Ottawa Lions want change to come from misconduct complaints
Coaches, parents and athletes attended a town hall Wednesday evening
Members of the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club want to see the club learn and move forward after a public rebuke of how it handled sexual misconduct allegations involving two of its leaders.
Earlier this month, Athletics Canada's commissioner banned one of the club's star coaches Andy McInnis and its former chair Ken Porter for life after numerous complaints of sexual misconduct.
- Ottawa Lions chair fired amid sexual harassment complaints
- Track club coach, chair banned for life by Athletics Canada
None of the allegations against either man has been proven in court. CBC News is not aware of any criminal charges against them and has not independently verified the allegations made by people named in the report.
The report from Athletics Canada also issued a stern reprimand of the club's board of directors for failing to take appropriate action.
Paul Bedard, a six-year veteran of the club's board of directors, said the club wants members to know it's improving based on what it's learned.
"Our concern right now is for the athletes, the coaches, the employees and the overall health of the club," Bedard said as he went into a membership meeting Wednesday evening that was closed to the media.
"We didn't try to hide anything from our club. We tried to do the best job that we were capable of doing."
Bedard is on the board of directors that will be resigning en masse next week, as recommended by Athletics Canada.
The club has posted a series of apologies on its website since following through on the national organization's recommendations.
The club has apologized to the complainants for the "extreme length of time" it took to investigate their allegations; to members for "a misleading statement" that didn't make it clear McInnis was suspended from the club; and to a former member of the board of directors who complained about interference in the club's investigation into McInnis.
Craig Honegger said his 15-year-old daughter is passionate about track and field and the training opportunities at the club, but the Athletics Canada investigation raised important issues.
"To read the stuff that's gone on [according to the report] is definitely troubling and to realize that it wasn't addressed as quickly as it could've been is concerning as well," Honegger said.
"Misleading statements should not be made to parents because it puts our children at risk"
He said he's happy the club is acting on Athletics Canada's recommendations.
He wants to make sure they follow through on ensuring at least half the board is from outside the roster of coaches when it's replaced next week.
Honegger also wants Athletics Canada to follow through on the recommendation requiring coaches to have massage therapy certifications before they can massage athletes.
Pole vaulting coach Neil Martindale said he wanted to hear the vision for the club and see how it would address inappropriate behaviour.
"One of the reasons I'm here is to find out [about] some of the things that happened that allowed certain things to slip through the cracks, or things not to be noticed, or things not to be reported," he said.
Cecilia Branch, a coach with the Speed for Sport program, left the meeting reassured with the club's direction.
"You have two individuals who have been reprimanded and are now no longer with the club, which gives us the opportunity to change and move forward," Branch said.
"Keeping athletes safe is imperative for all coaches."
The club will be holding a special general meeting on May 23 to elect a new board of directors.