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AthletesCAN mounts first safe sport summit

The independent athletes' group held a groundbreaking meeting to discuss their experiences of abuse and to formulate recommendations around safety in sport

Earlier this week, 50 Canadian national team athletes including Olympians, Paralympians and others gathered in Toronto to talk about safety in sport and about how devastating a lack of safety has often been for many young athletes. Organized by AthletesCAN, the first and only full independent athlete organization in Canada, the national safe sport summit was designed to give athletes a safe space in which to talk about their experience, and to formulate policy recommendations for sports organizations going forward.

RELATED: Coaching report details history of harassment and abuse

Three months ago, the CBC uncovered details of more than 200 coaches who had been convicted of sexual offences against more than 600 Canadian minors since 1998. A handful were track and field coaches. Most recently, in March, Ottawa Lions head coach Andy McInnis and board chair Ken Porter were suspended by Athletics Canada over sexual abuse allegations by McInnis dating back to 2016.

In response to the CBC reports, last month Sport Canada created a national, confidential, toll-free helpline to provide support to anyone who has experienced or witnessed abuse or harassment in sport.

RELATED: Athletics Canada suspends Ottawa Lions head coach and board chair

The summit was facilitated by retired skierĀ Allison Forsyth, who was sexually abused by Bertrand Charest in 1997 and 1998 when he was the national team coach. Charest was convicted of 37 charges and sentenced to 12 years in prison. He has been released pending an appeal.

A CBC report on the summit says the main concern raised at the summit is a lack of independence and transparency in dealing with the issue of abuse in sport.