Road To The Olympic Games

Canadian Olympic Committee announces new anti-harassment initiatives

Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith on Sunday announced steps the organization is taking in an effort to create a safer working environment for its employees as it continues to deal with the fallout from sexual harassment allegations made against former president Marcel Aubut.

Move comes after departure of chef de mission Brassard

Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith announced the organization will implement new policies to create a safer working environment, and improve the handling of ethics, discrimination, harassment and whistleblowing. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith on Sunday announced steps the organization is taking in an effort to create a safer working environment for its employees as it continues to deal with the fallout from sexual harassment allegations made against former president Marcel Aubut.

Smith outlined the changes, which also include the appointment of five new board members, after a round of COC meetings in Regina.

The COC board voted to implement new policies and procedures that were recommended in a company review conducted in January, after Aubut stepped down.

The new changes include a hotline for anonymous complaints, establishing a record-keeping system for policy implementation, and training courses for staff on harassment and bullying.  

The announcement came as the COC continues to come under fire for failing to act against complaints made against Aubut.

Last week, Jean-Luc Brassard abruptly stepped down as Canada's chef de mission for the Rio Olympics and said afterward that he objected to the way the COC handled the Aubut allegations.

Brassard's departure again raised questions over whether the organization can successfully build a safe, supportive and transparent working culture. 

"Effecting profound and meaningful change takes time but we have made a lot of progress in the last six months as an organization in ensuring that respect and well-being are at the core of everything we do," Smith said in a statement. "We are wholeheartedly committed to living up to the Olympic values embodied by our athletes."

Board member Mark Tewksbury — the swimmer best known for taking gold in the 100-metre backstroke at the 1992 Barcelona Games — was among many former Olympic athletes at the meetings. 

"I arrived with some very hard questions," he said. "I'm leaving very satisfied, I have to say."

Tewksbury said the level of detail in the report to members was impressive and he was confident that positive changes would be made.

"No one should ever go through what some people went through, in our staff," he said. "And we're putting measures in the place to make sure it never happens again."

New board members

Smith also announced the appointment of five new members to the board of directors, all of whom the COC claims bring individual expertise that will help the organization. 

New directors include: astronaut Julie Payette, former CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers Chris Clark, Olympian Guylaine Bernier, COC vice-president Peter Lawless and corporate lawyer David De Vlieger.

Smith also noted several more hires brought on to build the COC's human resources and governance practices.

COC CEO Chris Overholt said the new appointments are evidence the organization is turning things around.

"Six months ago, we made a commitment to our stakeholders and to our COC staff that we would be better," said Overholt. "I promised them that together we would deliver real change that we could all stand behind and be proud of.

"Our announcement today and the steps we have taken together so far are a milestone, indicating our commitment to this promise."

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