Quebec National Assembly adopts motion aimed at making sport abuse-free

One of the women sexually assaulted by former ski coach Bertrand Charest said she was "super-relieved" after Quebec's national assembly adopted a motion Tuesday aimed at making sport abuse-free.

Government plan takes aim at sexual, physical, psychological abuse

Former National ski team member Geneviève Simard, centre, is comforted by Minister Hélène David after reading a statement over the Quebec government's measures to prevent sexual assault against athletes. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

One of the women sexually assaulted by former ski coach Bertrand Charest said she was "super-relieved" after Quebec's National Assembly adopted a motion Tuesday aimed at making sport abuse-free.

Geneviève Simard and three other victims of Charest were in the provincial legislature for the occasion.

The motion calls for the development of a government plan to prevent all forms of sexual, physical and psychological abuse in sport.

"It was always a big goal of ours to have something positive come out of what happened to us," a "super-relieved" Simard told reporters.

Action plan by 2020

"We're really, really happy and completely delighted, they heard us, they responded fast and now we're trying to create that same noise federally."

Simard said she was proud that members of the legislature had stepped up and "were the first ones to do the right thing."

The president and co-founder of B2ten, a non-profit group that funds amateur sports, said Quebec had set a good example.

"Your unanimous adoption of this motion sends a strong, clear message to the other provinces and territories, and to Ottawa," JD Miller said in a statement.

"We hope that the other provinces and the federal government will quickly follow suit so that all athletes can practice sport in an abuse-free environment."

The motion calls on Quebec to implement the action plan by 2020.

Former national ski team members, from left, Emilie Cousineau, Anna Prchal, Gail Kelly and Geneviève Simard stand as they are applauded for their courage after a motion by the National Assembly. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Simard said once it's put in place, the plan will be reassuring — especially for young children.

"It ensures us that what has happened to us before will not happen again because there will be things in place that will make it really difficult for an abuser to do what he does," she said.

"There will be education for kids who now are in sport who can get educated on the topic so if they ever find themselves in a situation that's not ideal, red flags will pop, (and) they'll have someone to go talk to, someone neutral — hopefully not part of the federation — but someone who will be there to listen to them."

Simard also isn't worried about having to wait until the 2020 implementation date.

"We want to do it right, so let's do it right, take the time that it needs and then when it's in place and it can be complied with, then we'll have an abuse-free sport environment," she added.

Training and accountability

The 12 women who accused Charest of assaulting them had asked that the plan contain about a half-dozen proposals.

They include mandatory training for coaches, athletes, volunteers and all other people in contact with athletes as well as accountability on the part of sports federations. Funding would also be contingent on compliance with the plan.

The women also asked for clearly defined policies and procedures to protect athletes and an independent body to investigate complaints.

Simard was joined in Quebec City by Anna Prchal, Gail Kelly and Emilie Cousineau. Charest was found guilty in June 2017 of 37 of the 57 sex-related charges he was facing, and was eventually given a 12-year prison term.

The convictions involved nine of the 12 women who'd accused him of crimes that occurred more than 20 years ago, when the victims and alleged victims were between the ages of 12 and 19. 

He is appealing both his conviction and the sentence and has been denied bail.