Former Volleyball Canada coach sanctioned for sexual harassment resurfaces in Scotland
A former Volleyball Canada coach who was sanctioned for sexually harassing two younger athletes when he played on Canada’s national beach volleyball team has resurfaced in Scotland, coaching that country’s national team.
According to a confidential copy of a July 6, 2021, report prepared by a Volleyball Canada discipline committee and obtained by TSN, Felipe Humana-Paredes acknowledged sending unsolicited photos of his shirtless torso between 2015 and 2020 to female beach volleyball athletes via Snapchat and Instagram.
One of three complainants reported that the images “might have captured the upper pelvic area, may have displayed pubic hair and that it appeared [Humana-Paredes] was wearing a towel. This suggests the photographs to be sexual in nature.”
The Volleyball Canada discipline panel concluded Humana-Paredes also sexually harassed a second complainant because he sent her images of his shirtless torso, accompanied by flirtatious comments. His behaviour towards a third complainant was deemed harassment, not sexual harassment.
“The complainant… recalled the image she received to be that of a shirtless torso,” the panel wrote. “There is no suggestion that the image is more revealing.”
The complainants made their complaint in early 2021 after they learned that Humana-Paredes would be hired as a Canadian national team coach.
Humana-Paredes was reprimanded for his actions, directed to apologize in writing to the complainants, and complete a number of educational courses about respect in sport and in the workplace. His six-month contract was not extended after it expired on Sept. 30, 2021, Volleyball Canada spokesperson Jackie Skender told TSN.
On Apr. 26, 2022, Scottish Volleyball announced Humana-Paredes had been hired as its high performance beach volleyball coach and program manager.
Humana-Paredes did not respond to a request for comment.
“We do not comment on individuals,” Scottish Volleyball chief executive Margaret Ann Fleming wrote in an email to TSN. ‘However, all prospective Scottish Volleyball employees are subject to appropriate vetting, including criminal record checks, prior to appointment in line with our robust policies and procedures.”
Skender wrote in a statement that the organization “only discovered Mr. Humana-Paredes was employed in Scotland via the web/social media. Scotland did not ask for a reference from anyone employed by [Volleyball Canada] at the time.”
Skender wrote that Humana-Paredes is flagged in a national volleyball registration system, which means all clubs or associations in Canada would be alerted if they moved to register and hire him.
Volleyball Canada’s decision to keep the ruling against Humana-Paredes confidential highlights a polarizing debate playing out behind the scenes at a new federal government-funded agency created to prevent and investigate abuse in sports.
The Office of the Sports Integrity Commissioner (OSIC) opened last summer with a mandate to independently investigate allegations of abuse and misconduct at the national team level. While the OSIC has already started some investigations, its policies over transparency have not been formalized.
OSIC executives want to create a public registry of people who are sanctioned for bad behaviour, but government lawyers have held back giving their approval over fears that people named on any registry might file defamation lawsuits, a person familiar with the matter told TSN.
The infighting raises a dilemma: If the names of those who are sanctioned are withheld from the public, how can you protect athletes from those who are sanctioned and move to private clubs, elementary schools, high schools, colleges, or university programs?
“It blows my mind that so many organizations in sports do not have a public registry for people who behave badly,” said Amelia Cline, a Vancouver lawyer and co-founder of the advocacy group Gymnasts for Change.
“In law and in medicine we have registries for lawyers and doctors who are sanctioned, and those records stay public because they protect the public. But in sports, where we are talking about protecting vulnerable children, organizations cite privacy concerns of coaches. The secrecy is disgusting.”
Skender wrote that Volleyball Canada has signed on as a signatory to the OSIC program and that Volleyball Canada supports the creation of a public registry.
“Volleyball Canada is ready to publish a list [of sanctioned individuals] when OSIC’s platform is ready to ‘go live’,” Skender wrote. “We believe a planned Pan-Canadian, vetted registry is more robust and effective than a piecemeal solution on our web site.”
Skender wrote that one other case investigated by Volleyball Canada since 2018 has led to a sanction. She did not disclose the name of the person sanctioned.
Humana-Paredes comes from volleyball pedigree.
His father, Hernan Humana, was a Team Canada beach volleyball coach at the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and Sydney, respectively. His sister, Melissa Humana-Paredes, won a world championship in 2019 and competed for Canada in beach volleyball at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
After playing for York University, Felipe Humana-Paredes began playing beach volleyball full time on the World Tour and won the 2015 Canadian World Championship.
On Feb. 17, 2021, Volleyball Canada announced Humana-Paredes had been hired as a national team performance analyst and assistant coach.
Days later, several national team players filed two complaints against Humana-Paredes with Lise Maclean, who at the time was Volleyball Canada’s safe sport officer and responsible for accepting such complaints.
One of the complainants provided TSN with their correspondence with Volleyball Canada as well as the organization’s discipline decision.
“[We] feel strongly about the inappropriateness of [Felipe’s] actions and do not ever want to be in a position where we are vulnerable to [Felipe],” one of the complainants wrote in a March 29, 2021, email to Maclean. “An effective role between the NextGen coach and us female athletes would require trust and a close relationship… We do not want to ever be in a position where we are dependent on Felipe for his support in any role putting us in a position vulnerable to his requests …Multiple women on the national team have received messages from Felipe indicative of his pursuit and we want our training space free from fear and coercion.”
When the complainant asked Volleyball Canada to ensure that Humana-Paredes would have no interaction with the women’s national team program, Volleyball Canada chief operating officer Linden Leung responded in a March 31, 2021, email, and wrote that scenario wasn’t possible.
“With regards to the ‘zero overlap’ - We cannot ensure this,” Leung wrote. “What we can look at specifically, is that Felipe will not be on the training courts with the Women’s Next Gen athletes (or others affected), and he will abide by the rule of two/open observable spaces.”
On Apr. 11, 2021, the complainant responded in an email to Leung that his message has been difficult to process.
“A coach that has sexually pursued multiple female athletes on the current NextGen national team (and not limited to), is being assigned by Volleyball Canada to be in a position of influence over them,” the complainant wrote. “Could you please share what Volleyball Canada’s stance is on a coach who has been sexual…to athletes he is being assigned by Volleyball Canada to coach?”
A week later, on Apr. 19, 2021, Maclean hired Xpera Risk Mitigation and Investigation to begin a third-party investigation. After its investigation was completed, a report was provided by one of the company’s Ottawa-based investigators to Volleyball Canada’s discipline committee on May 27, 2021.
The investigator noted in its report that one of the complainants had said she was so uncomfortable with Humana-Paredes being in a position of authority over her and younger athletes in the sport that she would consider resigning from the national team if he wasn’t removed from his coaching position.
The discipline panel, whose members included Volleyball Canada board member Dan MacIntosh, Leung, and Skate Canada chief executive Debra Armstrong, published their report on the allegations on July 6, 2021.
They wrote in the confidential report that Humana- Paredes’ behaviour constituted sexual harassment and that his sanction was not more serious because he was not in a position of power over the complainants at the time he sent them the photographs. They also wrote that there was no grooming because no sexual activity had taken place and each of the complainants and Humana-Paredes were over the age of majority at the time the incidents occurred.
Humana-Paredes wrote one of the complainants an apology letter on July 19, 2021.
“Yes, I sent you uninvited, sexually suggestive photos, and yes, I incorrectly insinuated you were flirting with me in a way that was shaming,” he wrote in the letter. “There is no excuse for that, what I did was wrong… When these incidents happened, I was insecure and looking for affirmation.”
Skender wrote that the complainants did not file an appeal to the discipline committee’s decision.