National code of conduct to be mandated for children’s amateur sports

National code of conduct to be mandated for children’s amateur sports
Canada’s Sport Minister Kirsty Duncan on Monday called the findings of a CBC report into abuse in amateur sports in the country “tragic and completely unacceptable.” REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File photo

After a recent CBC report that detailed 20 years of rampant abuse and harassment in amateur sport, the Liberal government quickly moved to invest in prevention efforts.

It will spend $220,000 to develop a national code of conduct, as well as further initiatives to develop a gender strategy to encourage more girls to consider sporting programs.

Recent scandals, such as what happened at St. Michael’s College school in Toronto and past horrors, like what former junior hockey coach Graham James perpetrated in the 1980s, show the real need for rules, and maybe new laws, to help protect our kids.

Codes do exist in amateur sport, such as one created by The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES).

“Describing the prohibited conduct in the code will make it clear to those involved in Canadian sport that certain conduct by individuals in positions of authority will absolutely not be tolerated or condoned. Engaging in prohibited conduct will result in significant sanctions being imposed, that may include suspensions and possible expulsion from membership,” according to its website.

It lists such things as the individual “shall not have sexual relations, or sexual intimacy of any description” with any athlete being coached; the coach cannot use alcohol while driving an athlete in a vehicle; the coach must not engage in cheating or accept a bribe.

So far, according to CCES figures, 18 organizations across the country have signed up.

But it’s not only the coach who should follow acceptable rules of behaviour, Softball Albert has a spectator code of conduct aimed mainly at parents of athletes.

“I will not have unrealistic expectations. I will remember that the amateur athletes are not professionals and cannot be judged by professional standards,” it says, as well as, “I will never ridicule or yell at the players, coaches, officials or other spectators.”

A quick Google search shows an abundance of codes of conduct from organizations across Canada, but some parents do not comply with them, perhaps most notably in hockey.

One of the most recent incidents happened in Waterloo, Ont., during a minor midget hockey game. Two persons, presumably a parent and a coach, were photographed scrapping behind the kids on the bench.

“I can’t speak to the motive or what would have caused the incident to occur, I can only say that we were called by people who were at the game, who had advised us of the fight,” said Waterloo Regional police spokesperson Const. Andre Johnson to the London Free Press.

The league also has a code of conduct that sets out best practices on behaviour, but it obviously wasn’t followed by those involved. Police are still considering charges in the case, but the federal government may consider new laws to put some teeth behind its code of conduct plans.

Last year in Ontario, the government implemented legislation governing how provincial associations deal with concussions: Rowan’s Law (Concussion Safety), 2018, calls for measures to address the growing challenges athletes face with brain injuries.

“Sport organizations will be required to design and implement a removal-from-sport protocol for athletes who have sustained a concussion, or who are suspected of having sustained a concussion. The protocol must require the immediate and safe removal of an injured athlete from the sport activity as well as the establishment of specific processes for the athletes to return to training, practice or competition,” according to a briefing page on the website of law firm Cassels Brock.

There are laws that cover other behaviours that organizations must follow, according to Cross Country BC, the sport governing body for the province.

“Most sport organizations are incorporated, under either federal or provincial legislation, which means that the organization must abide by certain laws in order to maintain its status as a registered corporation. Directors of the Board have specific legal responsibilities, one of which is to place the organizations’ needs over the director’s personal needs.”

This spring, the government will hold workshops that will bring in several sports associations, as well as other stakeholders. Here’s hoping the effort achieves its goals: protect our kids so they can enjoy all the benefits, and the fun, of sport.  

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