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Canada safe sport commission to be led by former Ontario chief justice

Click to play video: 'Canada announces safe sport commission'
Canada announces safe sport commission
WATCH: Canada announces safe sport commission – Dec 12, 2023

Former Ontario chief justice Lise Maisonneuve will lead the Future of Sport in Canada Commission.

Canadian sports minister Carla Qualtrough also announced Thursday that Noni Classen and Andrew Pipe will be Maisonneuve’s advisers.

The commission’s mandate is to delve into problems amid what Qualtrough and her predecessor Pascale St-Onge have called a safe-sport crisis in Canada.

The commission has an 18-month mandate and will consult with sport bodies and survivors of abuse on how to improve the national sport system. It will produce two reports and hold a national summit to discuss preliminary findings.

Some former athletes, academics and former sports minister Kirsty Duncan have called for a public inquiry.

Click to play video: 'MP Kirsty Duncan says she was told to ‘get back to what sport was about,’ calls for public inquiry'
MP Kirsty Duncan says she was told to ‘get back to what sport was about,’ calls for public inquiry

This year’s federal budget provided $10.6 million over two years to the commission.

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Maisonneuve’s eight-year term as Ontario chief justice ended in May 2023. The judge from Timmins, Ont., was the second woman appointed to that position.

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Ottawa’s Pipe was the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport chair from 1996 to 2004, and continues to serve as past chair and medical science adviser.

Winnipeg’s Classen is the Canadian Centre for Child Protection’s director of education.

“We are committed to examining carefully the sport system in Canada and identifying the structures and processes that will support a values-based, safe sport system for all,” Maisonneuve said in a statement Thursday.

Qualtrough announced Dec. 11 that a commission would tackle safe-sport problems, but stopped short of a public inquiry.

An inquiry operates under terms set in the Inquiries Act and requires cabinet approval. Often led by judges, commissioners have power to subpoena witnesses, take evidence under oath and request documents.

Click to play video: 'Athletes reiterate calls for a national inquiry into abuse in sports'
Athletes reiterate calls for a national inquiry into abuse in sports

Qualtrough has compared the sport commission’s work to that of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which between 2007 and 2015 investigated harm caused by residential schools, and proposed both solutions to that harm and prevention of further abuse of Indigenous Peoples.

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“We need to change the culture of sport in Canada,” Qualtrough said in a statement.

“Our sport system failed victims and survivors of abuse and maltreatment, including children. We must understand how and why this happened, and we must take action to prevent it from happening in the future.

“The commission needs to hear from all Canadians — those within the sport system and those from other fields who can share new ideas, approaches and solutions. This will help ensure that all Canadians have access to safe and inclusive sport.”

Athletes testified in parliamentary committee hearings in 2022 and early 2023 about physical, mental and sexual abuse they experienced in their sport.

MPs were told the pressure on national sports organizations to produce medals, and get funding to do that, contributed to toxic environments in which athlete welfare took a back seat.

Revelations that Hockey Canada had reached a settlement with a woman alleging she was sexually assaulted by members of the 2018 Canadian junior men’s hockey team at a gala, and that Hockey Canada used a portion of registration fees to pay out such settlements, amplified calls for sport culture change.

Qualtrough was reappointed sports minister in 2023 after her first stint in the portfolio between 2015 and 2017.

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