Gymnastics Canada needs to reassure parents the sport is safe: Trudeau

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling on Gymnastics Canada and other sport organizations to ensure the safety of their athletes, saying there’s much work to be done to restore the trust of parents.

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Trudeau was responding to questions about the federal government freezing the funding to Gymnastics Canada.

Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge told The Canadian Press on Thursday evening that she was suspending the national sport organization’s funding until it signs on with the new Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner. St-Onge froze Hockey Canada’s funding recently in the wake of the national organization’s handling of an alleged sexual assault and out-of-court settlement.

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“I think it’s not even about responsibilities to government, because yes, we’re demanding that they sign onto the organization for integrity in sports as a condition to full funding,” Trudeau said in Stratford, PEI. “They should be worried about satisfying parents across the country that they’re keeping their kids safe, that they are an organization promoting the kinds of values, kind of safe environment that every parent has a right to expect for their kids, that we want kids to model.”

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Trudeau says he’s had many conversations with the sport minister’s office in recent weeks about several national sport organizations and their failure to fulfil their responsibility to “keep our kids, keep our athletes safe.”

“That’s why we’ve made clear requests of Gymnastics Canada and others for more transparency, to sign on to accountability measures, because yes, we need to continue supporting sports, and there’s so many great volunteers across the country contributing to young people being able to stay healthy and in sports,” he said.

“But we need to make sure we’re doing it in a safe way, and we’re going to continue making sure that as a government and working with other orders of government, we are pushing for changes that make sure that our kids are kept safe.”

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St-Onge has made participation in the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner (OSIC) — which began receiving complaints about maltreatment in sport on June 20 — mandatory for federal funding.

Of the 64 national sport organizations, only Volleyball Canada and Weightlifting Canada have signed on so far, although an OSIC spokesperson said “dozens of NSOs are in the negotiation process.”

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