

Sasha Beck

Name: Sasha Beck
Sport: Triathlon
Position / Event: Guide
National team tenure: 2014-2016
Hometown: Oakville, Ont.

How did you first hear about and get involved in athlete advocacy?

I heard about it from a couple of coaches and then the previous Athlete Director, and they had suggested that I’d be a good candidate so I applied to it and so that was my first intro to it. And then I met with our CEO and our President and he gave me some more information about it, and they both had some background about me, and I really wanted to give back to the sport that I loved and grew up doing. It interested me and I thought I could make a real difference bringing an athlete voice to the Board and aligning with some of the policies and criteria that they had already set in place and were in motion.

Why is it important for the Canadian Sport System to prioritize an athlete-centred experience?

Good question, it’s really important. I think there’s a lot of value in having an athlete as a member on the Board because that is the entire membership at the national sporting institute level. Triathlon Canada specifically has 22,000 members, and all the decisions that they make at that Board level have a direct impact where the output is impacting all the memberships which are all athletes so it’s really important and valued to be able to bring that voice to the Board and those decisions.

How have you used your athlete voice on behalf of your peers and how has it impacted your sport journey?

I’m still new to the Board so I don’t have a lot of experience where I can say that I brought my voice to the Board. But when I was an athlete on the national team, I was on the Paralympic team and I was a guide to a visually-impaired athlete, and this was something that was brand new to Triathlon Canada and brand new at the Paralympic Games than I was training to compete in as an athlete – which was Rio in 2016. One area that I was really able to bring my athlete voice to and had a positive impact was because this position was brand new to the national team position being a guide, there was not a ton of support or criteria in place to support, so this was a really big conversation I had with a lot of the High Performance coaches and directors to try and figure out how this position was going to get fulfilled and sustained leading into the next Games going into Tokyo 2020, then Paris 2024, and Los Angeles 2028 and how could we improve on the experiences that I had. It was good, but could use improvement, and so it was really clear on some things that I think needed to happen to help make sure that this guiding position, which is definitely a mandatory position to carry that visually-impaired athlete through to the finish line are treated like they’re a teammate – they’re not a volunteer, they’re a teammate on the national team.

What is your favourite memory being an Athlete Rep / being involved in athlete advocacy? 

One of my most recent memories: I am a part of a committee at a Provincial Sport Organization level to help develop their provincial development plan. To me, it’s a special memory because it builds off the pathways I’ve created from the National Sport Organization in Canada, and I think it’s the first time it’s a very clear pathway of development to national team athletes and something that I felt like being a part of that national team journey as an athlete and now bringing it forward and being a part of a committee to help develop a new provincial development plan. I felt like I was really inspired to help the provincial level really come up to that national-level standard, and just be really clear on that criteria and what it takes, the standards, and what I would have wanted to see as an athlete when I was in that development phase, in that national team phase, that I want to see there today. I feel really proud that we are in the midst of doing that right now, but my voice is heard, and I feel like it’s going to be very good progress towards building a pathway for athletes in Ontario and then up to the Canadian national team level. 

What have you learned about being a leader in your sport?

I have learned that as we progressed through the years, more and more people are seeing value in listening to athletes and including them in some big decisions that are going to directly impact them. Whether you are a retired athlete, or a current athlete, you’re getting a survey to help gauge feedback to help support those decisions. I’ve learned that if you speak up and you’re really clear about what athletes need in their sport, you can achieve it. There are a lot of people that are willing to support athletes, but not necessarily come up with a solution but are ready to support, and we’re just waiting for people to speak up. So I think what I’ve learned as a leader in sport, is that if you speak up you’re going to be heard, and it will have a positive impact if you have a supportive organization. 

Why should your peers join AthletesCAN and/or get more involved in the leadership of their National Sport Organization?

I think it’s really important that athletes consider joining organizations such as AthletesCAN that are literally there to support athletes and help them bridge the gap to some of the formality-type policy language that will come out of the NSO level. That really gives athletes the opportunity to contribute to some of those key decisions or information sessions and understand them when it comes to the NSO level or PSO level. I think a lot of times, athletes are the outputs and just hear some of those decisions, but it’s really important they understand why those decisions, criteria, and policies were made and realize that when they’re a part of those types of conversations when they join those organizations that they can have an impact on themselves and progress through their sporting career. 

I Did Not Receive Carding – What Now?

By: Robyn Jeffries (Case Manager), Brayden Mulhern (Caseworker) & Daniel Torch (Caseworker)

The Sport Solution Blog is written by law students and is intended to provide information and the team’s perspectives on current issues. However, the Blog is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion. Athletes in need of assistance should contact the clinic directly at [email protected]

If you have been excluded, had your nomination rejected, or had your card withdrawn, this post provides an overview of how to understand the factors that lead to the decision, how the appeals process works and how the Sport Solution Clinic can assist you.

Step 1: Seek Legal Advice

We recommend that athletes seek legal advice when dealing with non-selection issues, as they are trained to help you understand your potential courses of action and legal rights. Please feel free to contact the Sport Solution Clinic for pro bono (free) legal assistance: [email protected].

At any point during your appeal process you may decide it prudent or advantageous to obtain legal representation. Here is a link to a page where you can find a list of lawyers and pro bono clinics across Canada to assist you. Please keep in mind that these lawyers and pro bono clinics have no affiliation whatsoever with the SDRCC: http://www.crdsc-sdrcc.ca/eng/dispute-resolution-arbitrators.

Step 2: Understanding the Carding Process

In order to assess whether you have a valid claim to an appeal, it will be beneficial to understand the carding process that your respective NSO employs. Athletes are first nominated by their NSO according to the NSO’s “Carding Policy.” These policies outline the requirements an NSO uses to nominate athletes for the carding process. Carding Policies must be sport-specific and compliant with the Athlete Assistance Program’s (AAP) Policies and Procedures. If there are more athletes within a particular NSO who meet the eligibility requirements, the NSO will rank the athletes based on their Carding Policy.

Sport Canada receives the NSO’s list of nominated athletes and cross-references them with the AAP Policies and Procedures related to carding. Athletes must, therefore, qualify for carding under the policies set out by both their NSO and Sport Canada.

Step 3: Understanding the Potential Points of Rejection

The appeal process varies depending on which point in the carding process the athlete was no longer given consideration. There are two points at which this can happen:

  1. The NSO. In this situation, the NSO did not nominate the athlete or recommended withdrawing the athlete’s card.
  2. Sport Canada. In this scenario, Sport Canada rejected the athlete’s nomination or withdrew their carding.

After having selected an athlete for carding, Sport Canada reserves the right to withdraw carding for any of the following reasons:

  1. Failure to meet training or competition commitments;
  2. Violation of the Athlete/NSO agreement;
  3. Failure to meet athlete responsibilities outlined in the AAP policies and procedures;
  4. Gross breach of discipline, including assertion of or prosecution of a criminal offence;
  5. Investigation for cause; and
  6. Violations of anti-doping rules

Further details on what disqualifiers or types of activities will fall under any of these categories can be found at: https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/funding/athlete-assistance/policies-procedures.html#a13

Step 4: Understand Your Options

In both scenarios, the athlete can accept the decision made by the NSO or Sport Canada, or choose to appeal it. While the appeals process is generally similar, it is vital to refer to the procedures and rules in the appeal policies of the decision maker, specifically the NSO or Sport Canada. Also, please note that the time restrictions for the appeal processes are strict. Any appeals not made within the specified time frame may or may not be considered, at the discretion of the NSO director, or in cases of an AAP appeal, at the discretion of Sport Canada Senior Director of the Programs Division. Any decision allowing or disallowing an appeal made by the Sport Canada Senior Director cannot be appealed.  

Scenario (1): NSO

If an athlete’s name is not put forward to Sport Canada, an appeal may be lodged according to the internal appeal process of the NSO. Here is a link to NSO’s with their own internal appeal process: http://www.crdsc-sdrcc.ca/eng/appeal-policies

Scenario (2): Sport Canada

If the NSO puts forward an athlete’s name and Sport Canada rejects that nomination, the athlete may lodge an appeal within 15 days from the decision date under the appeal procedure outlined in the “AAP Policies and Procedures.”

Before directing you to the general appeal process through the SRDCC, it is important to note that you can also appeal through the internal appeal process of the relevant NSO. Many, though not all, NSO’s have an internal appeal process. The NSO’s internal appeal process is most commonly used when the NSO does not nominate the athlete for carding. The SDRCC encourages the utilization of these processes and has provided guidelines for NSO’s to create their own internal appeal processes.

Step 5: Appeals

If you believe that there were procedural errors in the appeal or facts or circumstances that warrant a further appeal, then you are entitled to file a Request form to the SDRCC in the timeframe provided in the relevant appeal policy, or if no timeframe is specified in the NSO appeal policy, no later than 30 days after the decision was rendered. 

The SDRCC Jurisprudence Database (http://www.crdsc-sdrcc.ca/eng/dispute-resource-databases-jurisprudence) provides athletes with the ability to search for cases similar to theirs. This may be useful for determining your chances of a successful appeal. While athletes are free to take this step on their own, we recommend using the legal services available to you, as listed above.

AthletesCAN relaunching EDI membership survey in partnership with U of T and E-Alliance

TORONTO – AthletesCAN, the association of Canada’s national team athletes, announced it is relaunching its anonymous Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) survey, in partnership with the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education (KPE) at the University of Toronto and the E-Alliance Research hub for gender+ equity in sport. 

The goal of the survey, which was originally unveiled in May 2022, is to assess the demographics of AthletesCAN members, the quality of their sport experiences with respect to EDI, and ways that EDI can be improved in the sport community at the national level. 

Since the initial phase of data collection nearly two years ago, the survey has gone through a significant revision process, including reordering and shortening of the survey, providing additional clarity and transparency where needed, restructuring of decision trees to allow for quicker responses, and shifting some sections to become optional. The result is a more simplified questionnaire that will allow for a more strategic and effective intake process. 

“This survey is important because it will provide us with information about the landscape of sport as it pertains to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. This edition is more streamlined to help athletes share their experiences with EDI in their sport environment in a way that is understandable, accessible and easy to navigate.”

Neville Wright, AthletesCAN board member and chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee

The survey remains open to all current and retired national team athletes within the last eight years who are 16 years of age or older. Individuals of all intersectional identities are welcome and encouraged to participate.

As part of the revision, the survey’s completion time has been reduced to approximately 15 minutes and will request general demographic information, while asking about specific aspects of members’ sport experience in the NSO environment, including, the nature of personal experiences (i.e., positive and negative), overall impressions of EDI (optional), and perceived progress of EDI initiatives (optional).

“The Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education is delighted to be partnering with AthletesCAN on this important initiative. The updated anonymous survey will give athletes an opportunity to have their voices heard and in so doing inform the design and delivery of safe, welcoming and more inclusive sport in Canada.

Professor Gretchen Kerr, Dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education

National team athletes can learn more about and access the survey below.

About the University of Toronto Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education

The University of Toronto Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education is guided by a mission to develop, advance and disseminate knowledge about the interactions of physical activity and health through education, research, leadership and the provision of opportunity. Follow us on social @UofTKPE.

About AthletesCAN

AthletesCAN, the association of Canada’s national team athletes, is the only fully independent and most inclusive athlete organization in the country and the first organization of its kind in the world.  As the voice of over 6,000 current and recently retired Canadian national team athletes, AthletesCAN membership spans 68 sports across the Olympic, Paralympic, Pan/Parapan American, and Commonwealth Games, and those currently funded by Sport Canada competing at Senior World Championships.

AthletesCAN ensures an athlete-centered sport system by developing athlete leaders who influence sport policy and, as role models, inspire a strong sport culture, through educational resources, support, training and professional development.  

Follow us on social @AthletesCAN and Join #TheCollective today.

For more information, please contact:

Jacob Morris
Coordinator, Communications and Digital Media
AthletesCAN
613-526-4025 Ext. 224
[email protected]

Jelena Damjanovic
Public Relations Officer
Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education
University of Toronto
416-946-3713
[email protected] 

AthletesCAN, Bound State Software launch AthleteHUB Initiative – unifying Canadian sport system resources for over 3,000 national team athletes

TORONTO – AthletesCAN, the association of Canada’s national team athletes, and Vancouver-based web agency Bound State Software proudly announced Friday the official launch of the AthleteHUB Initiative. 

Originally unveiled in February 2023 and funded by Sport Canada, AthleteHUB was created to house a wealth of information and resources that are currently available across the Canadian sport system, consolidated into a single, new space – serving as a centralized one-stop shop for Canadian national team athletes.

At launch, the Hub includes more than 80 resources from over 30 different organizations and counting, covering Canadian Sport Governance, Career Development, Competition Readiness, Education, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, Ethics & Integrity, Financial Support & Development, Legal Support & Conflict Resolution, Mental Health & Wellness, Para Sport, Safe Sport, Sustainability, and Training Nutrition & Prevention.

“The launch of AthleteHUB is another important step in ensuring athletes have a successful and empowering sport experience. This amazing tool is the product of years of consulting with athletes about what they need to succeed in sport. We’re excited to see this initiative become a reality and help empower athletes with amazing resources across the sport system.”

Erin Willson - AthletesCAN President and artistic swimming Olympian

All AthletesCAN members and senior national team athletes who receive Athlete Assistance Program (AAP) funding – totalling over 3,000 athletes who have represented Team Canada, will be given access to AthleteHUB by activating their account at myathletehub.ca. Senior national team athletes who do not currently receive AAP-carded funding can gain access by becoming an AthletesCAN member at athletescan.ca/join

With a passion for collaborating with nonprofit organizations, Bound State Software was selected from among over 20 prospective vendors, owing to its vision to design and build products that inspire and spur positive change. Bound State collaborated on the consultation and delivery of the HUB over the last eight months with AthleteHUB Project Manager Nicolas Rouleau, as well as Lindsay Smith, AthletesCAN’s Manager of Athlete Projects & Operations. 

“I am incredibly proud to be launching AthleteHUB. Designed to empower athletes on their journey to success both on and off the field of play, this launch marks a significant commitment to fostering the growth and development of athletes, and I am honoured to be part of the team dedicated to making a positive impact in the Canadian sport community.”

Nicolas Rouleau - AthleteHUB Project Manager

“We are excited to have contributed to the creation of AthleteHUB, and in turn, support Canadian athletes on their athletic journey. It's also been an incredible experience merging our professional background with our dedication to both nonprofits and sports. Our team is thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with AthletesCAN, specifically with Nicolas and Lindsay, and we look forward to making further contributions together.”

Martin Cacace - Bound State Software President

For questions regarding AthleteHUB, or to recommend additional resources, national team athletes can contact [email protected].

About Bound State Software

We build nonprofit websites that make staff, volunteers, and donors happy. Bound State Software is a Vancouver-based web development company that specializes in creating customized, innovative web solutions for purpose-driven organizations creating real-world change. Our websites are designed to increase organizational awareness, improve operational efficiency, and drive more donations – so you can focus on making a bigger impact.

About AthletesCAN

AthletesCAN, the association of Canada’s national team athletes, is the only fully independent and most inclusive athlete organization in the country and the first organization of its kind in the world.  As the voice of over 6,000 current and recently retired Canadian national team athletes, AthletesCAN membership spans 68 sports across the Olympic, Paralympic, Pan/Parapan American, and Commonwealth Games, and those currently funded by Sport Canada competing at Senior World Championships.

AthletesCAN ensures an athlete-centered sport system by developing athlete leaders who influence sport policy and, as role models, inspire a strong sport culture, through educational resources, support, training and professional development.  

Follow us on social @AthletesCAN and Join #TheCollective today.

For more information, please contact:

Jacob Morris
Coordinator, Communications and Digital Media
AthletesCAN
613-526-4025 Ext. 224
[email protected]

Martín Cacace
President
Bound State Software
778-987-0454
[email protected]

AthletesCAN appoints de Sousa Costa Secretary, Vliegenthart as 10th Board member, opens Call for Applications for Treasurer

TORONTO – AthletesCAN, the association of Canada’s national team athletes, is pleased to announce several significant updates to the 2024 Board of Directors

Retired karate national team athlete Chris de Sousa Costa has been appointed the organization’s new secretary. de Sousa Costa, who has served as Treasurer for the last year, will maintain both officer positions on the 2024 executive on an interim basis, as AthletesCAN is launching a Call for Applications for its next Treasurer

The treasurer will be responsible for making the necessary arrangements for: 

  • The keeping of such financial records, including books of account, as are necessary to comply with the Not-for-Profit Act
  • The custody and control of the assets of the Corporation, including implementation of instructions of the Board as to investment of assets of the Corporation and the Corporation’s banking transactions
  • Rendering of financial statements to the Directors, members and others when required

The full position can be viewed below. Applications should be submitted to [email protected] by April 7, 2024.

In addition to recruitment for a new treasurer, retired wheelchair basketball Paralympian and lawyer Jessica Vliegenthart has been appointed as the 10th member of the Board. AthletesCAN bylaws allow for the appointment of one additional Director for every three new Board members elected at the Annual General Meeting. 

Vliegenthart represented Canada from 2007-12 and holds a bronze medal from the 2010 World Championships, and a pair of silver medals from the Parapan Am Games (2007 and 2011). She capped off her career competing at the London 2012 Paralympics.

In her comprehensive municipal law practice involving both litigation and solicitor work, Vliegenthart regularly advises clients on a wide range of topics, such as local government matters including governance and operations, conflicts of interest, council codes of conduct, municipal liability and risk management, freedom of information and privacy issues, regulatory authority, and judicial review.

Vliegenthart also maintains a sport law practice, advising sport organizations on matters of governance and operations, policy development, liability and risk management, privacy issues and safe sport. Having appeared at the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC), Vliegenthart regularly works with both athletes and sport organizations to advance the development of sport in a safe and successful way.

Rounding out the 2024 executive, artistic swimming Olympian Erin Willson will continue to lead the organization as President, while rowing Olympian and Vice President Andrea Proske has been appointed President Elect of the organization.

About AthletesCAN

AthletesCAN, the association of Canada’s national team athletes, is the only fully independent and most inclusive athlete organization in the country and the first organization of its kind in the world.  As the voice of over 6,000 current and recently retired Canadian national team athletes, AthletesCAN membership spans 68 sports across the Olympic, Paralympic, Pan/Parapan American, and Commonwealth Games, and those currently funded by Sport Canada competing at Senior World Championships.

AthletesCAN ensures an athlete-centered sport system by developing athlete leaders who influence sport policy and, as role models, inspire a strong sport culture, through educational resources, support, training and professional development.  

Follow us on social @AthletesCAN and Join #TheCollective today.

For more information, please contact:

Alan Hudes
Manager, Communications and Sport Partnerships
AthletesCAN
613-526-4025 Ext. 224
[email protected] 

Sport Solution Clinic identifies gaps in the safe sport system for provincial / territorial-level athletes

By: Amanda Fowler and Safiya Nanji

The Sport Solution Blog is written by law students and is intended to provide information and the team’s perspectives on current issues. However, the Blog is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion. Athletes in need of assistance should contact the clinic directly at [email protected]

In the last year, Canada has seen high-profile abuse scandals across many sports, such as with Hockey Canada, Gymnastics Canada, Boxing Canada, and Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton

These scandals exposed abusive coaches, institutional mismanagement, and an overall failure for an appropriate response. Athletes, from all levels of sport, have fearlessly come forward with personal stories of abuse and some have filed formal complaints. As a result, the Minister of Sport at the time, Pascale St-Onge, acted. 1 Minister St-Onge oversaw the implementation of Abuse-Free Sport, Canada’s new independent system for preventing and addressing maltreatment in sport. However, it must be highlighted that this new system does not serve most athletes in Canada. Of those not covered, the most notable are provincial / territorial-level athletes.

Overview of Abuse-Free Sport

Before unpacking how and why provincial/territorial athletes fall into a gray area, it is important to have a general understanding of the Abuse-Free Sport framework. Abuse-Free Sport is composed of three entities: 

1) The Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (“OSIC”)

2) The Maltreatment in Sport Sanctions Council (“MSSC”)

3) The Director of Sanctions and Outcomes (DSO). 

OSIC is an independent third-party body responsible for administering the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport (UCCMS) through a trauma-informed process for national athletes and federally-funded National Sport Organizations (NSOs). 2 The UCCMS covers a wide range of maltreatment: harassment, psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, grooming, boundary transgressions, discrimination, failure to report, and aiding and abetting in any of the aforementioned acts.

OSIC receives concerns in two manners: 1) individual participants submit complaints of alleged violations of the UCCMS, and 2) individuals or organizations request a sport environment assessment to investigate systemic UCCMS-related issues within a particular sport. Once complaints are adjudicated, the DSO makes decisions about provisional measures and has authority to impose sanctions on program signatories. The MSSC is directly accountable to the Canadian sport community to address discipline and sanctions. The MSSC oversees the operations of the DSO and ensures the DSO applies the UCCMS fairly and consistently, protects and promotes public interest, and ensures for an efficient and effective discipline process. Although each of these bodies are independent, the intent is for them to work together to ensure athletes are protected.

Provincial / Territorial-Level Athletes are Not Covered by Abuse-Free Sport

In 2022, the Federal Government committed $13.8 Million to implement OSIC as the new independent safe sport mechanism. 3 The budget notes state “[f]rom beginners to Olympians, every athlete in Canada should be safe from abuse, harassment, and mistreatment.” 4 The notes further state the Federal Government is “ensuring that our sporting institutions across the country are accountable for the treatment of their athletes to building a sport system that promotes the safety and well-being of Canadian athletes.” 5

However, with limited exceptions, OSIC only serves national-level athletes – a small fraction of athletes in Canada’s sport system. 6 Abuse-Free Sport operates on a federal mandate and has a limited basis of contractual jurisdiction. In effect, it can “only do what it is funded to do and can only carry out the mandate it has been given at this time.” 7

NSOs are required by Sport Canada to publish a safe sport policy, adopt the UCCMS, and opt-in to OSIC, failing which they are stripped of funding among other consequences. 8 No requirements of this kind are placed on Provincial/Territorial Sport Organizations (PSOs).  They may opt-in to OSIC if they wish. As of March 2024, only one NSO – Volleyball Canada – is a program signatory of OSIC with its services available at the National, provincial / territorial and club / local levels. Even if there is proper jurisdiction for a provincial/territorial safe sport matter, OSIC and the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) may still exercise discretion to reject the case. 

Notably, OSIC concluded its first year of operations. Of the 193 complaints OSIC received between June 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023, only 66 of them, or 34 per cent, were deemed admissible for investigation. 9 OISC referred over 50 per cent of complaints to alternative organizations, including provincial/territorial sport bodies. This shows OSIC’s current mandate is limited, and safe sport issues are pervasive within all levels of sport.

The lack of harmonization and OSIC’s statistics suggest that provincial/territorial athletes are not able to be protected until they become national athletes. This can be problematic because athletes, coaches and management move within the Provincial/Territorial and National Sport Organizations. Without proper recourse for athletes in the form of consistent safe sport policies, procedures, and sanctioning across both levels of sport, it is difficult to hold offenders at the provincial/territorial level accountable for athlete maltreatment and athletes are trapped in abusive environments until they make the national team.

Barriers to Reporting Safe Sport Complaints at the Provincial / Territorial Level

At the Sport Solution Clinic, we have seen some of the barriers faced by provincial / territorial athletes who have filed safe sport complaints:

  1. PTSOs intentionally delaying the acceptance of a complaint, the issuance of an investigation report or scheduling a hearing for months;
  2. PTSOs finding opportunities to claim a breach of confidentiality by the athlete in order to have the complaint struck;
  3. PTSOs have conducted their own internal safe sport process while being in a conflict of interest;
  4. The safe sport process not being trauma-informed;
  5. PTSOs appointing individuals with no prior adjudication experience to the arbitration panel despite objections;  
  6. No recourse for athletes whose PTSO has breached procedural fairness during the safe sport process;
  7. Appeals are directed back to the PTSO for further handling because there is no appeal right to an independent body like OSIC or the SDRCC;
  8. Decisions are arbitrary and have no “reasons” to support a decided sanction; and
  9. PTSOs have no requirement to publish sanctions, which is an issue of public safety for those who may interact with the sanctioned coach in the future.

To our knowledge, issues like these are regular and constant for provincial/territorial athletes making safe sport complaints. It is unacceptable.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Provincial/Territorial governments clearly need to intervene in the safe sport processes of PTSOs. It can start bridging the gap by mandating PTSOs to adopt the UCCMS and join OSIC. A consistent, fair, and accountable safe sport mechanism serving both provincial/territorial and national levels of sport is necessary to remedy the issues listed above (and others). To do so may require collaboration and funding between federal and provincial/territorial governments, National and Provincial/Territorial Sport Organizations – and most importantly – involving provincial/territorial athletes.

Footnotes

Athlete Rep Spotlight: Mercedes Nicoll, Snowboard

It’s Our Turn, AthletesCAN’s new marketing campaign focuses on the stories of athlete leaders across the 68 sports eligible for AthletesCAN membership. The campaign highlights a pivotal moment for a new era in sport governance, underlining the athlete representatives’ respective journeys into the athlete advocacy movement both in their careers and within their National Sport Organizations (NSOs).

Each week, AthletesCAN profiles a key athlete leader among its membership, highlighting how athlete representation has played a significant role in their career and within their National Sport Organization.

Mercedes Nicoll

Name: Mercedes Nicoll
Sport: Snowboard
Event: Halfpipe
National team tenure: 1999-2018
Hometown: Whistler, B.C.

How did you first hear about and get involved in activism in your sport?

Our Executive Director at Canada Snowboard approached me to help create an Athletes’ Council – that’s how I got started. In sport, I was kind of always questioning why things were happening and being part of the Athletes’ Council allowed me to get the answers and understand the business side of what a National Sport Organization does. So it’s all thanks to the Executive Director that I got started in athlete representation. 

Mercedes Nicoll
Mercedes Nicoll (Courtesy of Snowboard Canada)

Why is it important for the Canadian Sport System to prioritize an athlete-centred experience?

In sport, in Canada, it is of the utmost importance because you wouldn’t have a National Sport Organization without the athletes. So if you don’t have an athlete on your Board yet or at the discussion table and their voice isn’t being heard, then I don’t think you’re doing due diligence to the rest of the athletes coming up in the system. So, I think it’s really important to have an athlete-centered program for every National Sport Organization and work with Sport Canada on that as well.

How have you used your athlete voice on behalf of your peers and how has it impacted your sport journey?

There are so many ways that I used my voice to impact the athletes in snowboarding. Being the Chair of the Athletes’ Council for seven years now, we’ve learned a lot and also listened a lot to the athletes. I know funding is always a big factor and one of the wins that we had was actually listening to what was coming in from the government and then being able to listen to the athletes, what they were paying for and get some of that money back in their pockets. Obviously, during a pandemic going through all of those things was really expensive and doing all those tests was really expensive. So that’s like one thing that we helped with the athletes. But I mean, it’s a day-to-day listening and understanding grind and using your voice at the table, especially the Board table, to give the Board members a better understanding of what it is to be an athlete and how much it costs. And sitting on Boards seems insignificant maybe to athletes, but it really does build an understanding for other people who are in those seats to see exactly where athletes are and have their voice heard.

What is your favourite memory being an Athlete Rep / being involved in athlete advocacy?

I have so many memories of being involved with athlete advocacy. I’ve sat on the Board of AthletesCAN. That was super enlightening. I probably would say the AthletesCAN Forum. Those are my best memories because that’s when you get a better understanding of where all athletes are at and how you can help them or how they can help you. You can bounce ideas off of each other just to get an understanding and better what you want to be as an athlete representative, and take it back to your program.

What have you learned about being a leader in your sport?

As I’ve been an athlete representative for Canada Snowboard, I’ve learned a lot. I would say I was very green and I didn’t understand anything, and now I’ve been a director on the Board for many years. I think the most valuable thing is being able to have patience as well as listening to both sides of every party, and and just taking it in and not being afraid to share that voice of an athlete because it is so important.

Why should your peers join AthletesCAN and/or get more involved in the leadership of their National Sport Organization?

You should join AthletesCAN because there are just so many resources and so many amazing reps that you get to meet. I do hope that you join as a rep so that you can come to Forum. It’s really one of the best places to meet other athletes and get an understanding of what other athletes are doing, and how you can better sport for the next generation as well as your generation of athletes. There are so many resources out there that you’re probably not aware of. So head over to the AthletesCAN website or just ask a staff member, find another athlete rep and they’ll be willing to help you because it’s not an easy path to take at first. But once you understand what’s involved, it’s so good and it and it’s so helpful and really we’re all just here to make sport better for the next generation and to have our voice heard as athletes.

Sport Solution Clinic Blog: The Relationship Between National Sport Organizations and Provincial/Territorial Sport Organizations

By Nic Spagnuolo (Case Manager), Eli Hutchison (Caseworker)

The Sport Solution Blog is written by law students and is intended to provide information and the team’s perspectives on current issues. However, the Blog is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion. Athletes in need of assistance should contact the clinic directly at [email protected]

National Sport Organizations (NSOs) are the governing bodies for sport within Canada. Among their responsibilities, NSOs work closely with Provincial/Territorial Sport Organizations (PTSOs) to implement policies and promote their sport at the regional / grassroots level. 1 PTSOs are self-governing organizations that are responsible for the development of their sport, providing a competitive pathway for athlete development at the provincial or territorial level, selecting provincial/territorial teams, recruiting and training coaches and officials, and conducting provincial/territorial championships. 2. In working towards these objectives, a PTSO is overseen by an NSO, where the NSO sets out rules that the PTSO must follow. The relationship between an NSO overseeing a PTSO is demonstrated through how a PTSO must align with the rules of their NSO, as well as how funding works between them. Additionally, there are implications to this relationship when a member league under a PTSO decides to break away from an NSO.

Alignment with NSO Rules

In regulating sport at the provincial level, a PTSO must ensure that they are complying with the regulations of their NSO regarding rules of play, competition, scoring, equipment, the field of play, and the requirements set out for athletes, coaches, officials and referees. 3 An example of this is the new policy that Hockey Canada, the NSO for ice hockey in Canada, recently implemented regarding dressing room requirements. Effective as of September 12, 2023, Hockey Canada issued a new “Dressing Room Policy” with the purpose of creating a safe, inclusive and equitable dressing room space. 4 Under this policy, all participants are required to wear minimum attire at all times in a dressing room when there is more than one participant present, such as wearing shorts or compression shorts along with a t-shirt. 5 Additionally, this policy includes the “Rule of Two”, which requires two adults to be present either in or immediately outside the dressing room to ensure that the dressing room environment among participants is free from any discrimination, harassment, bullying, or other forms of maltreatment. 6

With Hockey Canada implementing this policy, PTSOs for ice hockey throughout the country are responsible for ensuring that all of their leagues and member associations are adhering to the new dressing room rules. This demonstrates how an NSO can use their oversight over their PTSOs to regulate their sport down to the provincial level.

Funding Between an NSO and a PTSO

Additionally, there is a funding component in the relationship between an NSO and a PTSO. How funding works between them can be demonstrated by again using Hockey Canada as an example.

Each player in a league operated by a PTSO for ice hockey, which falls under the governance of Hockey Canada, must pay a fee as part of their agreement for participation that goes towards Hockey Canada. 7 Hockey Canada then uses these fees to help fund their operations at the PTSO level, which includes funding programs for grassroot development, as well as development programs for coaches and officials in these leagues. 8 Hockey Canada has many additional sources of funding to finance their operations, such as national and international events, sponsorships, government and non-governmental funding, and donations. 9 Part of Hockey Canada’s operations that this financing goes towards, is providing funding to their PTSOs to help operate ice hockey at the provincial/territorial level. This includes providing funding to PTSOs for matters regarding the development of ice hockey across the country, helping to build and maintain the necessary facilities across the country for ice hockey, and to provide PTSOs with the necessary technological equipment for the sport. 10 As seen from looking at Hockey Canada, an essential component to the relationship between an NSO and a PTSO is the funding provided by the NSO to help the sport be played, regulated, and developed to the highest quality at the provincial and grassroots level across the country.

What Happens When a Member League / Organization / Club Breaks Away from a PTSO and an NSO

Although this relationship does allow an NSO to regulate their sport across the country, there can be instances where a member league, organization or club  under a PTSO breaks away from the overseeing NSO. For example, on June 1, 2023, the Board of Governors for the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) opted out of renewing their membership with Hockey Canada. 11 The move came after years of failed negotiations, where the BCHL tried to persuade Hockey Canada to change some of its policies concerning Under-18 (U18) players. 12 Specifically, the BCHL felt that these policies limited the chances of some U18 players from pursuing the option of playing ice hockey in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). 13 As such, out of a desire to create more opportunities for players to play varsity ice hockey in the NCAA, the BCHL decided to not renew their agreement with Hockey Canada. 14

Under this move, the BCHL will also no longer be a member of BC Hockey, the PTSO that governs ice hockey in British Columbia under Hockey Canada. 15 This means that the BCHL will now operate as a fully independent league and will not be subjected to oversight from either BC Hockey or Hockey Canada. Without the oversight of Hockey Canada, players on any team in the BCHL will no longer be able to participate in Hockey Canada events, which include provincial and national championship tournaments. 16

Additionally, players in the BCHL will no longer be able to submit claims of abuse or maltreatment to Abuse-Free Sport and the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC) or to Hockey Canada’s independent third party. 17 As a result, the BCHL will need to create their own separate system for safe sport policies and for how to deal with any safe sport complaints, which may not be consistent with the policies in place from Hockey Canada and their respective PTSOs. As seen in this example, the relationship between an NSO, PTSOs and leagues at the grassroots level is essential in an NSO having the ability to regulate and govern sport at all levels throughout the country.

Citations

Athlete Rep Spotlight: Matt Dunstone, Curling

It’s Our Turn, AthletesCAN’s new marketing campaign focuses on the stories of athlete leaders across the 68 sports eligible for AthletesCAN membership. The campaign highlights a pivotal moment for a new era in sport governance, underlining the athlete representatives’ respective journeys into the athlete advocacy movement both in their careers and within their National Sport Organizations (NSOs).

Each week, AthletesCAN profiles a key athlete leader among its membership, highlighting how athlete representation has played a significant role in their career and within their National Sport Organization.

Matt Dunstone

Name: Matt Dunstone
Sport: Curling
Position: Skip
National team tenure: 2013 – Present
Hometown: Winnipeg, Man.

How did you first hear about and get involved within your sport? 

It started with Amy Nixon, who was the president of the Board at the time, and our CEO at the time, Kathy Henderson who kind of came up with this idea. I know a couple of us athletes had kind of been pushing towards having that open line of communication with Curling Canada. But Amy and Katherine were kind of the drivers that helped get us over the edge and make that happen. I think we were pushing for about two and a half years now since we have had our Athletes Council with Curling Canada, and for the most part I think it’s been a very productive and positive experience.

Why is it important for the Canadian Sport System to prioritize an athlete-centred experience?

There are a couple things. I think one is for us as athletes to actually understand the NSO side of things. It’s pretty easy for us to just understand what our side of it is and not really know what an NSO actually goes through to make things happen for us and for them. So just getting a better understanding of what they do and how they go about their business. And on the flip side, for us to actually be involved in situations and decisions that affect us as athletes at certain events and championships, to be able to perform and just to kind of have that center ground in that area for all of us to come together to try and get Canada on the podium. Whether you’re an NSO or an athlete, that’s what everybody wants. So for us to be able to kind of have this area for us to come together and try to grow as Canadian curlers, that’s been my favorite part of it all. And that’s why I think it’s super important.

Matt Dunstone
Matt Dunstone (Curling Canada/ Michael Burns)

How have you used your athlete voice on behalf of your peers and how has it impacted your sport journey? 

I think it’s just brought us all closer. Especially in curling, it is a very unique sport where you have separate teams who try and beat each other all the time to get to the World Championships. But for us to be able to actually come together and work as Team Canada, that’s kind of been the biggest change where, in curling, everybody’s got their four person teams kind of spread out all across. You don’t really come together and this council has kind of been an area for one player of each of the top Canadian teams to kind of come together and work towards something. And then, having a voice targeted towards things that we would like to see in our Canadian championships that are hopefully going to bring more success at the world stage.

What is your favourite memory being an Athlete Rep / being involved in athlete advocacy?

Once a year we do get together as a Council with Curling Canada. So that would be my favorite part, just the in-person meetings that we’ve been able to have and be face to face. The Zoom meetings are one thing, but to be able to get a little more personal and have that face-to-face interaction is something that’s super important and something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. And hopefully down the road, that’s something I’m going to be able to do with AthletesCAN and with a larger group of people from a large scope and different types of athletes.

What have you learned about being a leader in your sport?

There are a lot of moving parts. As an athlete, you kind of get this tunnel vision that it’s just the event, whether it be the Brier or the Scotties and just winning that and going to a World Championship. You don’t truly understand all that goes into that, and how many different stakeholders there are involved to make all those events happen to allow us athletes to perform on a full time basis. Just learning about all of that, who all is involved, has been my favorite experience of it all. Just because it’s way over my head about who actually is involved and who gets a say, and just learning that part of it has been the coolest part for me because you have no idea how many people are actually involved just to make what seems like a little thing actually happen and go forward.

Why should your peers join AthletesCAN and/or get more involved in the leadership of their National Sport Organization?

I think at the end of the day, the more people we have involved, the more people we can bring together and just work towards a common goal. Whether it be curling, skiing, diving, you name it. At the end of the day, with sport in Canada, we want a couple of things, right? We want integrity, we want loyalty, we want trust. We want to represent our country with class and dignity. And we want to win and we want to get on top of the podium and just bring people together to an area to help grow, to learn about each other’s experiences and ultimately push the yardsticks forward to get better every single day at each one of those aspects. The more people we have involved to do that, the closer we’re going to get to the common goal that we all have. 

Athlete Rep Spotlight: Julian Smith, Cross-Country Skiing

It’s Our Turn, AthletesCAN’s new marketing campaign focuses on the stories of athlete leaders across the 68 sports eligible for AthletesCAN membership. The campaign highlights a pivotal moment for a new era in sport governance, underlining the athlete representatives’ respective journeys into the athlete advocacy movement both in their careers and within their National Sport Organizations (NSOs).

Each week, AthletesCAN profiles a key athlete leader among its membership, highlighting how athlete representation has played a significant role in their career and within their National Sport Organization.

Julian Smith

Name: Julian Smith
Sport: Cross-Country Skiing
Position / Event: Sprints
National team tenure: 2019-20
Hometown: Auckland, Ont.

How did you first hear about and get involved within your sport?

When I was a child, my family moved from a small town near Hamilton called Dundas up to the Bruce Peninsula to Oxenden. And Austin is very rural. It’s a small town with a lot of outdoor activities, one of which is snowmobiling. And a snowmobile trail ran right by our house in a farmer’s field and my parents, who had skied a handful of times on wooden cross-country skis, would take us out and pull us along. And through that, our family heard about jackrabbits, which is a nationwide learn-to-ski program. And our family became heavily involved. My parents taught jackrabbits. Myself and my two siblings participated in jackrabbits for many years, and that’s how I got introduced to cross-country skiing.

Why is it important for the Canadian Sport System to prioritize an athlete-centred experience?

The sports system in any nation is complex and diverse. And in Canada, the fact that we are in such a large country means that our athletes from dozens of sports are spread out and are experiencing multiple different experiences all at the same time. I think the value of having an athlete-centred sports system is that it’s crucial for athletes to have, the organizers, the volunteers, the coaches, the funding partners and the staff, to provide the foundation for us to be able to do what we love. But it’s important for athletes to voice their opinion such that they are leaving the sport better than they found it for the next generations. It is important to me and my peers as well that we the athletes, voice our opinion to leave each individual’s sport better than they find it.

Julian Smith competes at the 2023 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships
Julian Smith (Nordic Focus)

How have you used your athlete voice on behalf of your peers and how has it impacted your sport journey?

I think for myself it was a very clear transition from being an athlete to being an Athlete Rep for my training center. There was a void on the board because our previous athlete rep had stepped down and I wanted to take on the responsibility of speaking for the athletes at a small scale of of 15 individuals on our team. But what I realized was that if I wanted to leave my team better than I found it, some avenues made it easier or harder to do that. And one way to do that was to be at the table. During the conversations where people were making decisions about the team. While I learned a lot through that position, again, it became very clear when a friend of mine reached out to me asking me to put my name forward for the Nordiq Canada Board for Canadian Cross-Country Skiing.

I think what drove me most strongly for that was that I felt more and more as I was becoming a more senior or veteran athlete was that more and more I heard my peers expressing their opinion, but expressing their opinion to their peers. I think it’s difficult sometimes for athletes to express their honest opinions to the people who make the decisions about the lives of athletes. It became very clear to me that I felt I could fill the role of being the funnel, catching the wide variety of comments, concerns, ideas and opinions and funnelling them down into concise and hopefully constructive pieces of information for our board. And then again, I saw that role, progress and being productive and valuable for myself but also making an impact on the sport around me. And so now it has also led me to put my name forward for the AthletesCAN board, and I’m grateful and honoured to have won that election and won a spot on the AthletesCAN board. And I hope to do that very same thing of gathering information from those around me who want their voice heard but maybe don’t know who to speak to or don’t want to be the person that steps forward. And I’m happy and confident to be in that role for Canadian sport.

What is your favourite memory being an Athlete Rep / being involved in athlete advocacy?

I think two moments stick out to me. The first conference that I attended as an athlete rep for Nordiq Canada was the COC Session conference and I took the first room I walked into was for the Athletes Commission full of faces that I knew from watching the Olympics. I first thought I was in the wrong room. I thought “This can’t possibly be the room that I’m supposed to be in.” But what struck me was that these were individuals at the top of their athletic game but were now taking the time, energy and resources that they had built through sport, and trying to make the sport better than how they found it. And that really struck me as going very quickly, from feeling like I was in a room where I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be there to truly believing and having the confidence that I was in the right room.

The second would be, I think, because of how wonderful my relatively short experience in athlete advocacy has been. I’ve been the rep on my team’s board for five years. But this year has been a big steep learning curve for the Nordiq Canada board and the athletes on board. But I think one memory that really does stick with me, is my partner, the female athlete rep within the Nordiq Canada board, Katie Weaver. When she asked me to run for the male athlete rep, I think looking back, I took my time to think about it, but the value that it has brought to my life, I hold that memory quite closely because it has turned into one a great friendship with Katie, and I feel like we’re making really valuable impacts on the Canadian Cross-Country Ski scene, but also because it’s been fantastic to work together on the board and it’s it’s been a fantastic experience overall.

What have you learned about being a leader in your sport?

I frequently or almost solely believed or thought about leadership in a very outward and top-of-the-pyramid way. I thought of leaders as the CEOs, the team captains, and the founding members of any given group of individuals. At a leadership conference, I learned about the value that different types of leaders bring to an organization and that any group of individuals needs an outspoken leader. But you also need leaders who are willing to let someone else speak. Lead by taking a step back and honing the skills of those around them rather than just shining a light on maybe their own leadership skills. And that is maybe a less glamorous leader, but just as valuable and pertinent to the success of a group of people. And through my role as as board member, as a board member, where no one individual has more power than the other boards are designed to be a group of individuals making important decisions. There has to be trust that everyone has the same weight in decision-making, and I have pushed myself and learned that you can be a positive leader and an impactful individual in decision-making by listening, taking a step back and helping those around you quietly rather than putting your own ideas and your own outspoken views first. And that’s something that I’ve learned and experienced through sport leadership is an amazing one.

Why should your peers join AthletesCAN and/or get more involved in the leadership of their National Sport Organization?

I was speaking with some individuals in Nordiq Canada and the cross-country skiing scene of Canada about why athlete advocacy is so valuable, but also why or rather how athletes can be advocates for themselves, their peers, and their clubs. And I think AthletesCAN, and your NSO’s board are at the top of the pyramid. If you the person reading this are thinking, “I want to make a small difference”, then volunteer with your club or run a program at your local sports team or club. That’s the beginning of athlete advocacy, standing up and making the sport around you better no matter what the level is. But if you feel that calling to make an impact on the incredible and passionate Canadian sports scene, then an organization like AthletesCAN that is standing up for the vulnerable, making valuable and sometimes difficult decisions that have to be made in sport because high-performance sport is vulnerable and difficult and passion-filled, then I think an organization like AthletesCAN is one you should reach out to ask how you can make a difference and how you can join alongside and become an ally of an organization that is making a difference and doing good in Canadian sport.