Road To The Olympic Games

Tricia Smith, COC president, responds to concerns over Marcel Aubut scandal

The Canadian Olympic Committee's new president, Tricia Smith, responded Friday to words from Canada's chef de mission for the 2016 Olympics in Rio that he considered resigning over the way the organization has handled the Marcel Aubut scandal.

Says organization is changing, but 'wounds' remain

Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith pauses during an announcement at the Olympic speed skating oval in Richmond, B.C., on Friday. She responded to concerns over how the organization has handled the Marcel Aubut sexual harassment scandal. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The Canadian Olympic Committee's new president, Tricia Smith, responded Friday to words from Jean-Luc Brassard, Canada's chef de mission for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, that he considered resigning over the way the organization has handled the Marcel Aubut scandal.

Speaking to The Canadian Press, Smith said the organization is taking steps to make sure it provides a safe environment for employees and athletes.

"It's a process," Smith said during an event at the Olympic speed skating oval in Richmond, B.C. "We have taken the steps so far we need to take in terms of making sure our staff is safe, the workplace is healthy.

"It's a process. If more steps need to be taken, they will be taken."

Smith was at the Olympic Oval to sign a sport memorandum between the COC, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium, the province of B.C. and viaSportBC.

"I have spoken to [Brassard] recently," continued Smith, a four-time Olympic rower. "He is very trusting and said he has faith in what I am doing. We will make sure the steps are taken to be sure we have a safe and healthy environment for all our staff and anyone in the Olympic movement."

Brassard mulls quitting

Brassard, says he considered resigning — and may still.

The Olympic moguls champion told CBC's French-language service, Radio-Canada, on Friday that his resignation remains a possibility if he's not satisfied with the COC's efforts to repair the damage stemming from allegations of sexual harassment facing Aubut.

Aubut resigned from his position last October and is not facing charges.

"During the last four years, red lights were lit on a number of occasions, and, intentionally or not, they were ignored. I want to know why. We're not talking about budgetary mistakes or financial issues, we're talking about human feelings," Brassard said.

The COC released a report into the sexual harassment scandal in January, which made a series of recommendations.

Brassard said he believes it's vital to act quickly to prevent these incidents from happening again.

The COC fired three people in the wake of the allegations against Aubut, but other people in the organization may have had knowledge of the alleged harassment and stayed silent, Brassard said.

"It's not the moment to put your head in the sand," Brassard said in a later interview with CBC News. "It's time to face the situation."

Olympic moguls champion Jean-Luc Brassard discusses his roll as Canada's chef de mission for the Rio 2016 games. 7:48

'Wounds that won't heal'

Brassard said he has confidence in Smith, who was appointed in November to replace Aubut.

"She making changes, she's put in place procedures, and she's being very receptive to my call for greater transparency," he said.

That call took the form of a letter that Brassard issued last weekend to the COC's board of directors.

"I wrote the letter seeking more of an explanation," he said. "What happened during the five years these allegations were known about? There were people who wanted to denounce this. But nothing was done. Why didn't the board of directors act?"

"I want them to explain this."

While some employees have welcomed the steps taken by the COC in the wake of Aubut's resignation and tried to move on, Brassard said others "have wounds that won't heal."

"That's where it becomes harder for me, as chef de mission. I don't want to have a team that is in ruins behind me. It will be hard to celebrate our accomplishments when some employees are hiding their pain," he said.

Brassard said if nothing changes, he would consider resigning.

"If I have the impression I can't do anything for the employees who are still hurt by this, I would consider that a failure, and I might have to distance myself," he said.

Not clarifying why the COC let allegations facing Aubut fester for so long will only further damage the organization's credibility and, by extension, its representatives, including Brassard, he said.

"It becomes a question of integrity."

"I'm paying a personal price for this situation, and it may come to the point where I don't want to sink with the ship."


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