The Goal is Safe, Inclusive Sport for All

It’s not just hockey…

Sport Boards are responsible for ensuring that their members (athletes, coaches, staff) are being properly served by the Leadership (CEO, HP Director, and Head Coach) that they put in place.

Watching Hockey Canada’s CEO and Board ignore the mounting evidence being presented in media – that significant leadership change had to happen to re-establish trust for the sport to even begin a process to correct governance gaps and the sports cultural and safe-sport failings – was hard for some in other sports, like bobsleigh, gymnastics and rowing to watch. If it took repeated demands from the Federal Sport Minister, retention of millions of dollars in fees from Provincial Hockey Associations and more than 12 significant sponsors reducing, pausing or cancelling their support for hockey to achieve change – what chance do smaller sports have?

Recently Rubin Thomlinson completed a review of Rowing Canada’s High-Performance environment looking at the last (approx.) 10 years. ( +2 points for Rowing Canada Aviron (RCA) for getting the review done and posting it, -5 points for how long and the effort took. )

The results of the review are posted on Rowing Canada’s web site, and the accompanying Appendix files are, frankly, shocking to me. These results should be a clear indicator to RCA board members that Rowing is not being managed well by its Leadership and that change is needed immediately. When are they going to accept the evidence that has been presented to them?

over 50% of people surveyed describe their experience with RCA’s high-performance environment as negative.

Over 85% !!! of people surveyed witnessed, experienced or heard maltreatment

Over 25% of those surveyed said they wouldn’t report maltreatment

The survey group includes athletes, staff, board members and contractors over the last 10 years;

From Appendix C of the RCA Independent High Performance Review Report
From Appendix C of the RCA Independent High Performance Review Report
From Appendix C of the RCA Independent High Performance Review Report

Why would they not report maltreatment? Fear of reprisal is a likely answer. People are afraid to report because they are afraid if they speak out, opportunities for selection/jobs and funding will be removed.

This summer, I was met with reprisal within an RCA environment. After accepting an invitation from a coach to speak to a group of rowers in their training camp (some of whom were part of the Olympic gold medal women’s eight), I was told that staff felt that my presence in a Rowing Canada camp would be a problem. For me to be unwelcome in any Canadian sport environment was shocking, and the only explanation for the staff’s concern is that the leadership was unhappy that I had signed a letter of concern, requesting an independent 3rd party review of their culture and governance.  I spoke up and then got pushed out.

It was a good first step that RCA brought in Allison Forsyth, a Safe Sport expert and consultant from ITP Sport, to “support the athletes and the organization in providing a deeper level of education and a plan to rebuild Safe Sport culturally at RCA”. She is helping to recognize past and present practices that cause(d) harm and even trauma. But it doesn’t address the constant and sustained failings of RCA’s leadership that have resulted in a chronic lack of trust in RCA to respond appropriately.

Beyond governance and culture there are many other issues of concern with rowing right now. The National Team training centre is being pushed into a location that has water quality concerns, is not ready with infrastructure and is challenging for athletes to find affordable housing. The National Championships have been scheduled without input from the Canadian University Rowing Committee. The result will limit the pipeline and development of student athletes. And with a lack of National leadership and support for provincial coaching growth and development, rowing will be excluded from future Canada Games. This could result in catastrophic loss of funding to some Provincial Sport Organizations.

Rowing Canada acknowledges that its next steps is to develop an Action Plan. There are many of us that would like them to see from the evidence – that, like in Hockey, there will be no trust in the Action Plan if the same leadership that steered RCA through the past is in place for the future.

If you are a rower, parent of rower, rowing coach or rowing official and have concerns with this information – you can…

  1. Read the full report, not just the summary; read the Appendixes to see all the survey results. Posted Oct. 3 on Rowing Canada’s web page. (scroll down)
  2. Send an email to your club, your PSO and/or to a RCA Board Member) asking for a performance review of leadership; it’s time to accept the evidence.
  3. reply to / share this post.

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