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Heritage Committee calls for public registry of misconduct sanctions in sport

Canada's federal sport minister Carla Qualtrough Canada's federal sport minister Carla Qualtrough - THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage wrote in a new report that the Canadian government should mandate the immediate creation of a national public registry of sports coaches, officials and other staff who have been sanctioned for misconduct.

Such a registry should be “searchable and comprehensive," the committee recommended late Thursday, when the report was released.

A growing number of sports organizations in Canada have public registries detailing sanctions of misconduct. Athletics Canada, Swim Canada, and Skate Canada all maintain public registries, and Basketball Canada and Canada Soccer have said they are in the process of setting up registries.

In June 2023, the federally funded Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC) also began publishing a registry of people who have been sanctioned. The OSIC, however, primarily deals with complaints involving national team-level athletes, coaches and officials.

An expanded sanctions registry is among 21 recommendations included in a 182-page report that summarizes the committee’s year-long study of safe sport issues in Canada. The committee wrote that it heard from 105 witnesses during 24 meetings and received 14 briefs.

“The committee has observed firsthand the gaps in the system which have slowed for these unacceptable situations to occur,” the committee wrote. “It has also directly witnessed some of the governance issues affecting many NSOs across Canada.”

The committee, chaired by Liberal member of parliament Hedy Fry, began its study after TSN reported in May 2022 that a woman in London, Ont., had settled a lawsuit against Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League, and eight unnamed players from Canada’s 2018 World Juniors team in which she alleged she was sexually assaulted by the players.

Five players from that team — Michael McLeod, Cal Foote, Dillon Dubé, Carter Hart, and Alex Formenton — now face charges of sexual assault and await a trial. The allegations against them have not been proven.

In its report, the committee quoted witnesses who are critical of the autonomy enjoyed by Canadian sports organizations to this point. Sport governance and anti-corruption consultant Whitney Bragagnolo testified that a lack of proper oversight has shielded Canada’s sports organizations from moral, social, and judicial scrutiny.

Besides recommending the creation of an expanded sanctions registry, the committee also recommended that all organizations in Canada receiving federal money require vulnerable sector police checks for all volunteers, coaches and employees in contact with athletes, and that the House of Commons request the auditor general to conduct a “comprehensive audit” of sports-related programs under the umbrella of the department of Canadian Heritage.

The federal government should also mandate national sport organizations to increase transparency by disclosing all funds at their disposal, including how much money is generated from public-sector grants, sponsorships, donations and fundraising, and member fees, the committee wrote in its report, adding the public should also be given details about organization insurance policies and how funds are being used, including how much money is being used for legal services and advice and by “transparency disclosing elements of the payroll and salaries of top executives.”

The report also said all NSOs that receive federal funding should be required to publish board meeting records.

Canada's federal sport minister Carla Qualtrough has called on Hockey Canada to create a public registry of misconduct sanctions assessed to players, coaches, and officials.

Qualtrough told TSN in February that the national sport organization should also encourage provincial and territorial hockey organizations to be similarly transparent about people who have been banned or suspended for bad behaviour.

Hockey Canada said in a statement to TSN on Friday that it has not decided whether to follow the recommendation of Qualtrough and the heritage committee.

“Although Hockey Canada has not been directed to establish a public sanction registry, we continue to review the implications and concerns associated with having one,” Hockey Canada wrote in a statement. “While we understand that most national and provincial sport organizations in Canada do not have such a public registry at this time, we are studying and evaluating possible options to be implemented in the future.”