PEI

P.E.I. government, Sport P.E.I. working to protect youth in sport against abuse

The P.E.I. government and Sport P.E.I. say they're taking measures to protect youth in sport, responding to a series by CBC News and Sports on abuse in amateur sport in Canada.

'No one ever wants to have a child that feels unsafe in sport'

P.E.I. requires that all provincial sports organizations have an abuse and harassment policy. (Canadian Press)

The P.E.I. government and Sport P.E.I. say they're taking measures to protect youth in sport, responding to a series by CBC News and Sports on abuse in amateur sport in Canada. 

In a written statement to CBC News, the minister responsible for sport, Robert Mitchell, says P.E.I. requires that all provincial sports organizations have an abuse and harassment policy. 

Those policies must be confirmed yearly as part of annual funding agreements between the sport division and provincial sports organizations.

Mitchell said the sport organization may choose to develop its own policy or use the policy of its national organization.

He also said his department is working with Sport P.E.I. to do "a much deeper dive into these policies to determine what gaps (if any) may exist and what needs to be put in place to address such gaps."

Robert Mitchell, left, P.E.I.'s minister responsible for sport, will meet with sports ministers across the country this week and he says safe sport will be high on the agenda. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

"The policies allow organizations a tool to use if something does happen," said Gemma Koughan, executive director of Sport PEI.

 "If there's a complaint or an issue, the policies will guide the provincial organization in terms of how to manage that situation and it helps them because it takes some of the emotion out of it."

'Rule of two'

Mitchell said criminal record checks are mandatory as part of the Canada Games program but are also a "good risk management practice" for all sports organizations.

Members of the women's hockey team show their spirit during the Canada Games rally, which celebrated the Island athletes who will compete in Red Deer, Alta. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

The province and Sport P.E.I. also promote the "rule of two," requiring at least two trained or certified coaches be with a minor athlete in potentially vulnerable situations, one of them the same gender as the athlete. 

If a coach is not available, the rule suggests a screened volunteer, parent or other adult.

"It's a level of protection so that you don't have one adult one-on-one with a youth, for protection for both parties," Koughan said. 

"Short of a medical emergency, there should always be two adults with children and youth."

'It's a level of protection so that you don't have one adult one-on-one with a youth, for protection for both parties,' says Gemma Koughan. (DardaInna/Shutterstock)

Mitchell plans to meet with his federal, provincial and territorial counterparts in Red Deer, Alta., ahead of the 2019 Canada Games. 

"We know this topic will be on their agenda and will be receiving considerable attention," the statement said. "We believe this discussion may lead to changes in the coming year at all levels of government."

Mitchell said his department will work with P.E.I. sport organizations to help navigate any new requirements and to assist in strengthening policies.

Coach training

Sport PEI offers training for coaches around safe sport, including a module on making ethical decisions and another on respect in sport. It will also host a summit on safe sport at the end of March.

Gemma Koughan says Sport P.E.I. will host a summit on safe sport at the end of March. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"I hope we take it as an opportunity to make changes to certain aspects of the system," said Koughan, of the CBC Investigation.

"No one ever wants to have a child that feels unsafe in sport."

At the same time, Koughan hopes the investigation will not discourage parents on P.E.I. from involving their children in sport.

"I think there's a tremendous amount of positive aspects with sport," Koughan said.

"What I hope it does is that parents and children are having discussions to say if you're in a situation where you feel uncomfortable that they can speak up and talk to someone about it and it can be addressed."

More P.E.I. news

About the Author

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca

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