Sunday, 17th February 2019
By Chris Welner - HipCheck Media
“Within these walls, you are welcomed, accepted and respected. Here, no matter who you are or where you come from, you are at home, regardless of your sex, sexual orientation, race, marital or family status, gender identity or expression, sex characteristics, age, colour, disability, political or religious belief or non-belief. All that we ask is that you be ethical, excellent and inclusive in all you do.”
The message of inclusion posted in Canada Winter Games venues throughout Red Deer, Alta., is clear. And, it is powerful.
Inclusive and safe sport for every athlete is a driving principle for organizers of the Canada Games. Supported by a new gender inclusion policy and responsible coach training, every athlete and coach should expect to be treated with equal respect at the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
“We know we’ve had transgender athletes at previous Games and we managed that on a case-by-case basis,” says Aaron Bruce, Vice-President of Sport at the Canada Games Council. “We could have continued to do that, but we want to send a message that all athletes and participants are welcome and safe at the Canada Games.”
Even if national or provincial sport organization rules differ, any participant may take part in the Canada Games in whatever gender they identify, with no requirement for testing or medical intervention before being allowed to compete.
Mark Tewksbury, 51, is a gold medal swimmer from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and Canada’s leading advocate for equality in sport.
“It is an extremely powerful statement and has resonated with athletes, coaches, mission staff and visitors,” Tewksbury says. A similar message was on display at Canada House during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea. “It would have meant a lot to me, but it would have also been almost impossible to have such a statement when I competed as there was no discussion at all around LGBTQ+ issues. In fact, most of the letters of that acronym were unknown to me because there was no discussion or language around different sexual orientations at all when I was growing up.”
The Canada Games inclusion declaration is based on work done at the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport on a program called True Sport. Kim Pattyson, CCES Manager of Sport Community Engagement says, “For people to benefit from all that sport has to offer they need to have a place to play that is consistent with their skill, ability and interests and in an environment that is fun, fair, safe and respectful.”
Here are the seven True Sport principles:
1. Go For It – Discover how good you can be
2. Play Fair
3. Respect Others
4. Keep It Fun
5. Stay Healthy
6. Include Everyone
7. Give Back
“True Sport fosters an environment that focuses on fairness, personal excellence, inclusion and fun and is free of harassment and abuse and other unethical behaviour,” Pattyson says. “Sport is vulnerable to a series of threats. If we are able to educate and instil a values-based sport system in athletes at a young age, we believe we can help mitigate these threats and protect our sport system.”
Lorraine Lafreniere is chief executive of the Coaching Association of Canada. The Association is leading the “responsible coaching movement” in Canada that helps provincial and national sport associations and Games organizers create safe environments for athletes.
The coaching association takes the lead in three areas for safe sport:
1. Background screening for coaches
2. Implementing a “rule of two” where two adults should always be present when coaching one athlete, even ensuring a third party is involved in any digital communication between coach and athlete.
3. Education, to help governing bodies think through checks and balances for safe sport.
“We know the field of play is well protected for young athletes, but it’s social engagements, such as texting, extended travel and accommodation, where there are risks,” says Lafreniere. “(The) Canada Games is one of most significant first experiences for a young athlete, being away from home for a long time. They will be exposed to other sports and other sport cultures. If the safe practices are in their first Games it sets the stage for what they should expect for what safe competition and safe sport should be.”