Photo Credit: Times Colonist

Surrey: The B.C. government is pumping $500,000 into its safe sport program amid numerous reports of abuse and maltreatment in Canadian sport.
The half a million dollars is in addition to an initial investment of $250,000 into the Play Safe B.C. program back in 2019-20, said Melanie Mark, who is B.C.’s minister of tourism, arts culture and sports.
“Athletes have a right to play safe,’’ Mark told The Canadian Press. “Abuse is in all of our communities and it’s insidious and it’s dangerous.
“We need to have people understand what we’re looking for. What are the signs of maltreatment in sport, what are the signs of discrimination and harassment?
“This fund is aimed to build capacity for the sport sector, who have been calling on government to build that capacity. Tool kits don’t get made on the side of a person’s desk, websites and training, all of those components are part of capacity.’’
Mark was flanked by federal sport minister Pascale St-Onge at Wednesday’s announcement in Burnaby.
Since St-Onge took over the sport portfolio in October, her ministry has been awash in complaints of abuse in Canadian sport. She’s called the situation “a crisis.’’
“I said a few months ago when I started this mandate and being really preoccupied with the well-being of our athletes, everyone in a leadership position has to stand up to change the culture of sport and the culture of silence, so that we can prevent the situations of abuse and maltreatment that we’re hearing about in the past few months,’’ St-Onge said in a phone interview following the announcement.
“We all know that abuse happens all across this system, whether it’s at the community level or at the national level. So everyone in their own jurisdiction, in their own organization and leadership roles has to stand up and take concrete action first of all to prevent this situation from happening, and then making sure that there’s a safe space that the athletes can turn to when they are facing abuse and maltreatment.’’ As of Oct. 15, 2021, all provincially funded sport organizations in B.C. were required to adopt a universal code of conduct as well as provide complaint reporting and safe-sport information on their websites.
All 71 provincial sport associations have done so and nearly 1,000 sport leaders and board members have completed a course designed by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection to safeguard children from sexual abuse, according to a statement from Mark’s department.
“I’m a parent. My kids play sport. I want to know that they’re safe,’’ Mark said. “With respect to money, there’s a cost to doing nothing.
“There’s a cost to leaving people to fend for themselves and try to navigate where they need to go if they need to report maltreatment.’’
St-Onge said in March that in her first five months in office, allegations of either maltreatment, sexual abuse or misuse of funds were made against at least eight national sport organizations.
She’s currently holding Hockey Canada’s feet to the fire for its handling of alleged sexual assault the night of a 2018 gala event in London, Ont.
Revelations that the country’s governing body quietly settled a civil lawsuit with the plaintiff this year,

By Donna Spencer
The Canadian Press