Experts say sexual violence is ingrained in Canadian sport. What is the fix? – Nation
With allegations of sexual assault against multiple student hockey players at the 2018 tournament Canadian Hockey attention-grabbing event, attention has been focused on the national hockey agency’s troubleshooting.
In May, TSN reported that Hockey Canada had settled a lawsuit alleging sexual assault involving eight members of the 2018 World Juniors championship team.
A woman alleged that members assaulted her while she was drunk in a hotel in London, Ont., following an event celebrating the Canada Foundation Hockey.
On June 2, a petition was passed in the House of Commons of Canada asking the House to “call Hockey Canada before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to shed light on their involvement in a cases of alleged sexual assault in 2018.”
Hockey Canada president and COO Scott Smith testified June 20 that the organization has received one to two sexual assault allegations each year for the past five or six years.
Smith and outgoing CEO Tom Renney say players are not required to cooperate in the investigation; instead, players are “encouraged” to cooperate.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Hockey Canada’s handling of the allegation was “unacceptable”, adding that “all options are being considered to determine the next step” in the government’s investigation. Federal Government on Canadian Hockey.
Trudeau calls Canadian Hockey’s behavior ‘unacceptable’ amid investigation into sexual assault allegations
However, experts say these allegations are not an isolated incident – there is a long history of sexual violence and other forms of violence in Canadian men’s hockey. Several gender-based violence prevention experts told Global News that a systematic shift is needed to a survivor-centered approach that puts the needs and wants of survivors first. to tackle the toxic silence rule in hockey culture.
According to Kristi Alllain, an associate professor of sociology at the University of St. Thomas and the Canadian Research Chair in Physical Culture and Social Life, failure to protect players from sexual and sexual abuse is an ongoing problem in men’s hockey in Canada. .
Allain gives the example of Sheldon Kennedy, where the former player revealed in 1996 that he had been sexually abused by coach Graham James during his time in the Western Hockey League from 1984 to 1990.
James was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in 1997 and the Canadian Hockey Association banned him from coaching for life. After serving his prison term, James faced more sexual assault charges in 2015 while serving a five-year prison sentence for abusing former NHL player Theo Fleury.
Kennedy’s case is not an isolated incident. In June 2020, former professional ice hockey player Daniel Carcillo and former Lethbridge Hurricanes player Garrett Taylor have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). Carcillo and Taylor allege they experienced systematic infatuation, bullying and sexual assault during their time in major junior hockey.
Days after Carcillo and Taylor filed the lawsuit, CHL appointed an independent panel in July 2020 to review CHL’s policies and practices regarding “disparaging, abusive, harassing behaviour. harassment and bullying”. The panel released a report in January 2022this found that there was an “unwritten rule of silence” that allowed misconduct to become a cultural norm.
Other sports have similar problems, including gymnastics. In March 2022, more than 70 gymnasts called on Sports Canada to conduct an independent investigation into an alleged toxic culture filled with abuses in gymnastics. Canadian tools.
Following the allegations, a group of former Canadian gymnasts filed a class action lawsuit in maybe against Gymnastics Canada and provincial regulators in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan.
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Allain says these issues are linked to rape culture and general discrimination or violence against women.
“They’re tied to the violent culture of men’s hockey in Canada,” says Allain. “And the code of silence that exists in that culture allows the violence to continue.”
When the sexual assault allegations were “washed out,” Allain said, it signaled to her that the alleged abusers’ careers were more important than the victims.
“Hockey has a deep connection to our sense of national identity… These are widely celebrated athletes who wear the (Canada) flag on their bodies,” said Allain. “When we celebrate these types of men, it tells a story about the types of Canadians that are important to the Canadian imagination.
“We look at the team we’re celebrating, usually young, straight-looking, white men, and we see them as pillars of the nation,” she said. “When they come back and (supposedly) rape women, we put that aside.”
According to the Canadian Heritage Standing Committee, hearings will be convened on July 27 and 28 to more closely examine Hockey Canada’s response to the sexual assault allegation.
Andrea Gunraj, vice president of community engagement at Women’s Canada, said solutions to ending rape culture “must be systemic”.
Gunraj said “a real vision” is needed in leadership to end abuse, where a “victim-centered approach” should be taken to investigate allegations of sexual assault. “fast and transparent”.
The survivor-centered approach considers what survivors want and how they feel, says Gunraj.
“Some people want a process to hold the abuser accountable, others may want services, support and counseling … but it has to be focused on the victim, not the situation. status of the organization or the perpetrator,” Gunraj said.
She added that rape culture speaks to how common these abuses are and “how often we don’t understand sexual assault” by blaming and shaming survivors and even defend the perpetrator.
But to effectively tackle the root of the problem, Gunraj says the right policies and practice frameworks are key to containment.
“Policies and practices affect how we see things – what we value things and what we don’t,” says Gunraj. “I think it’s important to have that as your base.”
What has been done so far?
In 1997, Hockey Canada developed the Speak Out! in an effort to “educate and prevent bullying, harassment, and abuse in hockey across Canada,” according to the organization. website.
In one statement released on June 20, Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney told the committee that the organization “is on a journey to change our sports culture and make it safer and inclusive.” than”.
“We acknowledge that problems of abuse – including bullying, harassment, racism, homophobia and sexual abuse – exist in hockey, as well as in other sports. other sports and in our society,” the statement read, adding that Hockey Canada has been “working on this issue since before the London incident. “
Hockey Canada did not respond to Global News’ request for comment on its commitment to ending sexual abuse during the time of publication.
Canadian hockey president discusses future of sports culture during sexual assault investigation hearing
However, Allain notes that anti-sexual violence training can be overlooked if leaders “don’t take it seriously”.
“A lot of teams now have anti-sexual violence training,” Allain said, “but I’ve heard from the players that the coaches and staff on the team often subtly sabotage… they don’t take it seriously… respect that. “And when they don’t value it, athletes don’t take it seriously either.”
Gunraj says this type of training can take a peer-to-peer or peer-to-peer leadership approach.
She said institutions should have peer leaders trained by those in the field of gender equity, so that they can pass on knowledge to their younger colleagues.
Allain said the field of hockey must be open to professionals from many different fields to “break the common notion that these forms of violence are okay.”
“If men’s hockey wants to make real change, it needs to be open to real change, and that means welcoming voices that haven’t been applauded in the past,” she said. .
On the issue of prevention, Kim Dubé, a doctoral student at the University of Ottawa’s School of Social Work, says there is a “men’s club culture in sport that is being encouraged”.
“Obviously I don’t think every athlete is in that culture; However, the boys’ club culture is being tolerated and despised,” said Dubé. “Nobody wants to stand up in the dressing room because if you stand up, your whole team will probably tell you to shut up.”
Dubé said society shouldn’t take “aberration, sexism, homophobia, racism and colonialism as the norm”, where people “just accept it because they are what they are”. good athletes”.
“We have to make the athletes feel comfortable standing up to their teammates and saying, ‘No, that’s not cool.’
Dubé said: “Sport has to be very interesting. “It is considered fun, relaxing, healthy. It’s not a place where you should be afraid of being assaulted. “
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