There are renewed calls for the government to create a law protecting students against sexual violence. The push comes just days after three Montreal high school basketball coaches were charged with sex crimes involving at least two minors.
A collective called “young people’s voices count” made up of basketball organizations and groups supporting survivors of sexual violence is calling on the province to create a law to prevent and counter sexual violence in elementary and high schools.
They claim the allegations stemming from École Secondaire Saint-Laurent are not isolated.
“We need to be more aware of what we can do in order to protect the youths who are exposed to that violence. (W)e don’t have specific training,” said Quebec Against Sexual Violence Co-Founder, Mélanie Lemay.
Adults don’t know how to react when they are not trained, Lemay said, adding there are no consequences if individuals ignore the issue.
It’s something members of the basketball community insist happened with the three coaches charged with various sex crimes at École Secondaire Saint-Laurent. They say unacceptable behaviour was tolerated.
“It was known in the school and in the basketball community, in the sports community that the coaches involved had toxic behaviours,” said Pour 3 Points founder Fabrice Vil.
Nora Chenier-Jones from CB Elite said the coached treated the girls like they were “possessions” and that “they should listen.”
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Both Vil and Jones said factors like the basketball program’s success rate and one coach’s high profile reputation — Daniel Lacasse who coached for Basketball Quebec — stopped people from speaking out.
“I think that a lot of parents overlooked it because if you’re thinking I want my girl long term to do well, well, maybe this is what it takes,” said Jones.
One sports psychologist claims success is not an excuse for aggressive behaviour, especially when it comes to young athletes.
“You can find coaches who get the same success, but do it the right way. You know, by considering that athlete’s growth and development, their psychosocial development,” said Professor of Sports Psychology at McGill University, Dr. Gordon Bloom.
In response to the group’s call for action, the Ministry of Education wrote, “we must do everything for our schools to be a fulfilling environment for our young people. This is precisely why the minister of education, Mr. Jean-François Roberge, tabled a bill to reform the student ombudsman.”
Advocates argue it’s time for widespread reflection, in order to determine what’s really important in youth sports.
“Is it only the victories and championships? Or is it safe and healthy environment for youth to thrive and compete as well?” questions Vil.