Sports organizations will receive money from the provincial government to help promote respectful behaviour on and off fields, ice sheets and courts, but key details of the new initiative are still under development.
Tourism Minister Lana Popham last week announced $7.8 million to help develop an independent process for complaints.
“Everyone deserves to have positive experiences in sport, so they can benefit from the incredible power of active living, and improve physical and mental well-being,” Popham said. “Since 2019, we have been working with viaSport to advance the safe sport culture in B.C. The sector has asked for more support and we are now ready to take this important step to increase protection, accountability and awareness for all participants.”
ViaSport, previously the BC Sports Agency, oversees the growth and development of amateur sport in B.C. It works with more than 70 provincial organizations representing individual sports and administers more than $13 million in provincial money for amateur sports.
Issues around the behaviour of players, coaches and fans have gained greater recognition in years, ranging from rowdy, overbearing parents to on-field disparagement to racism to high-profile cases of sexual misconduct subject to criminal prosecution.
These types of behaviours have appeared at every level of amateur sport and the issue recently reached the desk of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau when a group calling itself Scholars Against Abuse in Canadian Sport urgently asked for an inquiry amid “widespread reports of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse of athletes throughout the nation’s sport system.”
All sport organizations accredited by viaSport and receiving provincial funding have adopted the B.C. Universal Code of Conduct setting out acceptable behaviours. But individual sports organizations had to manage their respective complaint process themselves, leaving room for inconsistency at best and inaction at worst.
The new funding promises to create what the province calls an “effective, fair and consistent mechanism” that would allow sport organizations to focus on programs with an independent third-party provider handling all complaints regardless of the sport.
But the identity of this third-party remains unknown and some time will pass prior to its announcement. The ministry said in a statement that ViaSport will engage with the sport sector and host safe sport summit in fall 2023 to develop the process, and determine the range of needed services inclusive an implementation timeline.
“Options for service providers and cost structures will be explored as we develop the program,” it reads.
ViaSport will also boost the PlaySafe BC program created several years ago to increase awareness of accepted and expected behaviours, promote the importance of safe sport and increase protection for all participants.
Charlene Krepiakevich, chief executive officer of viaSport, said her organization is committed to developing long-term solutions to address maltreatment in sport.
“This investment (of $7.8 million) enables us to build on the success of our PlaySafeBC program, and to advance the prevention of maltreatment,” Krepiakevich said.