Ottawa Lions issue apology to sexual misconduct complainants

Acting on orders from Athletics Canada's commissioner, the Ottawa Lions Track & Field Club has apologized to athletes who have come forward with allegations about sexual misconduct involving a former coach.

Track club ordered to apologize by Athletics Canada in wake of allegations involving former coach

The Terry Fox Athletic Facility at Mooney's Bay, south of downtown Ottawa, is the Ottawa Lions Track & Field Club's main outdoor facility. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Acting on orders from Athletics Canada's commissioner, the Ottawa Lions Track & Field Club has apologized to athletes who have come forward with allegations about sexual misconduct involving a former coach.

Coach Andy McInnis and recently fired club president and board chair Ken Porter were both banned from Athletics Canada for life earlier this week after allegations were made against the longtime friends.

So far, a total of nine men have alleged that Porter touched them inappropriately during massages, with some alleged incidents dating back to the 1970s.

McInnis, meanwhile, is alleged to have sexually harassed female athletes and touched one of them inappropriately during a massage.

None of the allegations against either man has been proven in court, and CBC News is not aware of any criminal charges against them.

'Eroded your trust'

Athletics Canada's commissioner, Frank Fowlie, hired former Ontario ombudsman André Marin to independently investigate the allegations. Fowlie issued a series of orders after Marin's report was submitted, including that the Ottawa Lions issue public and private apologies.

In a notice posted on the Ottawa Lions website sometime Tuesday, the board of directors wrote it "unreservedly apologizes" to the people who came forward with complaints about McInnis in September 2018, and that the board should have told them McInnis had been placed on administrative leave and ordered not to have any contact with club members.

Despite the imposed restrictions on his duties, Athletics Canada alleges McInnis took part in training with the club in California in late December and early January.

"We also regret the extreme length of time it took to conduct the investigation and our failure to provide the complainants with regular updates on the progress in the investigation," the notice reads.

Ken Porter, left, and Andy McInnis, right, pose in an undated photo found in André Marin's report following his independent investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct at the Ottawa Lions Track & Field Club. (From André Marin's independent investigation)

"Our intention was never to mishandle or diminish the seriousness of the complaints, but we recognize that the manner in which we conducted the investigation and communicated with the complainants created this impression and eroded your trust in the probity of the club's investigatory process and the intentions of the board."

The board also posted a lengthy apology to former board member Maureen Moore, who has alleged that Porter harassed her in her role as the club's ombudsperson and harassment officer while she was investigating McInnis. She later filed a complaint about a toxic board environment to Athletics Canada in January and resigned.

She helped handle the complaints made against McInnis in 2016 and 2018.

'Sustained pattern of aggression and harassment'

"The thanks Ms. Moore received for this selfless work was a sustained pattern of aggression and harassment from then club president and board chair Ken Porter. While there was some evidence of this at board meetings, and individual board members did personally reprimand Mr. Porter for his conduct verbally and in writing, the board was not sufficiently aware of just how severe the situation was in the context of the disciplinary committee proceedings investigating Mr. McInnis or in other interactions between the two," the statement reads.

"Ms. Moore did not deserve the treatment she received from Mr. Porter and the board herewith offers an unreserved apology for not taking more forceful and formal action to hold Mr. Porter to account."

The board wrote that Moore was correct in her assessment of the work environment.

"The level of [rancour] and the heat of discussions in board meetings dropped enormously once Mr. Porter was removed from the board by the [March 2019] Athletics Canada interim suspensions," the statement continues.

"In retrospect we believe that Ms. Moore was sending signals that we had serious problems with the board leadership that threatened to cripple the club, and we apologize for not picking up on these signals and initiating the appropriate remedial action."

Board working on recommendations

Earlier Tuesday, the board said it received a report on the allegations by Athletics Canada's commissioner on Monday, and that it was "reviewing the document and working to implement the recommendations."

Some of the other recommendations — made by Marin in his investigation and ordered to be acted upon by the commissioner — included:

  • That parents of all current and former male athletes of the Ottawa Lions be notified about the allegations against Porter.
  • That all Canadian athletics clubs notify Athletics Canada about allegations of harassment and sexual harassment, and that Athletics Canada keep a registry of complaints.
  • That the Ottawa Lions post on its website all future reprimands, suspensions and discipline of its staff in matters of harassment and sexual harassment, and that Athletics Canada do the same.
  • That Athletics Canada strike a working group to to decide if coach massages should continue, and if so, under what circumstances and conditions.
  • That Athletics Canada prohibit alcohol consumption by coaches while on duty with athletes.
  • That the Ottawa Lions appoint an ombudsman who isn't part of the organization or the board.