Canada's sport minister calls report on abuse in sport 'tragic'

(Reuters) - 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.”

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Science Minister Kirsty Duncan speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Duncan’s comments came a day after the first of a three-part investigative series was published on Sunday and reported at least 222 coaches who were involved in amateur sports in Canada have been convicted of sexual offences in the past 20 years.

“As a former athlete and coach, I know there are problems across the system,” Duncan said in a statement. “We must not condone a sport culture that promotes winning at all costs. This has to change.”

According to the CBC report, the offences involve more than 600 victims under the age of 18 and that the charged and convicted coaches were involved in 36 different sports.

The report also said the charges include offences such as sexual assault, sexual exploitation, child luring and making or possessing child pornography.

Duncan, who is also Canada’s minister of science, will this week meet in Alberta with federal, provincial and territorial representative ahead of the 2019 Canada Winter Games, and said ending abuse and harassment in sport will be a top priority.

Last June, Duncan announced new measures for federally-funded national sport organizations and said financial support would be withdrawn if certain measures were not met.

Among those measures were demands to strengthen mandatory anti-harassment policies, immediately disclose any incident of harassment, and put in place an independent third party to address such cases.

“It is incumbent on all national sports organizations to step forward and speak out,” said Duncan. “There is absolutely no room for denial or delay. We need to be transparent and work together on this. Canada’s young people depend on us, and they deserve better.”

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) said in a joint statement that they look forward to meeting Duncan to advance the conversation about abuse and take action to better protect those in sport.

“Part of our talks will focus on better harmonized mechanisms and actions to address harassment, abuse, and discrimination in the areas of awareness, prevention, reporting, management, and monitoring,” the COC and CPC said.

“The goal is to ensure a common understanding among stakeholders and supporting the safest possible environment for all participants from the club level all the way to Team Canada.”

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar